Barbados, which became a republic at midnight and said goodbye to the reign of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, declared the singer Rihanna a national hero, world agencies reported. The decision was announced by Prime Minister Mia Mottley during the lavish celebrations announcing the Barbadian Republic. Rihanna accepted the honor.
At midnight, Barbados officially declared itself a republic and no longer recognized Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. The island nation of the Caribbean, known for its paradise beaches, rum and world-born star Rihanna, already has another head of state. This is Sandra Mason, who until now was the governor general of the country. Mason, 72, a judge and prosecutor as well as Barbados 'ambassador to Colombia, Venezuela, Chile and Brazil, was sworn in as head of state at midnight in Barbados' capital, Bridgetown. The lavish ceremony at Heroes' Square was marked by the replacement of the British Queen's flag with the country's flag. "The people of Barbados must shape the country's future. The people are the guardians of the country," he said in her first speech as President Mason. The national anthem sounded at the ceremony and 21 cannon salutes rang out.
Prince Charles, son of Elizabeth II and heir to the British throne, came especially for the ceremony in Barbados. He conveyed to the local authorities the warmest greetings from his mother. "The creation of this republic is an opportunity for a new beginning," Charles said. "From the darkest days of our past and the appalling cruelty of slavery that has forever marked our history, the people of this island have built their own path with extraordinary strength of spirit," Charles added.
Due to the proclamation ceremony of the republic, the curfew in Barbados, imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, was temporarily canceled so that Barbadians could take to the streets of the capital and other settlements and enjoy the lavish fireworks at the end of the festivities.
Barbados declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, but since then, like Australia or Canada, it has recognized the British queen as its head of state. Now, after the proclamation of the Republic of Barbados, it has become clear that the country remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
During the celebrations, the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley presented Prince Charles with the most prestigious state award - the Order of Freedom. But this sparked controversy. According to Christina Hinds, a professor of international relations at the West Indies University in Barbados, the British royal family is to blame for the exploitation of the area and has not made any formal apologies or paid compensation for the damage.
According to local activists, British colonization and slavery were directly responsible for the island's inequalities. Although the physical chains of slavery are broken, mental chains remain in people's minds, said Firhana Bulbulia, founder of the Muslim Association of Barbados. Between 1627 and 1833, about 600,000 enslaved Africans arrived in Barbados to work on the sugar plantations from which English owners made fortunes.
Barbados also recall that the young republic has even more urgent problems to resolve, such as the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which only underscored the country's dependence on tourism, especially Britain's. Prior to the pandemic, the island was visited annually by more than 1 million people. The streets of the settlements are now deserted, and unemployment has reached nearly 16 percent, up 9 percent from the previous year, despite government loans to finance the public sector and create jobs.
Barbados has a population of 300,000.
The last Caribbean republic was declared in the 70s of last century. Then Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana became republics. And the last time the British queen was removed as head of state was in 1992, when Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, declared itself a republic.
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