Barbados’ First President Elect Is a Former Jurist

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Barbados
Courtesy of Mary Beth Kurspahic (Flickr CC0)

In September, Barbados announced that it would remove Queen Elizabeth as the head of state, and on Oct. 20, 2021, Sandra Mason, 72, a former jurist, was elected to become its next head of state.

As the country cast off its colonial past, Mason became the first president-elect on Wednesday. She received two-thirds of the majority vote in the Parliament’s House of Assembly and Senate. She will be sworn on November 30, the 55th Anniversary of Barbados’ independence from Britain.

Mason read a speech explicit in its rejection of imperialism during the ceremony, prepared by Prime Minister Mia Mottley. Her address pointed out the significance of self-governance and restated the criticism of Barbados’ first prime minister, Errol Walton Barrow, against “loitering on colonial premises.”

Barbados
Courtesy of Hanumann (Flickr CC0)

Barbados, a parliamentary democracy, has become the latest Caribbean island to get rid of the symbolic role of the queen and go after the formation of a republic.

The republican movement in the Caribbean first cut ties with the queen in 1970. Barbados was first led by Guyana, followed by Trinidad and Tobago, and then Dominica.

Mason, who was appointed by Queen Elizabeth in 2018 as the governor-general, was nominated as president subject to a parliamentary vote.

According to Mottley, on Wednesday, Barbados will be the newest republic in the global community of nations in December. The island’s transition includes working on a new constitution beginning in January.

President-elect Mason was born in St. Philip, Barbados, on Jan. 17, 1949, educated at Queen’s College. She attended the University of the West Indies and was the first woman to graduate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago from Barbados.

Mason served as an ambassador to Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, and Colombia in the early 1990s. She was the first woman judge on the Barbados Court of Appeal in 2008.

Mason will be the ceremonial leader of an island facing the effects of climate change, labor shortages, and economic difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic on its tourism sector, stated Mottley. However, she added that the real work begins after the island becomes a full republic.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

The New York Times: Barbados Elects Its First Head of State, Replacing Queen Elizabeth; by Christine Hauser
CNN: Barbados elects first president, replacing UK Queen as head of state

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Mary Beth Kurspahic’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Hanumann’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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