Prescod: Don’t pay Drax a cent

Government would be wrong to pay the controversial Drax family $8 million to acquire the St George estate’s land.

Special Envoy to the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for reparations and economic enfranchisement, and Member of Parliament (MP) for St Michael East, Trevor Prescod, made his position clear on Monday as he encouraged the Government to halt plans to compensate the descendants of the former slave owners.

“That estate is a cesspool of evil, that estate called Drax Hall, and we deserve to have that estate as a form of redemption. I stand by this without fear of any consequences.

“People across the world have highlighted Drax Hall as a major estate and one that is a microcosm of the challenges we face as a people . . . . So any effort by the Government to think, regardless of what legal instrument they are using, that we should give Drax a cent more, I feel it is wrong,” he told a Nation teamat his office in Government Headquarters, Bay Street, St Michael.

He urged the Mia Amor Mottley administration to take the matter to the people.

“I am in this office, but I am speaking as a Member of Parliament and a Barbadian citizen. It is wrong. The Government should pause on this legislation and consult with the reparation movement not only in
Barbados but across the region,” Prescod said.

On Saturday, the Guardian newspaper reported that conservative United Kingdom (UK) MP Richard Drax, who was criticised for his ancestors’ involvement in the slave trade, was scheduled money from the Barbados Government for the land.

Drax, one of the wealthiest British MPs, inherited the 250 000-hectare property from his late father in 2017.

The UK media cited Prime Minister Mottley’s goal to build 10 000 new homes to meet demand on the island, where there are 20 000 applications for housing.

It said a senior valuation surveyor stated that the market value for agricultural land with an alternative use for housing would be about BDS$150 000 (£60 000) an acre.

At that price, it said the 21 hectares could result in Drax receiving BDS$8 million (£3.2 million). The land would be for 500 low- and middle-income family homes, which would be for sale.

Minister of Housing Dwight Sutherland was quoted in the Guardian as saying: “This is an acquisition process at market value. We compensate the landowners. It so happens that this land is owned by Mr Drax but this has nothing to do with reparations. It is a housing project.”

The newspaper said Drax declined to comment for that article, but had previously said his ancestors’ role in slavery was “deeply, deeply regrettable but no one can be held responsible today for what happened many hundreds of years ago”.

Prescod said although he was not against more Barbadians getting houses, the St George property could also be used for archaeological purposes and as a museum.

“There are many Barbadians who would be happy to be able to construct houses on the estate. The state could divide the land into sites and services. However, this is also a place for a special type of museum, with all the artefacts and documentation so people from all over the world can come to it,” he said.

Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, had described Drax Hall as a “crime scene” where tens of thousands of Africans died in terrible conditions.

The Draxes also owned a slave plantation in Jamaica, which they sold in the 18th century, and at least two ships that brought enslaved Africans to the Caribbean.

Sir Hilary estimated that as many as 30 000 slaves died on the Drax plantations in Barbados and Jamaica over 200 years.

On Monday, general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, David Denny, also spoke out against compensating the Drax family.

He said instead of the Government paying the Draxes, the land owners should be giving the acres of land to the people of Barbados as part of the reparations call. (TG)

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