Barbados became the world’s newest republic in the early hours of Tuesday morning, ending close to 400 years of British colonialism.
Before the early morning formalities at National Heroes Square in Bridgetown, the night began with a colourful celebration of the occasion by some of Barbados’ most well-known musicians, dancers and poets.
But, as the clock approached midnight, the crowd became silent in anticipation.
When midnight finally arrived, the announcer read, “We, the people of Barbados, in the unity of hearts, hands and minds, now pledge our selves, our commitment, loyalty and purpose to this beloved Barbados…Infirm resolve and in one voice, from this day and forever, we declare Barbados a Parliamentary Republic.”
The announcement was met with applause, then shortly after, yet, another Barbadian woman made history.
Three years after Mia Mottley became the country’s first female Prime Minister, Dame Sandra Mason, former jurist and Governor-General of Barbados, became the country’s first-ever president.
“In the year 2021, we now turn our vessel’s bow towards the new republic. We do this, so that we may seize the full substance of our sovereignty,” President Mason said after her swearing-in.
“We must avoid the trap of merely reliving, retelling and relying on our past achievement as a nation. Instead, we must seek to refine our definition of self, state and our Barbados brand in a more complex, fractured and turbulent world.”
Representing the British royal family at the occasion, Prince Charles said the creation of the republic offered a new beginning.
It was a milestone on a long road not only travelled, he said, but one built by Barbados.
“From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocities of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude. Emancipation, self-government and independence were your waypoints. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides,” Prince Charles said.
“Your long journey has brought you to this moment. Not as your destination, but as a vantage point to survey your new horizon.”
He assured that relations between both countries will remain close going forward.
And as Barbados removed Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, Prime Minister Mia Mottley celebrated the accomplishments of Barbados’ queen of pop and R&B – Rihanna.
“On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we, therefore, present to you the designee of National Hero of Barbados – Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty. May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to our nation,” Mottley said.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and President Paula-Mae Weekes.
Barbados decided to become a republic in 2020.
It will remain in the Commonwealth.