Barbadians now have a system of Parliament that was moulded by various elements and shaped into its current representative form in just over 70 years of struggle reaching back to 1943.
That was the message of a lecture delivered by Professor Pedro Welch last night in the first instalment of a two-part series commemorating the observance of 375th Anniversary Of Parliament. Following an address in which the deputy principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, linked influences of the Barbados Parliament to the drawing up of the Magna Carta, he explained to questioners that the celebration was not of an institution that excluded most Barbadians, but of the contributing struggles that put the nation in charge of its destiny.
“From my perspective, it is a celebration of those elements that have enabled us in the year 2014 to be where we can now chart our own course. As I said, the choice is ours to retain the Parliament in the current style, but we have also the capacity to change it; and we have the capacity to change it because of what others put in place,” he said at the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination.
The theme of the lecture series is The Prostitution Of Freedom: Politics, Power And The History Of Parliamentary Independence In Barbados.
Following the presentation, Member of Parliament Trevor Prescod expressed a concern that the 375-year celebration was about injustices with “different people in control of the Assembly and on the outside there were counter forces fighting for their own freedoms”.
Welch said: “I don’t think we should be under any misconception that the celebration is a celebration of inequality and of oppression; the celebration of 375 years is really a celebration of struggle.”
The professor continued: “I think we need to celebrate our forefathers. Bussa [was] part of the struggle that led to the Parliament of 1943. We need to celebrate General Green and the others of 1876 who went on the streets and struggled. We need to celebrate those like Clennell Wickham and the others who struggled in the early 20th century.
“It was their struggle that I would submit that we are really celebrating when we celebrate the 375th anniversary of Parliament.”
Welch posited that in observance of Parliament’s anniversary Barbadians were not celebrating injustices practised against their ancestors, because “an institution may go through several iterations”. He said such an establishment might begin negatively, “but we mustn’t only look at where it was, we must also look at where it has come to be”.
He told Prescod, a two-time parliamentarian: “You yourself are a member of that august institution, and you entered the electoral fray. And I assume that in entering the electoral fray, that you were quite willing to take part in the rules and procedures that were laid down to allow you to get there.
“What happens in Parliament now is up to us. But we mustn’t let what happened then bar us from understanding that Parliament represents for us an opportunity. Now we can do a number of things with it. We can take Parliament and continue to perpetuate the inequalities of the past, or we can take Parliament and use Parliament to effect real change.”