Barbados Breaks From British Colonial Rule as Calls Grow For Reparations

Barbados has develop into the world’s latest republic breaking ties with Queen Elizabeth 55 years after it grew to become an impartial nation, saying it was time for Barbados to interrupt from its colonial previous. The transfer comes as calls develop for the UK to pay reparations for enacting a regime of slavery in Barbados. Whereas it was an event for celebration, it was additionally “55 years overdue” and may have occurred when Barbados received its independence in 1966, says David Comissiong, Barbados’s ambassador to the Caribbean Neighborhood and the Affiliation of Caribbean States. “Barbados was a middle of British energy. You don’t do away with the imprint of that historical past so simply.”


It is a rush transcript. Copy might not be in its remaining type.

AMY GOODMAN: “Work” by Rihanna, the chart-topping singer and entrepreneur who was declared a nationwide hero in Barbados throughout the ceremony Monday evening that marked Barbados’ new standing as a republic, which we’re now going to debate. That is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman with Juan González as we flip to Barbados, which has simply develop into the world’s latest republic. At a ceremony late Monday evening, Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the primary president of the Caribbean island.

DAME SANDRA MASON: Possessing a transparent sense of who we’re and what we’re able to attaining within the yr 2021, we now flip our vessel’s bow in the direction of the brand new republic. We do that in order that we could seize the total substance of our sovereignty.

AMY GOODMAN: Barbados grew to become an impartial nation 55 years in the past in 1966 however Queen Elizabeth remained the official head of state till now. Many different former British colonies together with Canada, Australia and Jamaica nonetheless have an analogous association with the British monarch. Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley had pushed to chop ties to the Queen saying it was time for Barbados to interrupt from its colonial previous. The transfer comes as calls develop for the UK to pay slavery reparations to Barbados. Forward of the ceremony, Barbados held a Nationwide Service of Thanksgiving, the place Barbados Senator and Reverend John Rogers spoke.

REV. JOHN ROGERS: Our seed is one which survived a journey that many mustn’t have survived. Survived 300 years of a plantation system that many mustn’t have survived. Each little one born on this nation is a present of God, specifically preserved, specifically protected.

AMY GOODMAN: Prince Charles traveled to Barbados to attend the ceremony when Barbados grew to become a republic. He acknowledged Britain’s “appalling atrocity of slavery” within the Caribbean. Barbadian singer, actress and clothier Rihanna additionally attended the ceremony the place she was declared a nationwide hero by Barbados’ prime minister.

We go now to Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, the place we’re joined by David Comissiong, Barbados Ambassador to the Caribbean Neighborhood, or CARICOM. Longtime advocate for reparations, writer of the guide It’s the Therapeutic of the Nation: The Case For Reparations In An Period of Recession and Re-colonization. David Comissiong, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s nice to have you ever with us. Are you able to speak concerning the ceremony on Monday evening and what it meant, definitely far past merely a ceremony, the brand new Republic of Barbados?

DAVID COMISSIONG: Sure, it was a really historic and transferring event. Actually for me it began on Saturday, properly earlier than Monday evening, once we formally opened our Revolutionary Sq.. It was an entire weekend of actually celebrating the very best of our heritage and our historic custom. After all, Monday evening was once we put in the brand new president of Barbados. It was the evening on which we bid farewell to British colonial rule. That was symbolized in a really concrete method when the colours, the flags of the army models, the Protection Power and the Coast Guard and the Governor-Common’s colours, they have been marched off of the parade floor in view of Prince Charles and to the enjoying of Auld Lang Syne, that previous issues have been passing away and a brand new order was being put in.

So, very transferring, very historic. I might say 55 years overdue. It actually ought to have occurred on the thirtieth of November, 1966, when Barbados grew to become an impartial nation. However again then, for no matter causes, and there are numerous causes we are able to speculate about, we made two compromises on our constitutional sovereignty and independence. We corrected one compromise in 2005 once we broke our authorized system away from the British Privy Council and put in our Caribbean Court docket of Justice as our highest nationwide court docket. We handled the second compromise on Monday once we moved away not simply from the Queen but additionally from the idea, any idea of hereditary rule, put in our personal native president but additionally a president who was put in place by a democratic course of.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ambassador, what continues to be the legacy of 400 years of British colonial rule?

DAVID COMISSIONG: The legacy continues to be there. We’re nonetheless a piece in progress. Barbados was often known as Little England. Barbados was in actual fact Britain’s mom colony within the Caribbean. The Virginia colony was established in 1607, Barbados from 1625. As a result of the sugar revolution was actually pioneered in Barbados and the entire system of slavery-based plantation manufacturing was pioneered and perfected in Barbados. The seminal slavery legal guidelines of the British Empire have been the 1661 Barbados Slave Code which was subsequently taken to Jamaica after which from Jamaica to the Carolinas and throughout the 13 colonies. So Barbados was a middle of British energy, financial energy, political energy, army energy, cultural energy. Historians let you know that across the flip of the 18th century, Little Barbados was extra necessary in commerce to Britain than New England, Carolina, New York and Pennsylvania mixed. It sounds loopy within the twenty first century, however again then, sugar was like a narcotic drug. Barbados developed this technique, the manufacturing of superabundant earnings on the idea of the super-exploitation of African labor.

You don’t do away with the imprint of that historical past so simply. We are able to nonetheless see the colonial period in land possession patterns in Barbados. There was a landless proletariat in Barbados. Black individuals have been intentionally stored landless. We are able to see the imprint of these years within the well being profile of the present inhabitants. Barbados most likely has the very best incident on the earth of diabetes and hypertension, the product of centuries of residing in a high-pressure surroundings on these slave plantations which have been actually the world’s first focus camps, and being subjected to a particularly poor food plan.

