The prime minister of Barbados has called for the island to “move as one” after removing the Queen as its head of state and becoming a republic.
Setting out her vision for the nation after 396 years of British monarchial rule, Mia Mottley told crowds in the capital, Bridgetown, on Tuesday that the nation had entered a “process of transition”.
On Monday night Prince Charles had been present for a ceremony in which the Queen’s standard was lowered for the final time, and Barbados’s first president, Dame Sandra Mason, was sworn in.
Speaking at the annual National Independence Honours Ceremony in Golden Square, in which distinguished citizens including Rihanna were honoured, Ms Mottley said: “It is with a lot of emotion that I come to the podium this morning to speak with you, to share with you, because we too are conscious that we are in a process of transition.
“That the journey has started and continues at a new level. Three hundred and ninety-six years of a system of government is not two years and it is with that in mind that I am conscious that we have a responsibility as of December 1 to ensure our nations moves as one.
“Our DNA reflects our capacity to survive, to live, to adjust to unforeseen events, to recognise that our history is intertwined with disruption and hardship, expression, ambition, hope.
“And now, finally, complete responsibility and sovereignty for ourselves….subject only to the almighty, the creator, the Jah, Allah or whoever you may want to call him or her.”
Ms Mottley thanked Prince Charles for being “a man ahead of his time” in his approach to addressing the climate crisis and work through the Prince’s Trust charity, adding that the country will look to his leadership through the Commonwealth.
As Barbados parted ways with the British monarchy, Ms Mottley referred to the move as a “transitioning of mental landscape”.
In reference to the transatlantic slave trade which saw the murder and subjugation of millions of Black people over centuries, the leader expressed a desire to see the lasting damage, wreaked across generations of descendants, undone.
“In the words of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, it is ours to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery for none but ourselves can free our minds,” she said.
“Now we must accept that none but ourselves can build our nation.
“We will not change back centuries of mental brainwashing in decades; the fact that it will take us across generations doesn’t remove from us the obligation to move forward, full speed ahead.”
The culture, history and achievements of Barbados were celebrated with music, dance and spoken word during yesterday’s ceremony and a number of poets and activists criticised the colonial past of the island nation and called for it to embrace the opportunities of becoming a republic.
Poet Cyndi Celeste summed up the mood when she said: “Today, after successive governments have tried and failed to rekindle the flame, we finally raised the flag of a nation no longer clinging to colonial coat tails for its identity.
“And maybe, we’ve been so focused on searching for the problems that we do not recognise the opportunities we have been given… shedding the vestiges of a monarchy means we get to denounce the moniker of ‘little England’ and vest the powers of the state in every Barbadian citizen.”