A debate in the Barbadian Senate over a new piece of legislation that would increase protection for artifacts of cultural significance has Barbadian citizens and politicians alike trying to find the right balance between the right to privacy and the government’s prerogative to protect antiquities of significant monetary and cultural value to the country.
The legislation, known as the “Preservation and Antiquities Bill 2011,” is more or less similar to many other anti-antiquities trafficking laws passed in the Commonwealth of Nations (of which Barbados is a member) and resolutions passed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in years past. The bill passed the Barbadian House of Assembly (the lower house) without issue, and much of the Senate’s objection to it stems from a clause that gives the Director of the Barbados Museum the power to confiscate objects that he thinks may be stolen antiquities from private property. Many see this as a violation of privacy rights, although the clause does force the director to give the possessor of the possible stolen property 48 hours notice before he is allowed to search, and to obtain a warrant if refused entry. Nonetheless, Barbadian culture values privacy very highly, and this “violation” in order to obtain even important cultural artifacts is seen by many as not worth it.
The Barbadian government certainly has an incentive and even a right to keep its country’s valuable cultural artifacts safe; this is made even more legitimate by the recent declaration of the Barbadian capital of Bridgetown as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, they must find a better balance between necessity and privacy, in order to avoid possible abuses and to quell possible outrage by citizens. Keeping history alive is important, but protecting the constitutional rights of the citizens of a country is more important.
Source Citation: “Preserving Cultural Heritage.” The Barbados Advocate, , sec. Editorial, 10 27, 2011. http://www.barbadosadvocate.com/newsitem.asp?more=editorial&NewsID=20586 (accessed November 28, 2011).