Barbados Cuts Ties with British Monarchy, Becomes Newest Republic
The country is set to become the world’s newest republic after centuries of British colonial and hegemonic control.
Barbados is on the verge of categorically cutting ties with the British monarchy, as it will replace its head of state, Elizabeth II Queen of England, with her current representative, Governor General Sandra Mason.
The Caribbean island is hence set to become the world’s newest republic, yet it remains embroiled in a cultural battle against the brutal colonial past brought forth by the expansionist policies of the former British empire.
The fading anglo-saxon force once dominated Barbados for centuries, having used it as a platform for slavery for 200 years until 1934, and occupying it until 1966, the year in which the country was declared independent despite the defacto ruler remaining the British Queen.
“As I grow older and older, I started to wonder what this queen really means for me and for my nation. It didn't make any sense,” said Sharon Bellamy-Thompson, 50, a fish vendor in the capital Bridgetown. “Having a female Barbadian president will be great.”
Barbados elected Mason to become its first president, just a year after PM Mia Mottley declared that the country would “fully” ditch its colonial past.
Mason will officially become president on Tuesday, as ceremonies will start on Monday evening and will include military parades and the much-contested presence of Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne.
A colonial history of slavery and violence
Firhaana Bulbulia, a young activist and the founder of the Barbados Muslim Association, stressed the central role British colonialism and slavery played in making the island plagued with modern social and economic inequalities.
“The wealth gap, the ability to own land, and even access to loans from banks all have a lot to do with structures built out of being ruled by Britain,” the activist, 26, said.
“The actual chains (of slavery) were broken and we no longer wore them, but the mental chains continue to persist in our mindsets.”
This belief is echoed throughout the majority of the population, which is where the opposition to Mottley’s invitation of Prince Charles stems from, notably as the latter will be ironically awarded the Order of Freedom of Barbados, the highest national honor despite the misery and violence his family brought unto the small nation for generations.
Kritstina Hinds, an international relations lecturer at the University of the West Indies in Barbados, commented on the affair by saying:
“The British royal family is a source of exploitation in this region and, as yet, they have not offered a formal apology or any kind of repair for past harms, so I don't see how someone from the family can be given this award. That is beyond me.”
Motivated by the worldwide Black Lives Matter Movement last year, local activists scored a victory by successfully advocating for and subsequently removing the status of the British Admiral Horatio Nelson which stood in National Heroes Square for two centuries.
The nation views the termination of the British monarchy’s control over the island as a crucial step towards financial reparations to address the devastating consequences of the use of slaves brought from Africa to work on sugar plantations.
“I think it's a very good thing we're doing, becoming a republic, because we were independent 55 years now and it's time enough that we stand on our own feet,” noted Derry Bailey, 33, a Barbadian.
“I expect that things will be better under this system. It makes no sense being independent and answering to the crown. So I really believe that being a republic is the way to go.”