Barbados officially became a republic on Monday night At a ceremony to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Independent from England since 1966, After nearly four centuries of subjugation to the British monarchy, Barbados celebrated its transition from monarchy to republic.
The island, known for its paradise beaches, its rum and the birthplace of world superstar Rihanna, has been the female head of state since her election on October 21, until she becomes the country’s governor-general.
Mason took office at midnight on Monday in the country’s capital, Bridgetown, where he hoisted the state flag with the president’s flag at an official ceremony.
“I, Sandra Brunella Mason, with the help of God, swear allegiance to Barbados according to the law and have true faith.”Said the new president.
The ceremony, which was attended by Prince Charles and Rihanna, the eldest son of Elizabeth II, was not open to the public., Despite the suspension of the curfew law due to the epidemic, residents will be able to enjoy celebrations that include fireworks throughout the island.
“I’m not very excited about Barbados becoming a republic because people do not really know that we are becoming a republic.”Ian Trottman, a 58-year-old textile manufacturer, says he missed an information campaign for residents.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement on Monday that Barbados was a member of the Commonwealth.
“We will continue to be strong friends and allies, drawing on lasting ties and connections between our people and the Commonwealth’s special bond.”Johnson wrote.
During his stay in Barbados, he was the center of criticism for what Prince of Wales allegedly said a few years ago about the skin color of his son Harry and Megan Markle’s future children.
Reports collected in a book published on Tuesday were denied by Prince Charles’ office: “This is fiction and unworthy of further comment,” a British Crown spokesman said.
Problems of British influence and racism were two key factors in Barbados’ decision to become a republic, as the centuries-old tradition of slavery was burned on the island.
Prejudices of the past
Many voices in Barbados criticized the island’s prime minister, Mia Motley, for inviting Prince Charles, the heir to the British crown, to Mason’s inauguration and awarding him the highest national honor, the Barbados Order of Freedom.
“The British royal family is a source of exploitation in the region. So far, they have not provided a formal apology or any compensation for the damage done.”Christina Hinds is a professor of international relations at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. “I don’t know how people in the family get this award.”
For some activists, such as Firhana Bulbulia, founder of the Barbados Muslim Association, British colonialism and slavery were responsible for the island’s modern inequality.
“Economic inequality, access to own land and bank loans have a lot to do with the structures built after the British rule,” he said. Says 26-year-old Bulbulia.
“Body chains (slavery) are broken, and we no longer carry them, but chains remain in our minds.”, He promises.
But some residents point to the island’s most pressing issues, including the economic crisis caused by the Govt-19 epidemic, which highlights tourism’s dependence on the country, particularly from the United Kingdom.
Before the virus appeared, the island was visited by more than one million people each year, with a population of about 287,000.
The tranquility of the generally bustling streets of Bridgetown, the small number of visitors and the dying nightlife are a testament to the difficulties of this pearl of the Lesser Antilles.
Unemployment is almost 16%, 9 percentage points higher than in previous years, despite an increase in government debt to finance public sector work and job creation.
(With information from AFP)