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Barbados elects first-ever president, replaces Queen Elizabeth II as head of state

Sandra Mason will be sworn in as President on November 30, on the country’s 55th anniversary of independence.

Barbados elects first-ever president, replaces Queen Elizabeth II as head of state
Image source: Left: L0NDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Queen Elizabeth II/ WPA Pool/Getty Images) Right: LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 23: Dame Sandra Mason (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Barbados took an important step in shedding its colonial past as it elected its first-ever president to replace the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state. The Barbados government declared that it was on the "road to republic” after Sandra Mason was elected by a two-thirds vote of a joint session of the country’s House of Assembly and Senate on Wednesday. Mason, 72, will be sworn in as President on November 30, on the country’s 55th anniversary of independence from the UK. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley described the election that makes Mason head of state as “a seminal moment” in the country’s history. “We have just elected from among us a woman who is uniquely and passionately Barbadian, does not pretend to be anything else [and] reflects the values of who we are,” said Mottley about the elections, reported Al Jazeera.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 28: Queen Elizabeth II receives Governor-General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason during a private audience at Buckingham Palace on March 28, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

 

Barbados is a former British colony and had gained independence in 1966 but has maintained long-standing ties with the country. Mason becomes the head of state on the back of widespread agitation and calls for full sovereignty and homegrown leadership in recent years. Many people in Barbados felt the Queen's status as the head of state was a reminder of imperialism. Many national leaders in the recent past called for Barbados to elect a President and become a republic. British colonized Barbados in 1625 and have been dubbed “Little England” for its loyalty to British customs.  



 

 

Sandra Mason is a former jurist and has been governor-general of Barbados since 2018. She is also the first woman to serve on the Barbados Court of Appeals. “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” said Barbados Governor General Sandra Mason. “Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state. This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving. Hence, Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a republic by the time we celebrate our 55th anniversary of independence. Barbados has developed governance structures and institutions that mark us as what has been described as, ‘the best governed Black society in the world’. Since Independence, we Barbadians have sought constantly to improve our systems of law and governance so as to ensure they best reflect our characteristics and values as a nation,” added Mason.



 

 

Mottley said it'll continue to have ties with Britain and sid the breakaway is not a condemnation of its British past. “We look forward to continuing the relationship with the British monarch,” she said. The country has less than 300,000 people. It is also the birthplace of superstar singer Rihanna, who is a Barbadian ambassador tasked with promoting education, tourism, and investment.

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS - MARCH 19: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attend a meeting with the Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason on March 19, 2019 in Bridgetown, Barbados. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are visiting a number countries as part of their Caribbean Tour. (Photo by Tim Rooke - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

 

Barbados is the first country to drop the monarch as head of state in the last three decades. Most countries dropped the Queen as head of state within years of gaining independence but Barbados has gone on for more than 50 years with the Queen as head of state. The last country to drop the monarch as head of state was Mauritius, in 1992. There are still countries that were under British rule and continue to have the Queen as head of state, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Jamaica, reported CNN. Wazim Mowla of the Atlantic Council think-tank believes the move could make Barbados a more legitimate player in global politics and added that it could serve as a “unifying and nationalistic move." Mowla said, "Other Caribbean leaders and their citizens will likely praise the move, but I don’t expect others to follow suit. This move will always be considered only if it is in the best interest of each country."



 

 

 

 

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