BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, June 10, 2020 (CMC) – Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, has defended her apparent silence on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, saying that as the Chair of the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM, she has to be mindful of her public utterances.
“It is easy for people to talk blindly. I note it in this country, there are those, who are saying, for example, that I have said nothing on Black Lives Matter,” she told the Parliament, last night.
“There are those, who are forgetting that, at this time, I speak not just as Prime Minister of Barbados, but for another two to three weeks, as Chair of CARICOM, and they would do well to understand that I have never believed in jumping on bandwagons, but I believe, fundamentally, in supporting principles,” she added.
The BLM became re-energised, over the past two weeks, with the death of 46-year-old African-American George Floyd, after he was detained by four white police officers, one of whom subsequently knelt on his neck, killing him, as he cried, “I can’t breathe!”
Floyd was buried in Texas, yesterday, and the incident has led to demonstrations, not only in the United States, but in many major capitals of the world, and in some parts of the Caribbean, including Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
Mottley told legislators, that while she had no issues supporting principles, “I am not going to take lashes for things, because people chose not to get into fights or not to engage in arguments”.
“I give this country the assurance, that whether it is a march or not, this country is not going to support behaviour that in any way reflects unfair treatment, discriminatory treatment or unconscious bias,” Motlley stated, adding that her Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had been at the forefront of issues, relating to reparations for the region and was responsible for the Emancipation Day and Heroes’ Day bank holidays.
But she acknowledged that she would have preferred the police, here, had shown some discretion, during last weekend’s aborted BLM protest, organized by the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration.
Police had revoked the permission that had been granted to the organisers, as they assembled outside the US Embassy, on the outskirts of the capital. The permit allowed for 10 people to gather at a time, as a result of the measures to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19), and the organisers had indicated to law enforcement officials that they were prepared to engage in the practice of interchange.
Mottley told legislators that the police were not wrong for halting the protest, after the organizers did not adhere to the conditions of the permit.
“What transpired on Saturday, I am not happy with it, but when I investigated, the Attorney General showed me a letter from an attorney-at-law asking for 10 persons.
“Now I still do feel that discretion should have been exercised, I genuinely feel so, but let us not believe or make anyone believe, that the police acted on their own, when in truth and in fact, the letter says, clearly, that we would grant permission, not only to walk, but that there would be no more than 10 persons, in accordance with the emergency declaration for COVID-19, and that they would remain on the sidewalks.”
Mottley said that Barbados also had human rights issues that had to be dealt with, while not dismissing the reasons being the protests in the United States.
She spoke to issues, such as sexism and the need for black people to be proud of their skin, saying that there were “glass ceilings that were still not broken”.
“The battles that we need to be facing are not battles that may be fought in the United States’ elections in November. The battles that we need to be facing are the battles that stop our young girls and young boys from wanting to go and buy bleach, and use bleach on their skin, as if something is wrong with the pigment of the skin, in which they’re born.
“I believe that the solution to the problem comes, not simply at the institutional level, but in changing the hearts and minds of people, in the small things as in the large things,” she added.