Barbados became the world’s newest republic as it stopped pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, shedding another vestige of its colonial past. During the ceremony, several leaders, dignitaries and artists, including Prince Charles were present.
The ceremony was held in a popular square where the statue of a well-known British lord was removed last year amid a worldwide push to erase symbols of oppression.
Fireworks lit up the night sky at midnight as Barbados officially became a republic. During the ceremony, Prime Minister Mia Mottley awarded pop star Rihanna the honor of National Hero of Barbados, telling her, “May you continue to shine like a diamond,” as they both laughed.
It was a reference to a popular Rihanna song – ‘Shine bright like a diamond’.
Screens were set up across the island so people could watch the event. The jubilation featured an orchestra with more than 100 steel pan players and numerous singers, poets and dancers.
For Barbados, the will to become a republic began more than two decades ago. Its culmination happened with the island’s Parliament electing its first-ever president last month in a two-thirds majority vote.
Barbados Governor General Sandra Mason was sworn in before dawn on Tuesday as the island marked its 55th anniversary of independence from Britain.
“As cautioned by our first prime minister … we ought no longer to be found loitering on colonial premises,” she said.
“We must seek to redefine our definition of self, of state, and the Barbados brand, in a more complex, fractured and turbulent world. … Our country and people must dream big dreams and fight to realize them.”
The 72-year-old Sandra Mason is an attorney and judge who also has served as ambassador to Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Brazil. She will help Prime Minister Mia Mottley lead the wealthy Caribbean island of more than 300,000 people that is dependent on tourism, manufacturing and finance.
Barbados’ flag, coat of arms and the national anthem will remain the same, but certain references will change, according to Suleiman Bulbulia, a columnist for the Barbados Today newspaper.
(with inputs from Associated Press)