MIAMI: In its efforts move fully beyond its colonial past, Caribbean island nation Barbados has announced its intention to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and become a republic by November next year.
Speaking behalf of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, island’s Governor-General Sandra Mason formalized the decision in an event arranged to to mark the state opening of parliament on Tuesday. More than half a century after attaining independence from Britain, “the time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” she said. “Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State,” she said. “This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving,” She added.
The Governor-General mentioned that “During its 55th Anniversary celebrations of Independence Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a Republic” — which will be marked on November 30, 2021.
Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace spokesman commented that, “This is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.”
Queen Elizabeth is currently head of state of the United Kingdom and other 15 Formerly-British ruled countries, where she is represented by the governor-general including Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
Due to its lingering imperialist associations, several of the island’s leaders in the past have advocated becoming a republic and many Barbadians have called for removing the queen’s status. In 1998, based upon its conclusions, a government-appointed commission recommended that Barbados should become a republic with a non-executive president as head of state to replace the queen. However, the recommendation was not acted upon and things remained unchanged.
Cited a warning by the country’s first prime minister, Errol Walton Barrow, who had cautioned against “loitering on colonial premises” — Mason said: “That warning is as relevant today as it was in 1966.” “Having attained Independence over half a century ago, our country can be in no doubt about its capacity for self-governance,” she said.
With Mauritius the last to become a republic, in 1992, a number of nations have removed the queen’s status as head of state since achieving independence, while remaining part of the 54-member Commonwealth. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign, three out of eight referendums have passed on becoming a republic, including Ghana (1960), South Africa (1960) and The Gambia (1970).
Barbados which is sometimes called “Little England” for its loyalty to the British empire, takes this huge step under renewed scrutiny, as part of a global reckoning on race relations and the colonial past fueled by mass anti-racism protests in the United States.