BRIDGETOWN: Barbados ditched Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state, forging a new republic on Tuesday with its first-ever president and severing its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived at the Caribbean island.
“And with firm resolve and in one voice, from this day and forever, declare. Barbados a parliamentary republic.”
That was the moment Barbados ditched Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state on Tuesday and became the world’s newest republic.
A 21-gun salute fired as the national anthem played over a crowd in the capital Bridgetown.
Prince Charles stood somberly as the Queen’s royal standard was lowered, and Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the new president.
“…We now turn our vessel’s bow toward the new republic. We do this so that we may seize the full substance of of our sovereignty.”
As part of celebrations, Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who led Barbados’ republican movement, declared the singer Rihanna a national hero.
The birth of the republic comes 55 years to the day since Barbados declared independence, and nearly 400 years since the first English ship reached the Caribbean island’s shores and claimed it for King James I.
Prince Charles used his speech to acknowledge the darkest days of Britain’s colonial past.
“The creation of this republic offers a new beginning but it also marks a point on a continuum. A milestone on the long road you have not only traveled, but which you have built from the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery which forever stains our history.”
Barbados received 600,000 enslaved Africans between 1627 and 1833, who were put to work in the sugar plantations, earning fortunes for the English owners.
While Britain casts slavery as a sin of the past, some Barbadians are calling for compensation from the UK.
Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.