Status: 11/30/2021 4:26 am
In the future, Barbados will be a republic with its own head of state: the Caribbean state is leaving its past as a British colony behind and abolishing the monarchy – with a ceremony attended by Prince Charles.
It is not every day that the world takes notice of the Prime Minister of Barbados. But a few weeks ago, at the world climate summit in Glasgow, Mia Mottley spoke to the heads of government present in such a way that her appearance was remembered by many. She lamented the cut in environmental financial aid for small island states such as Barbados. In their country, human lives cost, for example when hurricanes hit the defenseless islands: “That is immoral and unjust,” said Mottley.
The resolute prime minister has now kept a promise that the previous government had made years ago: she will transform the island nation into a republic. This means that Queen Elizabeth II will no longer be the head of state of the former British colony. Guy Hewitt, former High Commissioner of Barbados in London, told Times Radio the background: “Some may see it as a way of growing up. Others think it is long overdue, as the majority of the countries in the Commonwealth are now republics.”
End of the colonial past
Barbados will remain a member of the loose confederation of 54 Commonwealth countries. But then Queen Elizabeth will only be head of state in 15 of these countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The incumbent Governor General Sandra Mason, who officially represents the Queen in Barbados, announced a formal break with the British crown a year ago. Mason himself is now the head of state of the nearly 300,000 residents. It is time to completely shed the colonial past, she says.
The English captain John Powell claimed the uninhabited island for the English crown in 1625 after Portuguese conquerors had expelled the indigenous people 100 years earlier. The name Los Barbados is derived from the aerial roots of the fig trees on the island, which are reminiscent of beards. In the period that followed, the island flourished thanks to the sugar cane trade, which, however, was mainly based on slavery.
After the London House of Commons in Westminster and the House of Assembly in Bermuda, the Parliament in Barbados is the third oldest of today’s Commonwealth of Nations. As early as 1639 the House of Burgesses became first convened. And in 1652, after disputes with the British crown, constitutional principles such as freedom of religion, the rule of law and property rights were enshrined in the “Charter of Barbados” – but initially only for landowners. After the slaves were freed in 1834 until the country became independent in 1966, these rights were gradually extended to all Barbadians.
Prince Charles with Barbados future President Sandra Mason at his formal reception at Grantley Adams Airport (photo taken on 11/29/2021).
Windrush scandal fueled the departure
More recently there had been tension between Britain and the former colonies over the so-called Windrush scandal. This was about compensation payments that the British government was actually supposed to pay to immigrants, especially from the Caribbean, because they were mistakenly treated as illegals by the British government after 2012. This suddenly deprived many families of their livelihoods. Many barbadians are still waiting for their money.
This scandal is likely to have accelerated the departure from Great Britain, says Guy Hewitt: “England, which invented the rules for fair play, broke them all in the Windrush scandal.” People are very angry about this – “and that raises the question of whether we are still one big family in the Commonwealth. There is simply no longer the feeling that we are all united under the crown.”
However, that does not mean that the Queen, even in Barbados and the Commonwealth, does not have the utmost respect, says Hewitt: Many have the nostalgic feeling of losing someone to whom they have long felt connected.
Charles’s visit does not please everyone
That’s why there is no parting in the dispute: Heir to the throne, Prince Charles, was invited to the ceremony in Barbados as the future head of the Commonwealth and is also taking part. Buckingham Palace said that becoming a republic was “a matter for the government and people of Barbados”.
At the ceremony on Tuesday shortly after midnight, Charles will highlight his own close connection with the island, which he first visited more than 50 years ago – and that, in his view, the close bonds and shared values that the Commonwealth of Nations hold -Connect countries, continue to exist.
But not everyone on the Caribbean island is happy with the royal visit. Activists of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration demanded in local media that the royal family should stay away, apologize for the slavery and pay compensation for it. Others had criticized that the constitutional change should have been confirmed by a referendum. So it was just a political decision over the heads of the residents who would follow the transition to a republic with little vigor or even distrust.
Good mutual agreement at the photo opportunity on Prince Charles’ visit to Barbados then Governor General Sandra Mason in 2019. But not all Barbadians are looking forward to the return visit.
Bild: picture alliance / empics
Are other countries following the example?
The question for the royal family in London is whether the move away from Barbados is a first spike in the British crown that other states could follow because they no longer find a monarchy in keeping with the times. Former press spokesman for the Queen, Dickie Arbiter, is already thinking out loud about efforts in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
The historian Robert Lacey, who has written a number of books about the British royal family, sees the Queen as the central figure for the cohesion of the Commonwealth. “The Queen managed to turn the Commonwealth, the old British Empire, into something new, unusual and wonderful. Historians will call this the great achievement of her reign,” he said. “If the Queen has traveled to the Commonwealth Summits every four years, some leaders have seen her there as some kind of White Goddess. That may not be politically correct, but she liked it.”