Several priceless artefacts including the treasured jacket which Barbados’ first Prime Minister, Errol Barrow wore on November 30, 1966, the night this country gained Independence, have been stolen from the Parliament Museum and the National Heroes Gallery at the condemned West Wing of the historic building.
Sources said more than 20 artefacts have gone missing including several clothing items belonging not only to Barrow but the late Sir Grantley Adams and the late Prime Minister, Tom Adams, as well as art pieces and even Barrow’s musket gun and shoes.
The invaluable collectibles were stored in glass cases in the two spaces. Those cases were found shattered.
A senior police officer confirmed the situation, stating they were still trying to determine when the items went missing and who stole them.
“There were two reports of a burglary at the Parliamentary Museum and a number of artefacts were stolen. Some are possessions of former prime ministers. The police are carrying out investigations into the matter”, he said, while refusing to divulge what the list of items were.
“All we can say at the moment is that it included items of clothing belonging to former prime ministers,” he stated.
When contacted yesterday, Clerk of Parliament Pedro Eastmond said : “I am getting all the facts to give a report to the Speaker. Until that is done I prefer not to make any comment.”
A source familiar with the operations of the Parliament Building located at Upper Broad Street, in the City, noted that the museum and gallery was out of use since 2020 due to environmental issues. He said the West Wing had also been condemned.
“No one knows when the items went missing. It could be days; it could be months but when the alarm was raised the door was discovered unlocked,” he told the Sunday Sun.
The artefacts were discovered missing more than a week ago during a school tour of the Parliament building.
“The children wanted to see what a ballot box looks like, so the tour guide went to the museum to retrieve one and that was when the museum was found in disarray and the items missing. The police have been out here in their numbers dusting for fingerprints, going through the camera footage and carrying out interviews.”
The source questioned why the valuable items were allowed to remain in the museum even though the West Wing was out of use for so long.
“Those items should have been returned to the Barbados National Museum for safe keeping until the building was repaired. The West Wing has been out of use for three years and tours of the museum have been halted. It was not wise to keep those items there because they would still have to be removed for the building to undergo repairs.”
He said fingers had been pointed at vagrants who frequent the surrounding areas.
“This is particularly disturbing when you consider that Barbados is now a republic and some of those items were the historical remnants of our Independence era.”
When contacted General Secretary of the Democratic Labour Party Steve Blackett said he was unofficially informed about the theft, calling it a “national shame”.
“This is a real shame. The West Wing has literally been abandoned. It is the building where the Opposition office was housed and I understand it is in a deplorable state. It is a shame that you can have the artefacts of former prime ministers and our National Heroes stolen from Parliament which is supposed to be one of the most secure places in Barbados.”
Pointing out that Government had spent millions repairing the East Wing where the Upper
House and Lower House sit, Blackett charged that the delay in executing repairs to the West Wing was because there was no opposition in Parliament.
“It speaks to the total abandonment and worse yet they have not paid attention to that section because there is no leader of the Opposition.”
Parliament’s website notes that the “Museum of Parliament traces the development of democracy in Barbados since 1629 until present times and the role that the island’s people have played in this growth.”
The Museum was also described as a “small state of the art museum with interactive screens and sculptures created by Barbadians and Caribbean artistes.”