NEW Barbados President Dame Sandra Mason has appealed to Barbadians to play their individual and collective roles in helping to guide the island's new journey as a republic.
Mason made this appeal in her inaugural address in Bridgetown at midnight on Monday.
Last month, members of Barbados' House of Assembly and Senate voted in separate ballots for Mason, then governor-general, to become Barbados' first president and replace Queen Elizabeth II as the island's head of state.
At the time, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said, "Barbados naming a head of state will take us to where we want to be. The name of Barbados won’t change. We don’t need to do that to advance. We are not changing the date of Independence, so these are simple things we believe are necessary at this point."
After taking her oath of office during a five-hour ceremony in Barbados on Monday that ended around midnight, Mason said, "We. the people, must give republic Barbados its spirit and its substance. We must shape its future. We are each other’s and our nation’s keepers. We, the people, are Barbados."
On Tuesday, Barbados celebrated its 55th anniversary of independence. Mason acknowledged this, her own humble upbringings and that she grew up when Barbados was a colony of the United Kingdom.
Prince Charles, who represented his mother Queen Elizabeth II at Mason's inauguration, congratulated her and the people of Barbados on this historic occasion.
"From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery which forever stains our history, people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude," he said, adding, "The creation of this republic offers a new beginning,"
While Barbados' constitutional status has changed, Barbados-UK ties remain strong in many areas of mutual interest. Since his first visit to the island 50 years ago, the prince said Barbados has a special place in his heart and its people form part of a vibrant diaspora that has contributed greatly to the way of life in the UK.
"I shall always consider myself a friend of Barbados."
During the ceremony, which combined a formal military parade and performances by several Barbadian artistes, Mottley announced that Barbadian-born singer Rihanna was being given the title of national hero.
"On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you, the designee for national hero for Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty.”
Rihanna has been a cultural ambassador for Barbados since 2018.
In reference to Rihanna's song Diamonds, Mottley told her, "“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation by your works, by your actions.”
The ceremony was attended by numerous dignitaries, among them President Paula-Mae Weekes and the Prime Minister. A post on Dr Rowley's Facebook page highlighted his attendance. The post said Mottley had invited Rowley to the ceremony.