Barbados PM halts plan for payout to former slave plantation owner

Mia Mottley

Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, has put a stop to the proposed multi-million-pound payout to British Conservative MP Richard Drax for the acquisition of 53 acres of the Drax Hall plantation, which he owns.

The plan for the payout, disclosed last Sunday, sparked outrage within the Caribbean reparations movement. Advocates argued that Drax, representing South Dorset, should relinquish all or a portion of the 617-acre plantation to the people of Barbados.

In a seven-minute televised address, Mottley announced the government’s decision to halt the purchase temporarily to facilitate further deliberations.

She stated, “I understand the concerns of many Barbadians who may feel deprived of the opportunity for an appropriate reparations settlement owed due to the centuries of toil, sacrifice, and suffering endured by Barbadians. This is a matter of grave importance that we do not take lightly.”

Richard Drax

Trevor Prescod, Barbados MP for St. Michael East and a leading figure in the reparations movement, asserted that his country “should not pay a cent for Drax Hall.” While he welcomed Mottley’s announcement, he expressed apprehension about the term “pause,” cautioning against a potential renewal of commercial ties with Richard Drax.

Drax, inheritor of the plantation worth over £150 million from his late father’s estate in 2017, traces his lineage back to ancestors who established the sugar plantation in the mid-17th century, employing enslaved individuals for two centuries. Following the abolition of slavery in 1834, Drax’s family received substantial compensation, totaling over £4,200 at the time.

The 53-acre plot earmarked for the development of 500 affordable houses forms part of Mottley’s pledge to construct 10,000 homes to address housing demand on the island, where 20,000 housing applications remain pending.

Market experts estimate the agricultural land’s value, suitable for housing development, at approximately Bds$150,000 (£60,000) per acre, potentially yielding Drax £3.2 million from the sale.

During Drax’s visit to Barbados in October 2022 for discussions with Mottley, he was reportedly urged to consider reparations by relinquishing part or all of the plantation.

Mottley emphasized dissatisfaction with the pace of discussions, hinting at potential legal action against not only the Drax plantation owners but also others contributing to the country’s modern racism issues.

Sir Hilary Beckles, a Barbadian and Chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, characterized Drax Hall as “a crime scene,” estimating that 30,000 Africans perished in slavery there.

Drax refrained from commenting, previously expressing deep regret over his ancestors’ involvement in the slave trade while asserting that contemporary individuals cannot be held accountable for historical events.