Then you definitely have a look at the world’s worldwide and political order. The fact is that previously enslaved and colonized nations and other people like these within the Caribbean, together with Barbados, have been inserted in that worldwide order in a structurally subordinate and exploitative method. So, many, many remnants of these centuries of enslavement, of colonial exploitation and domination that we’re nonetheless attempting to undo.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This complete difficulty of reparations, what are the prospects or prospects of continuous to press and win some type of reparations, particularly in mild of the truth that the British Empire, having been one of many greatest in world historical past with so many nonetheless commonwealth or former colonies of England, the precedent that may set for the UK?

DAVID COMISSIONG: When you’ve got a trigger that’s simply and righteous and rooted in legislation, you’re assured of success. However it implies that you need to pursue it with ardour and willpower. Barbados is a part of the Caribbean Neighborhood. That is a corporation of 15 full member states and 5 affiliate members. The affiliate members are nonetheless British colonies. The member states, 14 of them are impartial nations — Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Haiti, et cetera. The Caribbean Neighborhood actually laid the muse for its reparations declare method again in 2001 on the United Nations World Convention Towards Racism. We consciously embraced that world convention as a once-in-a-lifetime alternative to place the problem of reparations, the problem of the transatlantic slave commerce and chattel slavery being crimes in opposition to humanity and the problem of reparations on the worldwide agenda.

So stated, so achieved, 12 years later in 2013, our heads of presidency got here collectively in a CARICOM summit and agreed that we have been going to launch a reparations declare for native genocide or the genocide in opposition to the Indigenous, the unique homeowners of the Caribbean, and for African enslavement. We have been going to launch that declare not solely in opposition to Britain however in opposition to all the European powers that have been implicated in native genocide and African enslavement. We established a CARICOM Reparations Fee. That fee is guided by a Prime Ministerial Sub-committee on Reparations headed by the Prime Minister of Barbados.

We’ve made our declare to the nationwide governments of Western Europe together with Britain. For sure, our preliminary method to them has not elicited a optimistic response. We’ve stated to them, “Look, that is the historical past. That is what you probably did. You systematically underdeveloped us. You siphoned off our sources for generations. The fruits of the labor of our ancestors, you siphoned off to the capitals of Europe. We’re saying to you that you would be able to’t merely stroll away along with your ill-gotten good points. You need to come again to the scene of the crime, sit down with us, and allow us to talk about how one can assist to restore a few of the harm you’ve got achieved.” So a really affordable method. They haven’t responded positively to date.

We all know it’s going to be a battle. Our thought is that we should develop a global mass motion, a global trigger célèbre comparable in measurement and scope and energy to the anti-apartheid motion of the Seventies and Eighties. So it’s a work in progress.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador, that is Prince Charles talking on the official ceremony the place you have been in Bridgetown, Barbados, Monday evening.

PRINCE CHARLES: The creation of this republic presents a brand new starting however it additionally marks some extent on a continuum, a milestone on the lengthy street you haven’t solely traveled however you’ve got constructed from the darkest days of our previous and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which endlessly stains our historical past.

AMY GOODMAN: I do know, Ambassador, that it was even controversial for him to be part of the ceremony. I feel there was an organized protest; they weren’t permitted on the grounds of no matter COVID security. However your remaining message to Prince Charles, to the Queen and to organizing around the globe at this level?

DAVID COMISSIONG: I feel Prince Charles referring to the historical past of enslavement was very applicable. Barbados in spite of everything was the world’s first slave society. Different societies have had slavery as a function however Barbados was the primary society in human historical past that was constructed completely on the idea of slavery — its economic system, its social system, its ideology. That’s our historical past. The royal household was deeply concerned within the British slave commerce and the system of African enslavement. That’s the historical past. So it’s good that he had the ethical sense to make that reference. I might have wished he would have gone on to encourage the British authorities to interact in that reparations dialogue with Barbados and the opposite nations of the Caribbean Neighborhood.

He additionally must pay some consideration to the position of the royal household and whether or not the royal household won’t have to come back to the desk as properly. We’ve begun our reparations marketing campaign by specializing in the nationwide governments, the nationwide governments being the institutional hyperlinks between the current and the previous. However over time we have now additionally expanded it to non-public establishments: banks, insurance coverage firms, universities. The College of Glasgow has admitted its legal responsibility and has entered right into a reparations program with our College of the West Indies.

We’re going to have a look at households as properly. The Nationwide Reparations Job Power in Barbados has simply determined that we’re going to be doing a particular examine of the Drax household. The Drax Corridor plantation was established in Barbados within the 1630s. It’s nonetheless in existence at present. The Drax household, the present consultant of that household, Sir Richard Drax, is a member of the British Home of Commons and is definitely the richest member of the British Parliament. That wealth got here from that slave plantation in Barbados after which they took it to Jamaica and naturally [inaudible].

AMY GOODMAN: We clearly have to come back again to this difficulty and we hope to have you ever on once more quickly. There may be a lot to speak about. You talked about Glasgow. We simply lined the U.N. Local weather Summit and there your Prime Minister Mia Mottley gave a exceptional tackle on the local weather disaster, which we performed in full, that folks can discover at David Comissiong is Barbados Ambassador to the Caribbean Neighborhood or CARICOM and the Affiliation of Caribbean States.

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