Barbados High Commissioner to the UK, Milton Inniss, recently marked the first anniversary as the country’s representative at the Court of St James. I met the high commissioner at his office in London to talk about his first year in office.
The high commissioner who is a quantity surveyor by profession appears to have taken to diplomacy like the proverbial duck to water. I began by asking about the main features of the work carried out thus far at the mission and also his plans for this year.
Inniss said the mission is very proud to have broadened the general base of representation and promotion of matters largely of Barbadian interest in the diaspora. He noted that the subject of Barbadian culture had forged its way to the top of the list and in this regard, book launches and seminars on various subjects featured prominently. He said he was pleased that attempts are being made to keep the heritage and culture of Barbados to the fore of people’s thoughts. He added that the mission was proud to have played host to these and other functions and he saw the whole process as an extension into cultural diplomacy. He felt the extension of this category would give the means to embrace the talents of Barbadians who live in the UK.
I am aware that members of the diaspora yearn for knowledge regarding the work of the High Commission, its aims and objectives. This concern was put to the High Commissioner, and he faced the matter directly.
Inniss said: “We are actively involved in the promotion of trade to Barbados. I see this as of paramount importance and we are doing all that we can to give renewed energy to this area of diplomacy.” I pressed Inniss on this subject and asked him to expand on his initial response. He continued: “Recently, Trade and Business seminars were held in England and Scotland in concert with Invest Barbados. We expect to do business as a result of these meetings and most importantly, a signal has been sent to the outside world that Barbados is again open for business.”
The high commissioner said it should not be overlooked that Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, which is sited in London, forms a very intricate and important link to the whole area of trade and investment with the island. He further added that they all formed part of the operations of the high commission.
Fair enough, I thought, but what about the bread and butter issues that relate to the Barbadian in Reading or Birmingham?
Inniss, conscious of the diminishing numbers of first generation Barbadians living in the UK, acknowledged that the current situation would suggest a lessening of consular activities and smiled knowingly as he pulled a small rabbit from his hat.
He said: “I am elated to say that Government has recently made it known that the right to a Barbados passport will in future be extended to the grandchildren of Barbadians from abroad.” However, he cautioned that the legislation to give legitimacy to this proposal is not yet on the statute books, but he expected it to be done soon. The high commissioner added that it will soon be possible to renew Barbados passports in London. The combined changes will in future require increased consular activity.
I asked whether there was a further message to the diaspora and there was. The high commissioner advised: “As we move forward, it is important that this is done as a single unit. The high commission is a part of that unit but in the final analysis, it should be borne in mind that primarily, we are here to promote the business of the government of Barbados and its people. I hope sincerely that all Barbadians in the diaspora will embrace and buy into this concept.”
Inniss also indicated that there will be minor changes in the operations of the mission and said he intends to make the office more open to social media. He said he would want to create a skills bank and also issue a quarterly news bulletin to keep Barbadians up to date with the news and developments in the island. He emphatically stated that the office will be data dynamic.
Inniss is the new chairman of the Caribbean Caucus of High Commissioners to the UK. It is thought that given the fluid nature of events in the UK as a result of the imminent departure of Britain from the European Union that this body of representatives will play a vital role in its advice to the governments of the region.
Are we seeing a new approach to diplomacy and representation in the UK?
The High Commissioner appeared confident and yet cautious.
Vincent ‘Boo’ Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired Land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and the disapora.