MPs debate resolution on 1937 disturbances

Government has introduced a resolution in the House of Assembly aimed at raising the profile of the anniversary date of the start of the 1937 disturbances.

Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, who introduced the resolution today, said that Cabinet had recognised that the observance of July 26 as a Day of National Significance was “low-key”; and  had agreed at a meeting on July 15 to put the matter before Parliament.

Stephen Lashley
Stephen Lashley

Social unrest erupted in Bridgetown on July 26, 1937 and intensified the following day, spreading to some rural districts. These events ushered in a period of socio-political change here, leading to the attainment of independence on November 30, 1966.

In 1997, the Owen Arthur administration declared July 26 a Day of National Significance, but the observation has failed to attract significant national attention.

Lashley said Cabinet’s decision to introduce today’s resolution was meant to stress the importance of the day as “the true watershed” in the country’s history.   

“In so doing, this mature step by the Cabinet of Barbados underscores the fact that Government is indeed a continuum. It was on June 24, 1997 in this House of Assembly that, under an Owen Arthur administration, the Government, by means of a ministerial statement, declared that July 26 1997 shall be a Day of National Significance, and shall be so celebrated every year. I believe that today is an equally historic occasion because there has never been an occasion before this, that the Parliament has had an opportunity to debate the significance of July 26 as the true watershed in the history of Barbados.

”In that Ministerial Statement to which I referred, the Government of the day also advocated two other critical decisions, both of which have not been implemented. At that time the Government suggested that a Public Commmemoration should be erected to those persons who lost their lives on July 26, 1937.

“The second suggestion was that there should be a submission to His Excellency The Governor General that those persons who were convicted during the disturbances should be pardoned under Section 78 of the Constitution of Barbados. I think that these two suggestions should be taken into consideration,” Lashley added.

Lashley gave Parliament the assurance that the Freundel Stuart administration would look at the two suggestions with a view to having them implemented.

By the time the uprising was over, 14 people were killed, dozens wounded and hundreds were imprisoned. The Christ Church West Central MP urged both sides of the House of Assembly to use the current debate to pay tribute to those who gave their lives in the cause of social justice.

Lashley also suggested that the debate be seen as an opportunity for Parliament to commit to the ideals of good governance and social justice, and to ensure that the legacy of the 1937 disturbances lives on in the consciousness of all Barbadians.

The Minister of Culture told Parliament that, through the efforts of persons like Clennell Wickham, Dr Duncan O’neil, Clement Payne, the Right Excellent Sir Grantley Adams, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow, Israel Lovell, Menzes Chase, Darnley “Brains” Alleyne and Ulric Grant, all disciples of Payne,  the quality of life of the average Barbadian improved significantly.

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