SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Barbados ceased pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday as it lost another vestige of its colonial past and became a republic for the first time in history.
Several leaders and dignitaries, including Prince Charles, attended the ceremony which began Monday evening in a popular square where the statue of a famous British lord was removed last year as part of a global campaign to erase symbols of oppression.
Fireworks dotted the sky at midnight as Barbados officially became a republic, with screens set up across the island so people could watch the event which featured an orchestra with over 100 steel players pan and many artists. It also aired online, sparking a flurry of enthusiastic posts from Bajans living in the United States, Canada and beyond.
“Happy Independence Day and freedom everyone,” wrote one viewer.
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The drive to become a republic began over two decades ago and culminated when the island’s parliament elected its very first president last month by a two-thirds majority. Barbados Governor General Sandra Mason was due to be sworn in before dawn Tuesday as the island marked its 55th independence from Britain.
Mason, 72, is a lawyer and judge who has also served as ambassador to Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Brazil. She will help Prime Minister Mia Mottley rule the wealthy Caribbean island of more than 300,000 people that depends on tourism, manufacturing and finance.
Barbados did not need UK permission to become a republic, although the island will remain part of the Commonwealth Kingdom. It’s an event the Caribbean hasn’t seen since the 1970s, when Guyana, Dominica, and Trinidad and Tobago became republics.
Barbados became independent from the United Kingdom in November 1966, more than three centuries after the arrival of English settlers, and transformed the island into a wealthy sugar colony based on the labor of hundreds of thousands of African slaves.
In recent decades, the island has started to distance itself from its colonial past. In 2005, Barbados abandoned the London-based Privy Council and chose the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice as its final court of appeal. Then in 2008, he proposed a referendum on the issue of becoming a republic, but it was postponed indefinitely. Last year, Barbados announced its intention to cease being a constitutional monarchy and removed a statue of British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson from National Heroes Square, the venue for the event to celebrate becoming a republic. .
Barbados’ flag, coat of arms and national anthem will remain the same, but some references will change, according to Suleiman Bulbulia, a columnist for Barbados Today. He wrote that the terms “royal” and “crown” will no longer be used, so that the Royal Barbados Police will become the Barbados Police Service and “Crown lands” will become “Crown lands”. ‘State “.
“This is the start of a new era,” he wrote. “Any Barbadian can now aspire to be our head of state. “