Two object to Welch’s views on Parliament
A veteran historian has defended his positive critique of Barbados’ 375-year-old Parliament in the face of sharp criticism from two pan-Africanists.
Professor Pedro Welch, deputy principal of the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus, concluded Wednesday night in a public lecture that there were positive aspects of the “struggle” that enabled the survival of Parliament for so long.
But Opposition parliamentarian Trevor Prescod, who also heads the Israel Lovell Foundation, and director of the Commission for Pan African Affairs Dr Deryck Murray differed, saying that for the majority of its existence the House of Assembly was “oppressive”, “elitist” and “exclusionary”.
The difference of opinion arose at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination as Welch fielded questions after he delivered the lecture as part of the official commemoration of Parliament’s 375th anniversary.
He spoke on the topic The Prostitution of Freedom: Politics, Power and The History of Parliamentary Independence in Barbados.
Prescod, Member of Parliament for St Michael East, said he was “a little concerned” that based on Welch’s lecture some Barbadians would be disconnected from important details of Parliament’s story.
“When people are disconnected from those details, then they are encouraged to celebrate 375 years of this entire historic journey. To me it is an attempt to perpetuate serious brain damage on what people had to endure over a number of years, he said.
“. . .We are asked to celebrate all the injustices that occurred over the 375 years.”
Murray agreed, saying no one should “make the mistake of thinking that the Parliament of the last 50 years is the same one as years before”.
“We are really trying to force the issue I think in believing that the Parliament that represents us now is anything close to the Parliament that for the most part represented less than 10 to 20 per cent of the population previously,” he said.
Responding to the criticism, Welch said no one was being asked to “celebrate injustice”.
“I don’t think you should be under any misconception that the celebration is a celebration of inequality and oppression, the celebration of 375 years is really a celebration of struggle and from my perspective it is a celebration of those elements that have enabled us in the year 2014. . .[to] now chart our own course,” he said.