After 20 years of discussion, Barbados has started the process of fully cutting its ties with Queen Elizabeth II and becoming a republic with its own head of state.
The former British colony gained independence in 1966 but Prime Minister Mia Mottley said the time had come to “make decisions fully on our own”.
“The truth is, it’s important to us we give confidence to our young people … to believe they can aspire to become the head of state of their own country,” Mottley told the ABC’s chief foreign correspondent Philip Williams.
“It’s not a divisive decision, it’s not a decision that is reflective of any break with the monarchy, or any disrespect, in fact it’s quite the opposite.
“We have an excellent relationship with the United Kingdom, with the royal family, and we believe that the time has come to boost the confidence of our people.
“In a very real sense a lot of the changes have been made over the course of the last 54 years, so this is the most natural progression.
“I can’t imagine that countries [like] the United Kingdom would want anything other than a British head of state. I can’t imagine the United States of America similarly, so we just see this as a natural step.”
Mottley confirmed the Barbados Government had not yet spoken directly with Buckingham Palace but said she believed the British people would support Barbados, likening the two countries’ relationship to that of a family.
“In a family, children leave and go and set up their own households and that does not in any way affect the relationship between the family,” the Caribbean nation’s first female prime minister said.
“We’re on good terms still, but we are both independent heads of our own households.
“We’re all mature people and we are mature countries. At the very personal level I have tremendous regard for Her Majesty, I have a very good relationship with Prince Charles, our countries have had deep relationships, and I think we’re mature enough to know the time has come for us to move forward.”
With no referendum involved in the decision, simply a decades-long commitment and understanding from all sides of politics, Mottley said she imagined countries like Australia would want a similar discussion about national leadership.
“I think it’s important to send a message to our young people that it’s possible for them to aspire to be in charge of their own country at the very highest levels,” she said.
“We don’t receive any aid or funding that is out of the ordinary [from the UK], so there’s no reason for us to not go to the point where a Barbadian can be head of state of our own country.”
Draft plans for how the country will elect its first president, and the different roles of the president and the prime minister, are already in place, but will be thoroughly reviewed before a final version is put into action.
With a sister and two nieces in Sydney, Mottley is well versed on the Australia-West Indies cricketing rivalry, and said she hoped the final step to Independence would make the country better at cricket. (ABC Australia)