After 55 years, November 30th will no longer be known as Independence Day in Barbados. Instead, it is to be called Barbados National Day, the Government has declared.
This surprise disclosure came via Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams, as he hosted a press conference at Ilaro Court this evening.
The minister revealed that after a recent Cabinet meeting, it was decided that from this year onwards, the island will celebrate its Independence and Republic status, under one moniker.
“Last Thursday the Cabinet of Barbados took the decision to henceforth observe November 30th as Barbados National Day commemorating our independence from Britain in 1966 and our transition to a parliamentary republic in 2021.”
After the announcement was made public reaction was swift on social media with several commentators criticising the move. Many referenced Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s declaration last August in a national address that there would be no change in Independence Day as traditionally celebrated on November 30.
In the address Prime Minister Mottley outlined: “There is no change to the flag; there is no change to the name of Independence Day; there is no change to the name of Barbados. Barbados is Barbados. We’re not the Commonwealth of Barbados; we’re not the Republic of Barbados; Barbados is Barbados. We are also not changing our pledge,” the Prime Minister stated then.
As the country prepares to mark its first anniversary of becoming a republic, Minister Abrahams told the press event at the Prime Minister’s official residence that: “The national events on November 30th, will culminate an entire month of celebrations comprising sporting activities, cultural and heritage-inspired activities, including the lighting ceremony which takes place this afternoon (Tuesday).”
Barbados celebrated its first Independence Day on November 30, 1966 and the country became a Republic on November 30, 2021.
The apparent about-turn by the Mottley administration sparked an immediate backlash from the president of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Dr Ronnie Yearwood, who demanded a reversal of the decision which he described as “callous, wrong, and disrespectful” to Barbadians and the legacy of Independence.
“Independence doesn’t belong to the Democratic Labour Party or the Barbados Labour Party. It was never a party issue. Independence is just Independence. It is about Barbados, and to try to take away the day and rename it when nobody was asking for this, it just smacks of a legacy-building, personal project on the part of the prime minister,” Dr Yearwood argued.
The DLP leader said the decision shows a “deep” disconnect between Mottley and the country.
“And to be honest, I am angry and I know that lots of Barbadians are upset and angry about this. She crossed the line. She had no right to do this. Nobody asked for this, we don’t want it. Last year she said ‘we are not changing the name of independence.’ Now you come on the anniversary of the republic and what have you done? Changed the name of Independence [Day],” he asserted.
Dr Yearwood claimed that Mottley knew she was going to change the name and the decision smacks in the face of what this country is about.
“While we are in a position where we are trying to unite the country, you come with this move, fracture the country. And what would upset people even more, and what she would try to do is then talk about ‘oh, it should be a day of unity’.
“You madam prime minister, you are the one trying to pull the country apart. It is a stupid, downright callous and foolish move,” the DLP president suggested.
Without revealing details, the political party leader told Barbados TODAY the DLP would be mounting a social pressure campaign to push the Government into reversing the decision
“We want this reversed. We are not going to stand for this. We want this name change to be reversed. So really, it’s not just about agitation, it is about at the end of this, we want action that Independence Day should stay as Independence Day. So whatever she needs to do to change this decision, she would be well-advised to go and do that,” Dr. Yearwood cautioned.
“We would start the necessary social pressure and agitation as with these kinds of movements and these kinds of moments,” the DLP leader added.
On Tuesday evening Abrahams gave some detail on the activities that will mark the celebration. He said these included the second Humanitarian Awards ceremony on November 20th along with road tennis and other sporting competitions, NIFCA events and the Spirit of the Nation Pageant. According to him, an official calendar of Barbados National Day events is to be unveiled “later this week”.
He also noted that the inaugural Barbados National Day Ceremonial Parade which will feature the conferring of national honours, as well as the presentation of leadership badges to the head boys and head girls of all public and private secondary and primary schools, will once again be held at Kensington Oval, starting at 8 a.m.
Uniformed groups will march in the ceremonial parade from the Oval to the National Heroes Square, where the Prime Minister will take the salute.
Additionally, a Toast to the Nation reception will be hosted by President Dame Sandra Mason at State House in honour of all new national awardees.