Sandra Mason replaces the Queen as head of state in Barbados – opinion

This Tuesday, Sandra Mason will write a piece of world history on the small Caribbean island of Barbados. One can formulate this a little pathetically and speak of an epoch-making moment when the 72-year-old lawyer swears her oath as President of Barbados. Parliament decided that the constitutional monarchy will be transformed into a republic. Which means that the previous head of state – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – has served as the country’s monarch.

Bye-bye, Queen of Barbados. “The time has come to put our colonial past behind us completely,” says Mason. Ironically, Barbados, which was long considered “Little England”, which seemed to be more British than all other overseas holdings, of all places this island is now separating from the Queen.

55 years after independence, the future president will know about the symbolic weight of this step. It could inspire other states to shake off the monarchy as a relic of the Empire. After all, Elizabeth II – beyond the United Kingdom – is still recognized as head of state by 15 countries. Australia and Canada are among them, and many small countries like Barbados, where less than 300,000 people live.

Three years ago Mason had become Governor General and thus the Queen’s official representative in Barbados; However, the island is ruled by a prime minister, based on the British model. Many residents are grateful for this democratic legacy.

Mason received medals in London, most recently the Dame Grand Cross, the female counterpart to the accolade. Elizabeth II has visited the island five times, she maintained the connection, but time could not freeze her: “The people of Barbados want a head of state from Barbados,” says Mason. And now it is she who gives the republic a confident face.

Mason grew up on the tropical island. She worked as a teacher and for a bank before pursuing a career in the judiciary. She was the first woman in Barbados to be admitted to the bar. In 1978 she became a family judge, and later she was promoted to the Supreme Court. In her free time, she loves cricket and plays Scrabble. The fact that she has already represented her country as a diplomat should help her now. Because Mason’s new role is – like that of the Queen – ceremonial.

The urge to reinvent itself as a republic has long matured in Barbados. The fact that he recently got a boost may also be due to the racism allegations that the royals are struggling with. When Harry and Meghan publicly reported concerns within the family about how dark their baby’s skin color would be, this also stirred up Barbados emotions. Most of the descendants of African slaves live there. The Black Lives Matter movement, which fueled debates about identity and historical heritage, also weighed heavily. This parallels the 1970s, when the Black Power Movement picked up speed. Even then, the first Caribbean states separated from the Queen.

Mason will now represent a country where exploitation and slavery have left deep marks, starting with the Spanish and ending with the British. Now, however, what many perceive as the last, above all mental, colonial bondage falls: the formal bond with the now 95-year-old Queen.

The swearing-in ceremony of Mason will be attended by Prince Charles, who has long since been proposed by his mother as the future leader of the Commonwealth. In the club of the former colonies, Sandra Mason and the new republic apparently want to stay.

What the Queen thinks about the fact that she will no longer be Queen of Barbados remains her secret. It was reported from Buckingham Palace that this was “a matter for the government and people of Barbados”. Strict restraint. But what else should the royal family do?

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