Barbados is set to remove the Queen as head of state and become a republic. The island nation will remain a member of the Commonwealth. It was in 1970 when another Caribbean nation, Guyana became a republic.
Barbados’s decision to become a republic is being watch by the remaining former Caribbean colonies, whose ties with the UK, is largely based on local affection for the Queen.
Prince Charles, the 73-year-old heir to the British throne, who might struggle to gain the respect afforded his mother, will travel to Barbados for the ceremonies marking the removal of his 95-year-old Elizabeth II as head of state.
In addition to the UK, Queen Elizabeth is currently head of state in 15, other countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Belize, Barbados, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, The Bahamas and Tuvalu.
Barbados’s decision to become a republic is strongly symbolic given its painful past as a key centre in the slave trade. It was nearly 400 years since the first English ship arrived at the Caribbean island.
The island received 600,000 Africans between 1627 and 1833, who were put to work in the sugar plantations, earning fortunes for the English owners and helped stimulate Brtain’s industrial revolution. Many historians have suggested that Barbados under English rule became the blue print for plantation societies across the Caribbean.
However, not everyone is convinced about the breakaway – or the manner in which it’s been introduced, however. The Nation, Barbados’s largest newspaper, questioned in an editorial the government’s handling of the reform, writing: “a referendum should not be off the table”.
Some critics of charismatic Bajan prime minister Mia Mottley suggest that her rush to declare her country a Republic served her interests in distracting islanders from the state of the economy, made worse by Covid and the crash in tourism. She campaigned on republicanism, ahead of her landslide victory in 2018 elections.