Q and A:The First Ever Female Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, Shares Her Thoughts at Expo 2020 Dubai
Mia Amor Mottley, QC, is a Barbadian politician and attorney who has served as Prime Minister of Barbados since 2018 and as leader of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) since 2008. Mottley is the eighth person to hold the office of Prime Minister in Barbados and the first woman to hold either position. She is also Barbados’ first prime minister under its republican system, following constitutional changes she introduced which abolished the country’s constitutional monarchy.
What are your first Impressions of the UAE and Dubai Exp0202?
First impressions of the EXPO is that the United Arab Emirates have done a phenomenal job in putting this together. I was here two years ago during the construction of it, and what we see today is just unbelievable and it makes it even more special to see all of the different people and hear all of the different accents that we’re hearing across and really to see as I’ve said, events like this really should be made available to as many people globally as possible, because the more we mix the more we understand our common humanity, what we have that binds us together exceeds really, those things that divide us and separate us.
How Will Barbados and The UAE Build Bridges?
Both the Expo and the opening of the Embassy represents first the building of bridges. We were both colonised by the British, but we don’t know each other and, and this is our opportunity now to know each other. We became independent in 1966, five years later the UAE became independent and we’ve had similar journeys, obviously there’s have been greater propelled, through the natural resources that they’ve had, but we have a lot in common, nevertheless and we need to be able to ensure that it’s not just those of us who represent at Governmental level that appreciate that, but ordinary people can get to understand and to know each other and to appreciate, the different cultures and to see how we can partner to work together especially on the big issues facing our planet.
Who are the most well-known people to have come out of Barbados, and how would you describe Barbadians and the people to the world?
Understanding who Barbadians are or what Barbados is about, is appreciating who Bajans are. Our people really are our greatest resource and we’ve come to punch above our weight I think, and others have recognised that and we want to continue to produce global citizens with Bajan roots.
We are only 166 square miles, but we see ourselves as citizens of this world and to that extent we feel our voice matters and we feel our actions also must reflect who we are so that we walk the talk and not just talk the talk and , I think that we have shown in our photographs some people who have achieved global pre-eminence as the greatest of all times.
I know that those watching cricket today may not remember, that before the West Indies team of today, there was a great man called Sir Garfield Sobers, the Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers, who was known as the greatest all round of all time, for cricket by cricket aficionados and there then happens to be a young lady called Rhianna who has captivated the world over the course of the last decade and who has shown that literally circumstances of birth or geography of where she is born does not limit anyone from being able to have global influence.
What would you consider to be the greatest attributes of Barbados and Barbadians ?
Now if you know Barbados you will know that the greatest attribute of our people is our commitment to social justice and that is therefore the level of inclusiveness and inclusion that Rhianna has brought to her business empire which in my view has helped to propel her and has also changed those industries in which she is functioning. At the same time what you also see is, is the, just the warmth and humanity of the people working our booths and the ones coming there and that’s, that’s Barbados. People may feel that you take a little while to get to know us, but once we love you, and we’re with you, you have us for life.
Barbados is known as a tourist hot spot, but in light of the recent pandemic, what steps are been taken to diversify the Barbadian economy outside tourism?
Well Barbados’ business is about engaging the world whether in tourism, whether international business, and whether in the sale of our products that are unique, commercial rum distribution first and manufacturing first started in Barbados in the 17th century. , so getting the word out there to as many people as possible is important to us in order to sustain our way of life, our economy and this was a wonderful opportunity to also begin to change some of the sources of our tourism from the traditional sources, recognising that we want people to basically want to come from all over the world. We couldn’t want it any better than participating in this Expo. This is one of the best platforms through which we can promote and give people a taste of what they can get when they come.
How does Barbados and its people stand out from other Caribbean islands?
Well, the reality is that first of all, as Caribbean people we have so much in common. You know Black Starling has a song that we came on the same ship, we just went to the different countries and that continues to be the case. University of the West Indies and West Indies cricket has also helped to reinforce that strong sense of Caribbeaness and in our own case, uhm the party which I have the honour to lead, gave the Caribbean its’ only Prime Minister the West Indies Federation. So, we are fully committed to being able to, to promote and express our Caribbeaness at all times. And I think that if you see especially, it’s best to watch us either in a sporting or a, a, a, cultural event and you realise that it’s just a difference in how people speak or lilt.
Am I a little longer with my , broad r’s from Guyana? Am I a little quicker in how I speak like Barbados? Do I have a lilting accent like a Trinidadian? And, but pretty much we represent and want the same thing and that Caribbean Sea that unites us for the most part, makes us understand that, that it’s just a different Parish. You may call it a different country but it’s really just a different Parish.
The Caribbean has produced an outstanding number of sporting athletes, especially Jamaica, would you consider Barbados to be a sporting nation and how do you intend to support and nurture your sporting talent?
Just as Jamaica has a tradition in athletics for 100 years, Barbados has a tradition in cricket at the village level, at the parish level and at the national level and cricket is a religion as we say in Barbados.
In the budget that I delivered two weeks ago, I indicated that both cricket and road tennis have to be seen as industries now and not just sports and we want to bring road tennis to the rest of the world because we see it as the perfect inner-city sport. You don’t need a lot of money to play it. In fact, at home, the racquets were originally made just by people taking the ply wood and doing their own thing and of course, the net, is just a piece of wood across that’s no more than about, what, 4 to 6 inches high and you just need, a very very small area. So, we are going to put some institutional support behind it and some money behind it and try and get it.
Ultimately, we would love it to become an Olympic sport in the future. But in the interim, we just want ordinary kids to recognise that they can keep fit and that they can become competitive and that they can become global sports men playing road tennis and I hope that we can therefore be successful in that ambition.
Are there any final words of wisdom you would like to share?
I just want to thank all of you for making sure that everyone across the world can get to see what the world really is about today. It’s so difficult to, to, to remember particularly, when you have the pandemic and the war in our faces, but at the end of the day what really matters in this life, that we live, is being able to meet and love people across the world whether it is in our families, our communities or in different countries. The Expo gives us the ability to do it across different countries.
The Interview were followed by a colourful cultural performance celebrating the Caribbean nation’s rhythm and culture with a foot-tapping song and dance medley by artists, accompanied by the beat of drums.
Celebrations continue into the evening at Festival Garden featuring musical performances from the island of the sun.
Written By Delroy Constantine-Simms
Transcribed by Maureen Drackett-Fuller