Bermuda ditches Queen's Birthday public holiday

A decision by Bermuda to scrap a public holiday honouring Queen Elizabeth's birthday has stirred protests in Britain's oldest colony.

The mid-Atlantic island's centre-left Progressive Labour Party government announced plans last week to eliminate the Queen's Birthday holiday that gave workers a day off in June, and replace it with a National Heroes' Day in October.

Outraged, more than 2,000 of the island's 65,000 residents have signed an online petition to retain the holiday.

"Clearly, the removal of our sovereign's birthday as a public holiday is inexcusable," petition creator Cameron Hollis said, calling the decision "a blatant insult to Her Majesty."

Several former British colonies, including Australia and New Zealand, celebrate the birthday with a day off work but Britain itself does not.

Queen Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926. But she celebrates her official birthday in June when there is less risk of cold, wet weather spoiling parades and outdoor events.

Bermuda marks the day with a military parade that draws hundreds of spectators. It is set this year for Saturday, June 14, with a day off work on Monday, June 16.

Workers will get an extra holiday this year when the first National Heroes' Day is celebrated on Monday, October 13, but from 2009 there will be no public holiday for the queen's birthday.

Bermuda, a resort island and international business hub, was settled by Britons whose ship was blown ashore by a hurricane in 1609 and celebrates its 400th anniversary next year. Despite a long-held desire to split from Britain, the PLP, which has been in power for a decade, has yet to put the independence issue to the people and opinion polls consistently show a majority oppose independence.

An independence referendum in 1995 was heavily defeated.