A resolution to lease the former official residence of former Prime Minister Errol Barrow to a charity associated with British royalty caused Government Member of Parliament Trevor Prescod to break ranks with colleagues.
Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance Dr William Duguid Tuesday morning laid a resolution in the House of Assembly to lease the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Barbados Charity, the Culloden Farm property for 25 years, paying $1200 monthly.
“The property has now fallen into significant disrepair and dilapidation and cannot be used in its present state and has to be refurbished,” he noted and informed the House that the charity will undertake all repairs with its own funds at an estimated cost of $4 million.
Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley supported the resolution followed by Government MP Marsha Caddle who led off a chorus of contributions among colleagues also supporting the resolution.
When she made her contribution, Caddle, who like many other members benefited from the programme as a teenager, became the first MP to speak in Parliament remotely for the first time in history.
However, expressing concern about the direction of the government, Prescod’s was the only dissenting voice.
“I’ve listened to some sordid attempts to rationalise the irrational,” he said after a number of his colleagues had spoken.
“Many people in here are in conflict with their conscience. … I am not tied up.”
“I ain’t no lackey,” he added in a contribution that drew a spirited response from Education Minister Santia Bradshaw.
Prescod’s objection surrounded the charity bearing the title of the United Kingdom’s Prince Phillip whose past he questioned. He suggested that British Royalty is another symbol of colonialism, against which the island’s founding Father of Independence spent his life fighting with much of that effort being from Culloden Farm.
This, Prescod said, makes it improper to lease the building to the charity for its headquarters.
“It’s an historic site. [It] should be representative of who we are not Prince Phillip,” he said and asked of his colleagues, “How could you not contemplate an alternative site and preserve this building in remembrance of Errol Walton Barrow?”
Regarding the prince, the MP said, “His contribution to mankind is not as wholesome as y’all think that it is. It is because elitist intellectuals in a Euro-centric society, especially in Britain and with the BBC, always treat him with special gloves.”
“Trump is just like that same Duke.”
Reflecting on his delight that the current administration recently removed the statue of Admiral Nelson from Bridgetown and demolished an old government building on Fairchild Street to make way for a park commemorating the 1937 rebellion, Prescod said that the political organisation now appears to have changed direction.
“This party has signalled to me that there is an attempt to go on a new cultural trajectory.”
Describing the charity as “an organisation that emerged out of affluent groundings,” he charged that, “all of a sudden the state that’s struggling in these days believes that it has a responsibility now to rescue that institution to continue to do the work it has done”.
Prescod said that when the former Prime Minister sees the sign Duke of Edinburgh International on the building, “Barrow will turn in his grave three thousand times.”
The education minister in her contribution, however, noted, “I will not sit here and allow a misrepresentation to be put out there that thought has not gone into the ideology behind this [lease] or even the direction that we must go as a country to make sure that we preserve our history but we also ensure that we partner with people who can help to accelerate the cause.”
She added, “It doesn’t mean that when we negotiate we forget our past. It doesn’t mean that because we allow any charity in this country to be able to have lands vested in it to develop things for the people of this country that we’ve lost our minds or lost our way.”
She said that the charity is no elitist club and that the parliamentary resolution, which was passed, is about facilitating an organisation with a proven track record of developing young Barbadians, a feature that is more relevant now that school exposure is limited owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There must be a Barbados when we come out of this pandemic and we must prepare ourselves working with people who have been on the ground working with other Barbadians in service to make sure that young people have something to do.
“When we come out of this with all the impacts that are there for us in relation to our young people who are going through the separation from the school environment that we got something in the next couple of years that has been built out by an entity that has demonstrated that it has a track record in this to be able to help us as a community to build out and create opportunities for our young people.” (GA)