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Barbados is ready to get rid of the Queen of Great Britain. For many in the country, the move has been a long time coming

Upon arrival in the capital Bridgetown, he was greeted by a guard of honor, followed by a 21-gun salute.

The Prince of Wales will deliver a speech at the ceremony just after midnight to mark the birth of the republic, which comes 55 years to the day since the country declared independence from Britain.

“As your constitutional status changes, it was important for me that I join with you in reaffirming those things that do not change,” the heir to the throne will tell a crowd in National Heroes’ Square.

“For example, the close and trusted partnership between Barbados and the UK as core members of the Commonwealth; our shared determination to uphold the values ​​we both hold dear and to pursue the goals we share; and the countless bonds between the peoples of our countries – through which flow admiration and affection, cooperation and opportunity – strengthening and enriching us all. “

It is understood that Charles will also reaffirm his relationship with the country, which he first visited 50 years ago, and congratulate the Barbadian diaspora for their invaluable contribution to the UK. His last visit to Barbados was in 2019 while touring the Caribbean with his wife, Camilla.

Barbados’ decision marks the first time in nearly three decades that a kingdom has chosen to remove the British monarch from his post as head of state. The last nation to do so was Mauritius in 1992. Like this country, Barbados also intends to remain in the Commonwealth.

A royal source told CNN last year that the decision rested with the government and people of Barbados, adding that it was not “out of the blue” and had been “publicly provoked and discussed” on several occasions. .

“Becoming a republic is a coming of age,” said Guy Hewitt, who served as High Commissioner for Barbados to the UK between 2014 and 2018. “I make the analogy with when a child grows up and gets his own house, gets his own. mortgage, give the keys back to their parents because he says we’re moving forward. “

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

Colonial past

The change comes almost 400 years since the arrival of the first English ship on the easternmost island of the Caribbean.

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

The Barbados flag flies above the Parliament Buildings on November 16 in Bridgetown, Barbados.

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

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

“It is in Barbados that the English first pass laws, which distinguish the rights of people they call ‘Negroes’ from those who are not, and this is the precedence established in Barbados in terms of economy and law, which then comes to be transferred to Jamaica, the Carolinas and the rest of the Caribbean, as well as the institutions of that colony. ”

A decades-old debate

According to Cynthia Barrow-Giles, professor of constitutional governance and politics at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Cave Hill, Barbados.

She told CNN that the desire to become a republic was over 20 years old and “reflected the contribution to consultations on governance across the island and its diaspora.”

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

She explained that while most Barbadians are in favor of the transition, there has been some concern about the approach to it.

Others questioned the government’s delay of just over a year to align the moment with the country’s independence anniversary on Tuesday.

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

“The world is suffering and fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, but for Barbados, as a tourist economy, it has been particularly difficult,” he said. “If you accept the idea that a republic is a system given to the people, the challenge we face is that there has not been a lot of consultation to become a republic. Yes, that was included in the Speech from the Throne. But the people of Barbados were not part of that trip. ”

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He added: “What we are dealing with now are just the ceremonial and cosmetic changes and I think if we were really going to the republic it should have been a meaningful journey, where the people of Barbados were engaged in l ‘whole process of conceptualization to bring it to a conclusion,’ he added.

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

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

The Barbadian government “focused on the endgame” rather than the transition process, a move Yearwood called “backward.”

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

People walk from the entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados.

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 subject to move forward. In May, his government created a Republican Status Transition Advisory Committee, a 10-member group tasked with helping manage the transition from a monarchical system to a republic. The only obstacle was getting a two-thirds majority in parliament, which was a relatively straightforward process given that his party has held the majority since its landslide victory in 2018.

Barrow-Giles said the government “was in a position to determine what was legally and politically required to repatriate the constitution”, adding that the passage from Barbados “is in line with the route taken by other jurisdictions”.

The Queen inspects an honor guard upon her arrival in Barbados on October 31, 1977.

“The fact that Prince Charles is in Barbados for this very important occasion for the country is a testament to the lack of opposition to the decision of the royal family and is essentially an approval of the transition,” she added. .

With such an amicable split, other nations could follow Barbados’ lead, Drayton said.

“I imagine this issue will now sharpen the debate in Jamaica, as well as elsewhere in the Caribbean,” he said.

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“The decision, in some ways, does not reflect any assessment of the House of Windsor. I think it more reflects the feeling that people in Barbados now think it is a bit absurd to have your head of state. determined by the circumstances of birth to a family residing 4,000 miles away.

Hewitt also predicts that more countries might choose to break away from the British monarchy, but suggests this will happen after the end of Elizabeth II’s reign “simply because the Queen is held in such high regard.”

“People would see it as a personal affront to her to do it now. But I think once the crown is passed people will feel it is time.”

CNN has launched Royal News, a new weekly dispatch bringing you the secrets of the Royal Family, what they do in public and what goes on behind the palace walls. register here.

CNN’s Max Foster contributed to this report.


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