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Monday August 15, 2022

Barbados to become a republic, replacing British queen

By AFP
November 29, 2021

Bridgetown, Barbados: Barbados is about to cut ties with the British monarchy, but the legacy of a sometimes brutal colonial past and the pandemic’s impact on tourism pose major challenges for the Caribbean island as it becomes the world’s newest republic.

Famed for its beaches and love of cricket, Barbados will this week replace its head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, with her current representative, Governor General Sandra Mason. Ceremonies on Monday evening into Tuesday will include military parades and celebrations as Mason is inaugurated as president, with Prince Charles -- heir to the British throne -- looking on.

The dawn of a new era has fueled debate among the population of 285,000 over Britain’s centuries of influence, including more than 200 years of slavery until 1834, and Barbados finally becoming independent in 1966.

"As a young girl, when I heard about the queen, I would be really excited," said Sharon Bellamy-Thompson, 50, a fish vendor in the capital Bridgetown who remembers being about eight and seeing the monarch on a visit.

"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," she said. "Having a female Barbadian president will be great."

For young activists such as Firhaana Bulbulia, founder of the Barbados Muslim Association, British colonialism and slavery lie behind the island’s modern 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," Bulbulia, 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." In October, Barbados elected Mason to become its first president, one year after Prime Minister Mia Mottley declared that the country would "fully" leave its colonial past.

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