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Barbadians come together for jubilee

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A toast to their homeland: Bermuda’s Barbadians marked their country’s 50th birthday (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The island’s Barbadian community gathered on Saturday night to mark the Caribbean nation’s 50th anniversary of independence from the United Kingdom.

Attending the event at the Hamilton Princess Hotel was Jean Holder, one of the country’s “founding fathers of independence”, who is also known for his work in tourism and diplomacy.

The golden jubilee takes place on November 30 in Barbados, but celebrations were moved forward here as many of Bermuda’s Barbadian residents will be flying home to join in the festivities.

Carl Neblett, president of the Barbados Association of Bermuda, said that his country had experienced “the good and the bad of what independence entails”. “But Barbados has been one of the Caribbean’s leading islands in terms of economic status, tourism and international business — despite its relatively small size and population,” he added.

During his address at the ceremony, Mr Neblett revealed that his nation had one of the best healthcare expenditures and one of the lowest murder rates in the Caribbean.

He also detailed the close historical relationship between Barbados and Bermuda — with Barbadians helping to build the Royal Naval Dockyard here in the early 20th century.

Since then, Barbadians have enjoyed a longstanding presence in the Bermuda Police Service and the judiciary, among other careers.

Mr Neblett ended his speech by saying: “We raise our glasses to toast 50 years of ups and downs, 50 years of progress and another 50 years of being one of the safest and most peaceful countries this side of the western hemisphere.”

Mr Holder, who also spoke at the event, said yesterday that he tried to “convey the Barbadian experience” to guests at the ceremony. He went on to describe his pride at Barbados’s high ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (17th out of 175 countries), as well as the “great heights” it had reached in its education system.

“Barbados is a remarkable country. I refuse to believe that we are just celebrating 50 years of independence; I would like to think we’re celebrating Barbados’s achievements in the world,” he added.

Barbados Golden Jubilee: guest speaker Jean Holder. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)