Caribbean island nation – Barbados received independence and declared itself the world’s newest republic on Tuesday, lowering Queen Elizabeth’s flag as it severed colonial-era ties to the British throne amidst the sound of jubilant guns and salutes.
In her inaugural speech as the country’s first president, Dame Sandra Mason acknowledged the “complex, fragmented, and unstable world” it would have to traverse. “Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage,” she said
“Our country must dream big dreams and fight to realize them,” the former governor-general told those gathered for the ceremony, including Britain’s Prince Charles.
The new era for the Caribbean nation of 285,000 ends Britain’s centuries of influence, including more than 200 years of slavery until 1834.
The “Pride of Nationhood” celebration was restricted to the general public, however, Rihanna, Barbados’ most famous citizen, attended with senior officials for the event, which included military parades, a mounted guard of honor, and gun salutes.
One of the first acts of the prime minister of the new republic was to declare Rihanna a National Hero of Barbados: “May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the international celebrity.
There have been some concerns from some Barbadians, who argued that there are more pressing national issues than replacing the queen, including economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has exposed overreliance on tourism — which, ironically, is dependent on British visitors.
For many Barbadians, replacing the queen is just catching up with how the nation has felt for many years.
Overall, this new Era is welcomed by all as a step to realign the country’s purpose.