Will Barbados make MP pay slavery ‘debt’? Tory Richard Drax’s ancestors ‘pioneered sugar plantation system’… and now he could be forced to hand over reparations under threat of legal action, report claims
- Tory MP threatened with legal action in the international courts over reparations
- Richard Drax flew for private meeting with the country’s prime minister
- Mia Mottley has put a report before her cabinet outlining the next steps
Barbados is considering making a Conservative MP the first individual to pay reparations for his ancestors’ involvement in the slave trade.
Richard Drax, 64, has reportedly been threatened with legal action in the international courts by politicians on the Caribbean island if he refuses to comply with their demands.
He recently flew for a private meeting with the country’s prime minister Mia Mottley, who has put a report before her cabinet outlining the next steps.
The Drax family pioneered the plantation system in the 17th century and played a major role in the development of sugar and slavery across the Caribbean and United States.
Richard Drax, 64, has reportedly been threatened with legal action in the international courts by politicians on the Caribbean island if he refuses to comply with their demands
When slavery was abolished across the British Empire in 1833, the family received £4,293 12s 6d in compensation for freeing 189 enslaved people.
Barbados MP Trevor Prescod, chairman of Barbados National Task Force on Reparations, told The Observer: ‘If the issue cannot be resolved we would take legal action in the international courts. The case against the Drax family would be for hundreds of years of slavery, so it’s likely any damages would go well beyond the value of the [family’s] land.’
Among the plans being considered are turning the 17th century Drax Hall on the island into an Afro-centric museum and using parts of the plantation for social housing.
Mr Drax could be asked to pay for some works and taken to court if he does not oblige.
But critics have dismissed the harsh proposals as ‘politics’ ahead of Barbados’ Independence Day on Wednesday.
He recently flew for a private meeting with the country’s prime minister Mia Mottley, who has put a report before her cabinet outlining the next steps
The country became an independent sovereign state on November 30, 1966, and last year removed Queen Elizabeth II as head of state to become a republic.
Miss Mottley has put slavery reparations at the centre of her agenda since becoming PM in 2018. Mr Drax, the MP for South Dorset, inherited the 250-hectare Drax Hall plantation – which is valued at £5.25million – from his father Walter in 2017.
Philip Whitehead, who has run the plantation for 39 years, told The Telegraph: ‘To me it’s crazy that they have vilified Richard Drax. It’s not right.
‘Of course no one can condone slavery in any form.
‘But back in the 1600s slavery was not viewed as it is now. We know it’s a crime now, but it wasn’t looked at like that then.’
Mr Drax’s ancestor Sir James Drax was one of the first Englishmen to colonise Barbados in the early 17th century and part-owned at least two slave ships, the Samuel and the Hope.
While countries in the Caribbean community (Caricom) have been calling for reparations from colonial powers and institutions for years, this is the first time a family has been singled out
Historians estimate that as many as 30,000 slaves lived and died on the Drax estate in the 200 years between the plantation’s establishment in the 1620s and the abolition of slavery in 1833.
While countries in the Caribbean community (Caricom) have been calling for reparations from colonial powers and institutions for years, this is the first time a family has been singled out.
David Comissiong, the Barbados ambassador to Caricom and deputy chairman of the reparations task force, said that the British Royal Family were among others they are looking at.
He said: ‘Drax is fabulously wealthy today. The Drax family is the central family in the whole story of enslavement in Barbados. They are the architects of slavery-based sugar production.
‘They have a deep, historical responsibility. The process has only just begun and we trust that we will be able to negotiate. If that doesn’t work, then there are other methods, including litigation.’
Mr Drax is worth at least £150million and lives in a mansion in Charborough Park, Dorset.
His family own 23.5 square miles of land in the county and 125 properties as well as an estate and grouse moor in Yorkshire.
Mr Comissiong added: ‘The reparations journey has begun.
‘The matter is now for the cabinet of Barbados. It is in motion. It is being dealt with.’
Mr Drax declined to comment.
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