As a small group of Barbadians gathered in the historic Golden Square today to commemorate the Day of National Significance, Prime Minister Mia Mottley suggested it was time to say goodbye to the old National Insurance Scheme (NIS) building, located right next door.
During her feature address, the island’s first female Prime Minister indicated that the building which was marred by health and environmental issues, was ruining the beauty of the historic city and also possibly affecting those who travel through the island’s capital.
The abandoned building on Fairchild Street, The City, has attracted the description of ‘sick building’ for more than five years after being barred off from the public.
The Prime Minister contended this morning’s celebrations in Golden Square, which was the venue for many of the National Hero Clement Payne’s most important speeches in 1937, was steeped in unpleasant surroundings. Stressing her point, she said the derelict building, located in “a prime space in this city”, blocked the view of the picturesque Independence Square as well.
“We cannot celebrate who we are in circumstances that reflect beauty . . . [when] we have a building behind us that reminds us how sick it made people and how empty it is today,” said Mottley.
“We have to understand that in the same way Clement Payne could not tolerate circumstances that literally choked the oxygen out of the people of this land, in this area, that building can no longer choke the oxygen out of the people who occupy and come through Bridgetown on a daily basis. It cannot be that something so derelict and so sick occupies a prime space in this country, in this city,” she added.
Mottley also revealed that the Probyn Street Market which was meant to be a temporary structure would eventually be relocated to “give air and breath” to the hallowed site of Golden Square, as her Government proceeds with plans to construct a monumental wall that will carry the names of those persons who contributed to the 1930’s rebellions.
Taking into account the low numbers that came out to commemorate the Day of National Significance, the Prime Minister promised that her administration would establish a planning committee to expand the celebrations. Mottley emphasized that the site needed to be developed to reflect the history of the island.
“This site [must] be developed to give true expression to what a monument should be and what we should reflect in the heart of our capital city as our honour for those who . . . gave of their best, those who believed that a better day will come,” she indicated while expressing concern that the island’s school children were uninformed about the heritage site.
“It concerns me that probably three out of four young people that I speak to do not even know where Golden Square is. It concerns me that three out of every four young people also do not know what Golden Square is, far less where it is. . . .
“There is merit in requiring some of our school children to attend these national functions because if they do not attend, they do not know who we are,” she added during today’s ceremony in which flowers were laid at the Golden Square monument, and which also featured several performances from local artistes.