It’s time to leave our colonial past behind. So said former Governor-General Sandra Mason, who was sworn in at midnight local time as Barbados’ first-ever president. The small island with a population of just under 300,000 gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966, but continued to fall under the kingdom.
The island nation was once part of the British Empire, the largest empire of all time. At its peak around 1921, it covered more than a quarter of the Earth’s surface. Several of those countries gained independence in the 20th century, including Barbados.
“It was important for Barbados to leave the past of slavery in order to have good and decisive relations with its former colonizer,” Britain’s correspondent Anne Senen said. “Barbados suffered greatly from past slavery. The population consists largely of descendants of African slaves.”
Senen says they were put to work under harsh conditions on British sugar plantations. “As colonists, they have made a lot of money from this. That past has left a huge mark in the history of Barbados. That is why it is so symbolically important to sever the last imperial ties with Great Britain.”
However, Barbados does not want to completely reject the British past and maintain good relations with Britain. So the country wants to remain a member of the Commonwealth, a voluntary alliance of 53 independent sovereign nations, with the British Queen as the symbolic head.
Most of the Commonwealth countries were part of the British Empire, and others joined later. “The foundation is one of the most successful initiatives Elizabeth has ever taken,” says Anne Saenen. “from U.S empire Transformation into a friendly partnership. Commonwealth meetings are usually successful. Member states meet once every two years and cooperate in many areas.”
The current visit of Crown Prince Charles to the island proves that relations between Barbados and Great Britain remain good. He attended the presidential swearing-in of 72-year-old Sandra Mason. On Sunday evening, he arrived in the capital, Bridgetown, where he was received by a guard of honor.
Elizabeth is still head of state in 16 countries
Barbados is only the fourth country in the Caribbean to deposit the British monarchy. Previously, Guyana, the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, and Dominica did so. Mauritius, an archipelago located in the Indian Ocean, relinquished the British royal family in 1992.
Queen Elizabeth still holds the presidency of sixteen sovereign nations, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and a string of former British colonies in the Caribbean, including Jamaica.
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