On November 30th past, coinciding with the 55th anniversary of its independence Barbados is no longer headed by Queen Elizbeth II but now the president will be Sandra Mason, a lawyer, judge, and Barbadian politician, who assumed office of the new republic. This political occurrence ends centuries of British influence, including 200 years of being one of the main slavery hubs for the American continent.
During the last three centuries, Barbadian governors took decision in name of the Crown and as Historian Henderson Carter, of West Indies University, and specialist in Caribbean history and Barbadian economy says, “what occurred in this country is a symbolic and physiological change, because thinking on British dominance, it is indissolubly linked to slavery.”
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Barbados was a great producer of sugar and rum with an infamous economic system linked to slavery. Currently, the political shift will help repair that colonial yoke of repression and inhuman working conditions endured by Barbadian inhabitants. Now, definitely separated of all links with the British crown, the country is now really independent.
Anyway, inviting Prince Charles to the ceremony was an act of good will to continue maintaining ties of friendship with the United Kingdom; a peaceful gesture honoring the young Caribbean nation.
Barbados never received any benefit from the British rule as it never had investment for organizing education, healthcare, infrastructure, tourism or agriculture.
Since 1966, Barbadians were in charge of all these sectors of their economy and maintained fluid diplomatic relations that led them to achieve an important niche in the British tourist market.
Currently they have 285,000 inhabitants in a 430 sq. km. territory. It may very well be one of the most prosperous islands of the Caribbean, with a per capita income of USD 15,000, and although the pandemic impacted its economy, due to the diminished tourism, just as all island of the region for its excessive reliance on this activity.
Barbados is acknowledged for being a democratic and leader country, which allow it to contribute to the development of the Commonwealth, considered as one of the most antique organizations in the world. It groups 54 independent and semi-independent countries that maintain ties with the United Kingdom and gather 2,500 million people (almost a third of the world population); additionally including advanced economies as well as developing countries.
Being part of the Commonwealth, means contributing with leadership to strengthening the democratic ties with other member countries, and for Barbados it is important to be a member as most of them, share a common and painful past.
This political separation process from the Empire was developed slowly during the last decades, through consolidating its own institutional framework. For instance, since 2005 it created the Caribbean Court of Justice that definitely broke all ties to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of London.
Since the start of the current century, student tests are organized and managed by Barbados and student do not have to travel to London to take them. Definitely, they have built a new institutional scheme which ended by removing Queen Elizabeth and her heirs from the head of state.
Henderson Carter sustains that what occurred will stimulate debates and pondering in Jamaica, Saint Vicente and the Grenadines, inclusively in Australia and New Zealand, that continue to have the queen as head of state and will son review the situation and take decisions to this respect.
This small Caribbean Island faces enormous challenges. The pandemic hurt its tourist industry and created unwanted effects in the service and agrarian sectors which directly depend on it.
The situation triggered unemployment when foreign money input was highly reduced. Now, after an effective vaccination process of its population, slowly tourism is recovering, but always to the expense that the new virus variants will not produce unexpected situations.
Regarding the population, a part of it thinks this decision should have been taken half a century ago, but another group thinks that the political transfer is too rushed due to the current post-pandemic situation, making it riskier.
Although President Mason thinks with determination that it is time to follow the republican ideal, as it is a debt with the people and the historic memory of Barbados, and to tell the world they are a free country and not just a former independent colony.
Since a few decades ago there was a strong justice restoration movement linked to its slavery past, which is not only about requesting money for the grievances cause by slavery but to propose an international dialogue to incentivize and develop countries that for centuries were relegated to colonialism and slavery.
It is time to control their own destiny and show the world they are capable of holding their own peaceful democracy and time to rethink its status in the world. As an example for other countries of the region, Barbados has a low government corruption perception among its inhabitants.
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