Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley??

Government will ensure that relevant provisions of the Preservation of Antiquities and Relics Bill are redrafted so as to remove any doubt that the proposed legislation could be used to deprive persons of their heirlooms.

This assurance is coming from Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, who said the main purpose of the draft legislation was to ensure that any antiquities /relics which were discovered during an archaeological dig or found under the sea could be assessed, properly documented and preserved.

Mr. Lashley continued: "There are concerns about the current Bill’s ability to deprive persons of their heirlooms and private property and, therefore, before the Bill returns to Parliament, the appropriate changes will be made to address these concerns. The Bill will bolster the country’s efforts to prevent the illicit export of or trade in items of Barbadian cultural value.

"The proposed legislation seeks to outline a process for the evaluation and registration of antiquities or relics and to establish a process for the licensing of any proposed activity by persons who wish to carry out archaeological excavations. Therefore, we can say that this Bill seeks to establish a legal mechanism for the management and protection of our cultural and heritage resources for the benefit of the country as a whole."

He pointed out that "in a case where the Government determines, upon advice,?? that something of significant heritage value is about to be shipped out of the country ??clandestinely, then it would be permitted, in accordance with a clearly outlined lawful procedure, to prevent this from occurring.

"Under the proposed legislation, the acquisition process is a detailed one, with built-in safeguards designed to protect the individual’s rights to property. Compulsory acquisition as an option is to be available to the Government only if there is a real and imminent threat of the unlawful removal of an artefact from the country and it is done only in accordance with the procedures that have been set down for compulsory acquisition of any property under the Land Acquisition Act, Cap 228," the Minister explained.

An old-fashioned Barbadian larder (FP)

Barbados is a signatory to seven international conventions for the protection of cultural heritage, including UNESCO’s Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Mr. Lashley pointed out that "the proposed licensing regime under the Bill will allow Barbados to take better advantage of these conventions which provide access to the international crime prevention authorities, allowing them to trace stolen cultural goods wherever they might be taken, and to recover and return them to the rightful owners".

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. ??

Barbados’ cultural artefacts have greatly contributed to the development of its national identity and provided critical clues to the country’s cultural, economic, and social history, especially in relation to the lives of the island’s original inhabitants and settlers. As such, there is growing concern for the protection and preservation of various aspects of the country’s cultural heritage.

Emphasising the need for such legislation, Mr. Lashley said the indiscriminate disposal of Barbados’ cultural property was brought to the fore with the archaeological excavation of items from the slave burial ground at Newton Plantation. "Many valuable artefacts from that site were removed, supposedly temporarily for cleaning and dating. While some of the items have been returned, a core of the most valuable items still remain in the possession of a foreign national, who was allowed to remove them for the purpose of a study.

"More recently, important historical artefacts were unearthed at a Heywoods site and items of value were removed from Sam Lord’s Castle. All of these incidents reaffirm the urgent need for the implementation of adequate legislation to protect our cultural heritage," he declared.

He stressed that once the issues of concern to the public were addressed, it was imperative that the Preservation of Antiquities and Relics Bill be enacted as a matter of urgency in light of the inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Minister pointed out that internationally, the illicit trade in works of art and antiquities, as well as the plundering of archaeological sites had grown over the years because of inadequate legal protection. He continued: "Statistics derived from the World Customs Organization and Interpol indicated that the market in illicit antiquities is second only to the international trade in illegal drugs. It is felt that the absence of adequate legislation has contributed to this growth."

Government does not want to find itself in the precarious predicament in which some countries have found themselves and that is why it is moving with alacrity to conclude public consultations to pave the way for the enactment of the Preservation of Antiquities and Relics Bill.

Barbadians are being given an opportunity to examine the Bill and offer suggestions on how it could be improved at a public consultation on Wednesday, April 25, at Queen’s Park Steel Shed, Bridgetown, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Copies of the Bill may be collected from the Division of Culture and Sports, Warrens Office Complex, St. Michael; the National Cultural Foundation, West Terrace, St. James, or 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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