Barbados takes steps to remove The Queen as its head of State

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What exactly has happened? 

On Wednesday, the International media reacted with surprise as the announcement was made that Barbados would be removing the Queen as it's head of state. The news would see the West Indian country become a republic as it was revealed that the intention was to complete the process by November 2021 - in time for the 55th anniversary of independence from Britain.

This was clarified in a speech written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and read out by Governor General Sandra Mason in a public address ahead of the opening of Parliament.

"Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state. This is the ultimate statement of confidence of who we are and what we are capable of achieving.” She said before adding that: “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind."

Barbados which has a population of close to 300,000 was formerly a British colony from 1625 up until independence in 1966. Since then, it has operated as a constitutional monarchy as well as a parliamentary democracy. Under this system, while the link to the monarchy has remained, Queen Elizabeth II has been a legal but ultimately non-political, ruler. Both Barbadian and British officials have maintained civil diplomacy in reaction to the news. CNN reported on a Buckingham Palace source which had said the news had not come 'out of the blue' while it has also been an idea that has been "mooted and publicly talked about many times" per BBC royal correspondent, Jonny Dymond.

Yet the driving point for the announcement is sure to be analyzed in the coming months. Both from the view of the motivations and ultimately the timing. The retort on a Barbadian head of state being the "ultimate statement of confidence" of Barbadian and all it entails is valid. It speaks to a sense of empowerment and purpose which the decision is likely to bring. A renewed sense of autonomy for the citizens of Barbados and the state as whole, especially given it’s past colonial links.

When was the last time this occured?

It would not be the first country to take such an action. Mauritius were the most recent to have done so back in 1992. Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago also took steps to become republics in the 1970s and there does exist overarching similarities in the wider political discourse in the timing of these decisions. Where the Black Power Movement of the 1970’s coincided with the transitions of both Trinidad (1976) and Guyanna (1970) to republics so too has another movement overlapped with the key decision of a Carribean Island in 2020. The Black Lives Matter protests which came to a peak in the summer after the murder of George Floyd has led many countries to question their current and past relationship with race. This in turn has brought with it serious reflection concerning colonial histories of the past.

Though the decision will have been informed by a number of other factors, the overlapping climate in which the decision was taken is worth noting. It now remains to be seen whether more countries will follow.

Mayowa Ayodele

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