Barbados Shifts Focus to Reparation Settlement with Drax Hall Owner

  • Barbados  to press for reparations from Drax Hall plantation owner

Prime Minister Mia Mottley has pulled off the government’s planned forceful acquisition of Drax Hall plantation in St George for housing, allowing the British owner to negotiate restitution for centuries of horrific treatment of enslaved Africans here.

The late-night message came amid public debate about the proposed purchase of 50 acres of property for low- and lower-middle-income dwellings on a Drax estate.

Critics of the acquisition believe the government should confiscate the property as reparations instead of compensating British MP Richard Drax, a descendant of Colonel Henry Drax, who introduced sugar farming to Barbados within a decade after settlement.

The Prime Minister said Barbados would actively seek restitution but will not seize land without compensation.

After meeting with Drax and being disappointed with the speed, she thinks a fair restitution arrangement should be prioritised.

“And to that extent, the government has expressed itself of wanting to find a settlement that would be just for St. George and Barbados,” PM said.

I believe it is appropriate for us to pause the acquisition to allow for more conversation and to see where we are in terms of being able to get a reasonable settlement with Mr. Drax, recognising that in our conversations, without prejudice to anything else, he is aware that the Government of Barbados feels strongly about this and will pursue these matters.”

The land sale was supposed to earn Conservative MP Drax, 66, £3 million (BDS$7.5 million).

Mottley said she takes seriously the criticisms of many Barbadians who feel they have been deprived of adequate compensation for decades of blood, sweat, and tears.

She said previous administrations passed the Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act to compensate persons who lived in difficult conditions and were denied opportunity to improve their lives and families.

We understand restitution domestically and internationally. We have led the cry for compensation against those who decimated this country and people’s livelihoods while enriching themselves and constructing the industrial revolution, which produced the climatic problem owing to greenhouse gases and emissions. Thus, we comprehend.”

The prime minister reminded Barbadians that the law rules.

“We have never made it a habit, nor am I aware of any example, where we have expropriated their land,” she said. Law requires forcible seizure land owners to pay. We still lobby and explore our legal options, as we are doing now.

Prime Minister Mottley stated Drax Hall’s owner and anyone who contributed to America’s worst modern bigotry would be targeted.

Her government feels building is wise, Mottley said.

“We met Mr. Drax. I despise how these negotiations are going. As we must, we will stop and listen to Bajans to understand the stakes, knowing that we do not cut off our nose to spoil our face.

And what do I mean? We should not deny ordinary Barbadians who need housing housing, but we should seek restitution with Mr. Drax and anyone else with a case and chain of custody we can justify more urgently.”

The prime minister remarked that Drax Hall is one of the few estates with a 17th-century chain of custody.

This should show everyone that we were taught as children that two wrongs don’t constitute a right, even though we felt victimised. Those who ignore or make immoral laws cannot govern our morality today.

“Having said that,” she continued, “we will pursue all legitimate advocacy and legal actions to justify our claim for reparations while also meeting the daily and immediate needs of Bajans who need housing or use it to escape poverty, like through free education.

The intent to maintain a previous generation’s profits cannot now inspire us to expropriate land in violation of the Barbados Constitution. Thus, we will do what we must, but we will always remember that as a country regulated by the rule of law, people have their rights protected and can be sure they are dealing with a serious nation that does not act arbitrarily and capriciously.”

Sir Hilary Beckles described Drax Hall a “killing field” where sugar cane fueled plantation slavery. Drax estates killed 30,000 slaves over 200 years.

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