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World: Barbados cuts colonial-era ties with Britain and Queen Elizabeth II

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BARBADOS-BRITAIN-POLITICS-HISTORY-REPUBLIC © RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty BARBADOS-BRITAIN-POLITICS-HISTORY-REPUBLIC Charles, Prince of Wales (R) receives the Order of Freedom of Barbados from President of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason (2nd R) during the ceremony to declare Barbados a Republic and the Inauguration of the President of Barbados at Heroes Square in Bridgetown, Barbados, November 30, 2021. / Credit: RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty © Provided by CBS News Charles, Prince of Wales (R) receives the Order of Freedom of Barbados from President of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason (2nd R) during the ceremony to declare Barbados a Republic and the Inauguration of the President of Barbados at Heroes Square in Bridgetown, Barbados, November 30, 2021. / Credit: RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty

Bridgetown, Barbados — Fireworks filled the sky over Barbados on Tuesday as the Caribbean island nation declared itself the world's newest republic, lowering Queen Elizabeth's flag as it severed colonial-era ties to the British throne to the sound of jubilant gun salutes.

Barbados is ready to ditch Britain's Queen. For many in the country, the move has been a long time coming

  Barbados is ready to ditch Britain's Queen. For many in the country, the move has been a long time coming Queen Elizabeth will have one less realm next week when Barbados severs its final imperial links to Britain by removing the 95-year-old as its head of state and declaring itself a republic. The former British colony -- which gained independence in 1966 -- revived its plan to become a republic last September with the country's governor general, Sandra Mason, saying, "the time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind."Mason, a 73-year-old former jurist, will be sworn in as the first-ever president of the island nation of just under 300,000 at a ceremony late on Monday night.

"Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage," Dame Sandra Mason said in her inauguration speech as the first president of the country, recognizing the "complex, fractured and turbulent world" it would need to navigate.

"Our country must dream big dreams and fight to realize them," the former governor-general told those gathered for the ceremony, including Britain's Prince Charles.

The new era for the nation of 285,000 ends Britain's centuries of influence, including more than 200 years of slavery until 1834. Addressing the matter during the handover, Charles acknowledged the mark slavery had left on the two countries.

The Prince of Wales (left) makes a speech in Heroes Square in Bridgetown Barbados following a ceremony to mark the country's transition to a republic within the Commonwealth, November 30, 2021. / Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Images/Getty © Provided by CBS News The Prince of Wales (left) makes a speech in Heroes Square in Bridgetown Barbados following a ceremony to mark the country's transition to a republic within the Commonwealth, November 30, 2021. / Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Images/Getty

"From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude," he told the crowd.

Barbados bid farewell to the Queen and celebrate the birth of a republic

  Barbados bid farewell to the Queen and celebrate the birth of a republic With the stroke of midnight, Barbados cut its last remaining bonds to the British monarchy after nearly 400 years. In a vibrant celebratory ceremony on Monday evening, the Caribbean island removed Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and inaugurated its first-ever President. © Jonathan Brady/PA Images/Getty Images Preparations begin for the ceremony in Heroes Square by the Barbados Parliament building where at midnight on November 29, 2021, Barbados will officially become a republic in Bridgetown, Barbados. Picture date: Monday November 29, 2021.

A long-running pandemic curfew was suspended to allow Barbadians to enjoy festivities, which included projections at various points across the country and large fireworks displays timed to mark the historic transition.

The "Pride of Nationhood" ceremony itself was closed to the wider public but Barbados' most famous citizen, the singer Rihanna, took place alongside top officials for the event, complete with military parades, a mounted guard of honor and gun salutes.

One of the first acts of the prime minister of the new republic was to declare Rhianna a National Hero of Barbados: "May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation," Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the international celebrity.

Singer Rihanna stands to receive the honour of © Provided by CBS News Singer Rihanna stands to receive the honour of

Barbados, famous for its idyllic beaches and love of cricket, won independence from Britain in 1966.

Barbados says goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II, transforms into a republic

  Barbados says goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II, transforms into a republic Fireworks peppered the sky at midnight as Barbados officially became a republic, with screens set up across the island so people could watch the event.Several leaders and dignitaries, including Prince Charles, attended the ceremony that began late Monday 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.

In October, it elected Mason its first president, one year after Mottley declared the country would "fully" leave behind its colonial past.

Not quite "our royal family"

Some Barbadians argue there are more pressing national issues than replacing the queen, including economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has exposed overreliance on tourism — which, ironically, is dependent on British visitors.

Unemployment is at nearly 16%, up from 9% in recent years.

"I know it is something that we were going towards for a very long time, but I think it came at a time which is not necessarily the best time considering our economic situation and the COVID situation," said 27-year-old office manager Nikita Stuart.

But for young activists such as Firhaana Bulbulia, founder of the Barbados Muslim Association, British colonialism and slavery lie behind the island's modern inequalities.

"The wealth gap, the ability to own land, and even access to loans from banks all have a lot to do with structures built out of being ruled by Britain," Bulbulia, 26, said.

Queen Elizabeth II Congratulates Barbados After It Scraps the Monarchy

  Queen Elizabeth II Congratulates Barbados After It Scraps the Monarchy Queen Elizabeth II extended her "warmest good wishes" to Barbados "as you celebrate" becoming a republic and removing her as head of state. © Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images and Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Queen Elizabeth II, seen at Ascot Racecourse on October 16, 2021, congratulated Barbados on The Presidential Inauguration Ceremony took place at Heroes Square on November 29, 2021 in Bridgetown.

The Prince of Wales (left) is joined by President of Barbados Sandra Mason (centre), and Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley (right) as they prepare to depart from Heroes Square in Bridgetown Barbados following a ceremony to mark the country's transition to a republic within the Commonwealth, November 30, 2021. / Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Images/Getty © Provided by CBS News The Prince of Wales (left) is joined by President of Barbados Sandra Mason (centre), and Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley (right) as they prepare to depart from Heroes Square in Bridgetown Barbados following a ceremony to mark the country's transition to a republic within the Commonwealth, November 30, 2021. / Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Images/Getty

For many Barbadians, replacing the queen is just catching up with how the nation has felt for many years.

"I remember in the old days we would be really excited about the queen and Prince Charles and Princess Diana and royal weddings," Anastasia Smith, a 61-year-old nurse, told AFP. "But I don't know if we ever quite saw them as our royal family. Now, everybody is talking about a republic. I'm not sure that anything about my life is going to change. But I think we're doing the right thing and it's a proud moment for Barbados."

Buoyed by Black Lives Matter movements across the world, local activists last year successfully advocated for the removal of a statue of the British Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson that stood in National Heroes Square for two centuries.

And the end of the queen's reign is seen by some as a necessary step towards financial reparations to address the historic consequences of the use of slaves brought from Africa to work on sugar plantations.

Barbados Declares Rihanna a National Hero as It Cuts Ties With Queen Elizabeth II, Becomes a Republic .
The multi-hyphenate was honored by her home country as Barbados cuts colonial-era ties to the British throne.The Fenty founder received a high honor from her home country on Monday and was named a National Hero by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley in a ceremony marking the country's split from the British throne to become its own republic.

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