Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley??

Barbadians are being called upon to "quickly" submit their views on the Preservation of Antiquities and Relics Bill.

This appeal has come from Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, who disclosed that the Ministry had already received some submissions on the Bill which went to Parliament late last year. However, debate on the legislation was suspended to give the Ministry of Culture an opportunity to have further consultations on various aspects of the Bill.

Mr. Lashley continued: "We have a period of time that we want to spend to go through those submissions because we don’t want to have a recurrence of what happened before, where persons expressed concern [about the Bill]. We will make every effort to ensure that the Bill does not impact on persons’ constitutional rights and that their fears are allayed. But, we don’t want to spend an inordinate time going through that process…"

He made the comments yesterday during a press conference to discuss the recent incident at Nicholls Building, the City, where the structure was altered without permission from the Town and Country Planning Department. This building is within the island’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site – Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison.

The Minister explained that the Preservation of Antiquities and Relics Bill "is also designed to deal with situations such as what we had [at Nicholls Building] where certain things are done to buildings which should not have been done. Certainly the penalties under that Bill are very high and present a deterrent to persons who might do this," he insisted.

He noted that a detailed Management Plan which outlined how the area would be preserved was presented to UNESCO and that would have contributed to Barbados receiving the designation. "We can lose the inscription if we do not adhere to the Management Plan and the policies and guidelines that have been laid down by the various conventions within the UNESCO setting and that is why we are going to continue to escalate the public education programme," he promised.

According to him, the Barbados World Heritage Committee would soon be implementing a number of key initiatives designed to ensure that the level of awareness about the site was raised. "So, the Committee will be embarking on a public education programme to inform all of the persons who own buildings within the historic site of the requirements and also to remind them of the requirements under the Town and Country Planning legislation…

"We are going to write all of the owners of buildings within the historic site so they know if their buildings are listed … But, most importantly, we want to appeal to them to join us in our efforts to preserve the heritage of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison," he disclosed.

Admitting that the maintenance of those buildings was costly, Mr. Lashley stated that the draft Cultural Industries Bill offered a number of tax incentives which would assist building owners in their preservation and restorative efforts.

He pointed out that his Ministry was in the process of exploring funding options through a number of international agencies, adding that the money would assist building owners and government, as it sought to preserve and rehabilitate a number of the historic buildings. He acknowledged, however, that not enough attention had been placed on the preservation of buildings over the years because of the scarcity of funds.

Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary, Celia Toppin, said UNESCO was keen to assist countries, wherever possible, to ensure they preserved the integrity of heritage sites. Stating that technical and financial assistance were sometimes offered, she argued that "sometimes the technical assistance is even more valuable than the financial assistance in this kind of undertaking".

Ms. Toppin pointed out that Barbados would have access to the UNESCO World Heritage Fund, and identified other sources such as the World Monuments Fund, which is dedicated to the preservation of historic sites and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

"ICOMOS is dedicated to assisting member states. To that end, we are in the process of setting up a local chapter of ICOMOS which will bring us right into the family of ICOMOS, with greater access to assistance. This assistance can also come from the governments of other countries that have funds available …," she explained.????????????????????

Meanwhile, an inscription ceremony for Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison is being planned for later this year and top officials of UNESCO are expected to be present.


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