Barbados is on the verge of severing ties with the British monarchy to become the world’s smallest republic: its current representative, Governor-General Sandra Mason will replace Queen Elizabeth II as head of state this week.
However, the legacy of the colonial past and the impact of the pandemic on tourism pose significant challenges to the Caribbean island, which is famous for its beaches and flair for cricket.
The festivities scheduled for Monday night will include military parades and celebrations for Mason’s inauguration, with Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, in attendance.
Carlos’s speech at the transition ceremony will focus on the enduring relations between the two countries.
“In times when the constitutional situation changes, it has been important for me to join you in reaffirming those things that do not change. For example, the close and trustworthy partnership between Barbados and the United Kingdom as essential members of the Commonwealth,” notes a statement from the Prince’s office Anticipates paragraphs of his speech.
The start of a new era sparked controversy among the island of 285,000 people over centuries of British influence, including more than 200 years of slavery, until 1834, and the eventual independence of Barbados in 1966.
“When I was young, when I heard about the Queen, I was very excited,” said Sharon Bellamy Thompson, a 50-year-old fishmonger in the capital, Bridgetown. This woman remembers seeing the king on a visit when she was eight years old.
“As I got older, I began to wonder what this queen really meant to me and my nation. Having a president from Barbados would be great,” he said.
For young activists like Ferrarana Bulbulia, founder of the Barbados Muslim Association, it is British colonialism and slavery that are responsible for the island’s modern inequality.
“Economic inequality and the ability to own land and even access bank loans have a lot to do with the structures built after British rule,” says the 26-year-old Polpolia.
“The real limitations (of slavery) are broken and we no longer hold them, but the mental limitations persist in our mentality.”
“The best way”
“There is no point being independent and responding to the crown. So I really think Republic is the way to go,” said Deere Bailey, 33, who owns a beach chair and works in a water sports rental.
In October, Barbados elected Mason to become its first president, a year after Prime Minister Mia Motley announced that the country would “completely” abandon its colonial past.
But some Barbadians say there are more pressing national problems, such as the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed an over-reliance on tourism, which, ironically, depends heavily on British visitors.
Unemployment is around 16%, up from 9% in recent years, despite a sharp increase in government loans to finance public sector projects and create jobs.
Opposition leader Archbishop Joseph Atherley has demonstrated his rejection of the leadership change: “An increasing number of COVID cases, a growing sense of tension and fear – I don’t think the time is right.”
Other criticism centered on Motley’s invocation of Prince Charles as a guest of honor and his awarding of the Barbados Medal of Freedom, the highest national honour.
“The British royal family is a source of exploitation in this region, and so far they have not offered an official apology or any kind of compensation for the damages inflicted on them,” said Christina Hinds, professor of international relations at the University of the West Indies. in Barbados. “I don’t see how anyone in the family can get this award.”
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