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Next week Barbados will finally cast off its imperial links with Britain nearly 400 years after the first English ship arrived at the Caribbean island.

It’s been 30 years since a former British colony – Mauritius – removed the Queen as head of the state. The island in the Indian Ocean, chose to remain in the Commonwealth. So has Barbados.

Nonetheless, the Caribbean island’s bid for independence could be the sign of things to come for the remaining 15 former colonies, whose bonds with Britain are largely sustained by affection for a monarch nearing the end of her reign.

Prince Charles, the 73-year-old heir to the British throne, who might struggle to gain the respect afforded his mother, will travel to Barbados for the ceremonies marking the removal of his 95-year-old Elizabeth II as head of state.

In addition to the UK, Queen Elizabeth is currently head of state in 15, other countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Belize, Barbados, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, The Bahamas and Tuvalu.

Barbados’s decision to become a republic is strongly symbolic given its painful past as a key centre in the slave trade.

The island received 600,000 Africans between 1627 and 1833, who were put to work in the sugar plantations, earning fortunes for the English owners.

“Barbados under English colonial rules became the laboratory for plantation societies in the Caribbean,” according to Richard Drayton, a professor of imperial and global history at Kings College, London who lived in Barbados as a child.

“This is the end of the story of colonial exploitation of the mind and body,” said Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, a Barbadian historian. He said this was a historic moment for Barbados, the Caribbean and all post-colonial societies.

Not everyone is convinced about the breakaway – or the manner in which it’s been introduced, however. The Nation, Barbados’s largest newspaper, questioned in an editorial the government’s handling of the reform, writing: “a referendum should not be off the table”.

Some critics of charismatic Bajan prime minister Mia Mottley suggest that her rush to declare her country a Republic served her interests in distracting islanders from the state of the economy, made worse by Covid and the crash in tourism. She campaigned on republicanism, ahead of her landslide victory in 2018 elections.

Some in Barbados are more preoccupied with the bare necessities than politics. Colin Elcock, told Barbados Today, on Wednesday this week he thought it was happening in a hurry, “I think that they could have waited until after Christmas,” he said. “I am still trying to figure out what am I going to get as a pensioner. What am I going to get when we become a republic, being a republic, will that bring down the price of food?”

But events in Barbados could send ripples across the Caribbean – and even further afield.

“This will have consequences particularly within the English-speaking Caribbean,” said Professor Drayton, who pointed to talk of a republic in both Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

He thinks the queen’s passing may also reinvigorate republican movements in Canada and Australia, too.

Australia the most distant of the Queen’s realms, and in many ways, one of the most incongruous. A rich, successful economy with strong economic links to the Pacific region and a love-hate relationship with the British.

Former Australian premier Bob Hawke has said: “I believe we’d be better off as a republic but I don’t think it’s a matter of great importance.”

The last major push to make Australia a republic was more than 20 years ago. In the 1999 referendum 45 per cent of Australians voted for a republic and 55 per cent against. But who says results won’t be reversed in a future poll?

(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2021-11-25 09:41:00

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