‘Time is ripe’ for discussions with UK on slavery reparations: Barbados PM

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The “time is ripe” for Barbados to discuss reparations for slavery with the United Kingdom, the Caribbean nation’s leader told Al Arabiya English on Sunday.

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Prime Minister Mia Mottley outlined her plan for an “aggressive and ambitious foreign policy” during the historic opening of the Barbados embassy in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, the country’s first in the Middle East.

“[Reparations] should not be a contentious issue… there is a development deficit today that is as a result of that behavior in the past, and that development deficit has to be met legitimately,” she said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Mottley’s Middle East diplomacy comes after she led the former British colony to remove Queen Elizabeth as head of state in November, winning a landslide election in January.

But the charismatic leader denied that Barbados was distancing itself from the UK – instead she spoke on the importance of securing sovereignty and creating the “fiscal and policy space that we need by being at the table.”

The embassy opening was the first that Mottley had attended in person.

In a speech, she described a “clear change in our approach to development and foreign policy,” highlighting the need to tackle issues such as the island’s population deficit.

She also hinted at a shift away from a Western hegemony, mentioning a recognition that the “North Atlantic approach that had hitherto informed our foreign policy could not be the basis upon which we go forward.”

Barbados was initially settled as a British colony in the 17th century and was populated largely by enslaved Africans who worked on sugar plantations.

After hundreds of years of oppression, slavery was outlawed by the British in the 19th century.

All adult Barbadians were given the right to vote in 1950, and the country declared independence in 1966, retaining Queen Elizabeth as head of state.

Speaking at the embassy opening, Mottley said: “It was incumbent upon us, in addition to wanting to be able to be fully responsible for our destiny and to be firm craftsmen of our fate, not just the guardians of our heritage, for us to be able to set up a framework that leverages… our ability to be able to nurture and create and produce global citizens with Bajan roots.”

The Barbadian leader also praised Emirati officials for their advice on how to strengthen diplomatic ties.

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