Barbados is getting ready to cut ties with Queen Elizabeth II and replace her with her current representative, Governor-General Sandra Mason, as head of state this week.
The birth of the newest republic on earth includes ceremonies starting Monday evening with military parades and celebrations marking Mason's inauguration as President. The Queen's son and heir to the throne, Prince Charles of Wales, is expected to be among the audience.
In a speech to be delivered at the transition ceremony, Charles is due to focus on continued ties between the two countries.
As your constitutional status changes, it was important to me that I should join you to reaffirm those things which do not change. For example, the close and trusted partnership between Barbados and the United Kingdom as vital members of the Commonwealth, reads an excerpt of his speech, as released by the prince's office.
The island of 285,000 inhabitants thus puts an end to British rule which included more than 200 years of slavery until 1834, all the way to its independence in 1966.
For young activists like Firhaana Bulbulia, founder of the Barbados Muslim Association, British colonialism and slavery are responsible for the island's modern inequality. Economic inequality, the ability to own land and even access to bank loans have a lot to do with the structures built after British rule, says 26-year-old Bulbulia. ”The real chains (of slavery) were broken and we no longer carry them, but the mental chains continue to persist in our mentality.
In October, Barbados elected Mason to become its first president, a year after Prime Minister Mia Mottley declared that the country would totally abandon its colonial past, despite local opposition claiming there were other, more pressing issues such as COVID-19, to attend to at this time. The country has just eased a longstanding COVID-19 curfew, pushing it back from 9 pm to midnight.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken its economic toll on the island which is larley dependant on foreign tourism, particularly by British visitors. Unemployment stands at almost 16%, up from 9% in recent years, despite the sharp increase in government loans to finance public sector projects and create jobs.
Opposition leader Bishop Joseph Atherley showed his rejection of the change of command: A growing number of covid cases, a growing sense of stress and fear: I just don't think the time is right.
Other criticisms center on Mottley's summons to Prince Charles as the guest of honor and granting him the Barbados Order of Freedom, the highest national honor.
The British royal family is a source of exploitation in this region and so far they have not offered a formal apology or any kind of reparation for the damages suffered, said Kristina Hinds, professor of international relations at the University of the West Indies. I don't see how anyone in the family can receive this award.”