Minister with responsibility for culture, Stephen Lashley (FP)

A number of Barbadians interested in heritage, valuers, auctioneers, antique collectors, divers and members of the Barbados National Trust, made use of the opportunity to provide feedback on the Draft Preservation of Antiquities and Relics Bill, last evening at the Queen’s Park Steel Shed in the City.

The Bill went to Parliament late last year; however, Government suspended debate in the Senate to allow for further consultations following public concerns about some of its provisions.?? In his remarks at the consultation, Minister with responsibility for culture, Stephen Lashley, emphasised that Barbados needed legislation to protect our antiquities but admitted that there were some provisions in the draft that would need to be "tidied up".??

"We don’t want to have a bill that is labeled as draconian, that will take away people’s family heirlooms, that will deprive you of your private property without due process.?? That is not the intention and, therefore, the focus is to ensure that we can have a user-friendly bill.?? One that protects our heritage in a way that makes us proud as Barbadians and that does not engender any fear across Barbados," Minister Lashley explained.

He noted that since tangible heritage contributed to national identity, countries across the world were finding it necessary to create legislation to protect that identity.??

"We are no different in Barbados.?? In fact, we have a rich history …we have a number of areas that we certainly need to protect… In Barbados we have had the indiscriminate disposal of cultural property in relation to the Newton Slave Burial Ground.?? Many of those valuable artifacts were taken from Barbados and still, to this day, remain beyond the reaches of Barbados.?? We want to ensure that this does not recur.?? While documented evidence is unavailable, we have numerous items of period furniture dating back from or designed during the plantation era that have been lost because of the unregulated trade in, and export of mahogany furniture to, Europe and North America… Beyond that we also have to protect our heritage sites and we are not only talking about the recently inscribed Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, but all the other heritage sites in Barbados… What we want to do is ensure that any excavation of these items is regulated and is appropriately controlled," he said.

Members of the public were of the view that too much power would be vested in the Director of the Museum and Historical Society and suggested that instead, an expert committee vested with the power to advise the Minister and administer the Bill be set up.?? They were also concerns raised about the ???catch all’ terminology used in the Bill, such as ???antiquity’ and ???relic’, and the ability of the State, under some conditions, to compulsorily acquire objects of historical value.??

Both the Minister and Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Division of Culture and Sports, Shirley Farnum assured those gathered that privately held objects in Barbados not intended for export would not be targeted by the legislation and jewellery and family heirlooms would also not be included.

Copies of the Bill may be viewed online by visiting the Media Download Section of the Barbados Government Information Service’s website at https://www.gisbarbados.gov.bb/.


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