Queen Elizabeth II will no longer be head of state of this country

(CNN) – Queen Elizabeth II will have one less kingdom after this week, when Barbados breaks its final imperial ties with Britain by removing the 95-year-old as head of state and declaring itself a republic.

The former British colony – which gained independence in 1966 – revived its plan to become a republic last September with the country’s Governor General, Sandra Mason, saying “the time has come to completely leave our colonial past behind. “.

Mason, a 73-year-old former jurist, will be sworn in as the first president of the island of just under 300,000 people in a ceremony Monday night. The Barbados Parliament elected Mason last month.

Present at the festivities will be Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and future leader of the Commonwealth. This is a 54-member organization from most of the former British territories. He accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley to be the guest of honor at the transition celebrations, according to Clarence House.

“To become a republic is to come of age,” said Guy Hewitt, who served as the UK’s High Commissioner for Barbados between 2014 and 2018. “I draw the analogy of when a child grows up and has his own home, he gets his own mortgage, he gives the keys back to his parents because he says we’re going to move on. “

It is the first time in almost three decades that a kingdom has chosen to remove the British monarch as head of state. The last nation to do so was the island of Mauritius in 1992. Like that country, Barbados also intends to remain part of the Commonwealth.

A royal source told CNN last year that the decision was a matter for the government and people of Barbados. He added that it was not “out of nowhere” and that it had been “publicly discussed and talked about” many times.

The Queen meets with the Governor General of Barbados, Sandra Mason, during a private audience at Buckingham Palace on March 28, 2018 in London, England.

Colonial past

The change occurs almost 400 years since the first English ship reached the easternmost island in the Caribbean.

Barbados was Britain’s oldest colony, established in 1627. It was “ruled uninterruptedly by the English Crown until 1966,” according to Richard Drayton, professor of imperial and global history at Kings College London.

The Barbadian flag in Parliament on November 16 in Bridgetown.

“At the same time, Barbados also provided an important source of private wealth in 17th and 18th century England,” he said. He added that many made significant family fortunes from sugar and slavery.

“It was the first laboratory of English colonialism in the tropics,” added Drayton, who grew up in the country.

“It is in Barbados where the English first pass laws, which distinguish the rights of the people they call ‘Negroes’ from those who are not. And it is the precedence established in Barbados in terms of economics and law, which is later transferred to Jamaica, the Carolinas and the rest of the Caribbean, along with the institutions of that colony. “

A debate of decades

The writing has long been on the wall for a break between Barbados and Britain. And many have called for the removal of the queen’s status over the years, according to Cynthia Barrow-Giles, a professor of constitutional and political governance at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Cave Hill, Barbados.

She told CNN that the desire to become a republic is more than 20 years old. And “it reflected the contribution in the governance consultations on the island and its diaspora.”

“The conclusion then was very simple,” Barrow-Giles said. “Barbados had reached the mature stage in its political evolution where what should have been an integral part of the movement towards independence was not for pragmatic reasons. Fifty-five years later, this failure is rectified by a prime minister who is determined to complete the nation-building process that has obviously stalled for the last four decades or so. “

He explained that while most Barbadians support the transition, there has been some concern about the approach.

Others have questioned the period of just over a year that the government gave itself to make the transition, aligning the birth of the republic with the 55th anniversary of the country’s independence on Tuesday.

Hewitt believes that the Mottley government wanted to act quickly to “try to divert attention from what is a very difficult time in Barbados.”

The process in Barbados

“The world is suffering and fighting the covid-19 pandemic, but for Barbados, as a tourism-based economy, it has been particularly difficult,” he said. “If you accept the notion that a republic is a system that is handed over to the people, the challenge we face is that there haven’t been many consultations to become a republic. Yes, it was included in the throne speech. But the people of Barbados it has not been part of this journey. “

He added: “What we are dealing with now are just the ceremonial and cosmetic changes and I feel that if we really went to the republic it should have been a meaningful journey, where the people of Barbados were involved in the whole conceptualization process to bring it to fruition. term, “he added.

It’s a sentiment shared by Ronnie Yearwood, activist and law professor at the UWI Cave Hill campus in Barbados. While he also supports the declaration of a republic, he also feels “deprived of the opportunity to have my beautiful moment.”

“The process was so badly managed, the government made a decision about the type of republic we were going to become, without asking me, the voter, the citizen, what form of republic do you want?”

The Barbados government “focused on the endgame” rather than the transition process, a move Yearwood described as “backwards”.

Yearwood said he and many others felt the government should have held a public referendum and participated in a longer period of public consultation before making the change. “If you are going to do this, do it holistically, remove everything. You do not fragment the Constitution,” he added.

People outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown.

Will other countries follow?

Prime Minister Mottley, who recently charmed world leaders at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, did not need to hold a public referendum on the issue to move forward. In May, his administration created a Republican State Transition Advisory Committee. The 10-member group was charged with helping manage the transition from a monarchical system to a republic. The only hurdle was securing a two-thirds majority in Parliament, which was a relatively straightforward process given that his party has had a majority since its landslide victory in 2018.

Barrow-Giles said the government “was able to determine what legally and politically they were required to patrol the constitution” adding that the change in Barbados “is consistent with the path traveled by other jurisdictions.”

Barbados is ready to abandon the Queen of Great Britain.  For many in the country, the measure had been slow to arrive

The Queen greets the honor guard upon their arrival in Barbados in October 1977.

“The fact that Prince Charles is in Barbados for this important occasion for the country is testimony to the lack of opposition to change from the royal family and essentially an endorsement of the transition,” he added.

With such an amicable breakup, other nations could follow Barbados’ lead, according to Drayton.

“I imagine this issue will now sharpen the debate within Jamaica as well as other parts of the Caribbean,” he said.

“The decision somehow does not reflect any assessment of the House of Windsor. I think it more reflects the sense that the people of Barbados now think it is a bit absurd that their head of state is determined by the circumstances of birth in a family. that resides 6,000 kms away “.

Hewitt also anticipates that more countries may choose to break away from the British monarchy. But it suggests that that will happen after the reign of Elizabeth II comes to an end. “Simply because the queen is held in such high regard.”

“People would see doing it now almost as a personal slight against her. But I feel like once the crown passes, people will feel like it’s time.”

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