BRIDGETOWN: Barbados has elected its first-ever president to replace Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state in a decisive step toward shedding the Caribbean island’s colonial past.
Sandra Mason was elected late on Wednesday by a two-thirds vote of a joint session of the country’s House of Assembly and Senate, a milestone, the government said in a statement, on its “road to republic.”
A former British colony that gained independence in 1966, the nation of just under 300,000 had long maintained ties with the British monarchy. But calls for full sovereignty and homegrown leadership have risen in recent years.
Mason, aged 72, will be sworn in on November 30, the country’s 55th anniversary of independence from Britain. A former jurist who has been governor-general of the island since 2018, she was also the first woman to serve on the Barbados Court of Appeals.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called the election of a president “a seminal moment” in the country’s journey. “We have just elected from among us a woman who is uniquely and passionately Barbadian, does not pretend to be anything else (and) reflects the values of who we are,” Mottley said after Mason’s election.
Mottley said the country’s decision to become a republic was not a condemnation of its British past. “We look forward to continuing the relationship with the British monarch,” she said.
With a population of about 285,000, Barbados is one of the more populous and prosperous Caribbean islands. Once heavily dependent on sugar exports, its economy has diversified into tourism and finance.
Barbados will not be the first former British colony in the Caribbean to become a republic. Guyana took that step in 1970, less than four years after gaining independence from Britain. Trinidad and Tobago followed suit in 1976 and Dominica in 1978. Jamaica has in the past suggested that it might also consider the change.