Mama Mia! Barbados rocks the UN with ‘Get Up, Stand Up’

Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister, Minister for National Security and the Civil Service addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.
John Angelillo /Pool Photo via Associated Press

Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Mottley departed from a scripted message penned for a world stage address during the 76th session of the General Assembly at the United Nations to instead school 100 heads of nations on the militant message of Robert Nesta Marley.

“If I use this speech prepared for me to deliver today, it would be a repetition,” the first female leader of Barbados said.

And for anyone who might not have comprehended the bold opening statement, she emphasized it saying — “A repetition of what you have heard from others and also from me.”

True to the traditional processional messaging from repetitious international leaders, Motley candidly expressed the tedium of annually sitting politically correct in respectful boredom.

In any other setting, a standing ovation might have been expected for speaking truth to power even before detailing her message.

In the staunch closely-watched, diverse, platform within seconds of a pre-cautionary COVID-19, escorted entry, wearing a mask, Motley launched into a pertinent, relevant, honest, composed, tirade using the reference of a lyrical message from a Caribbean triumvirate, to urge the assembly to “Get Up, Stand Up.”

“In the words of Robert Nesta Marley. Who will get up and stand up for the rights of our people?”

From the COVID-19 crises to climate change, she questioned the willingness of leaders to act by placing global issues of concern on a platform for scrutiny.

“Who will stand up in the name of all those who have died during this awful pandemic? The millions.

“Who will stand up in the name of all those who have died because of the climate crisis, or who will stand up for the Small Island Developing States who need 1.5 degrees to survive?”

Small as her island/nation, the leader also advocated for larger neighbors in the region — particularly Haiti and Cuba.

“If we can find the will to send people to the moon and solve male baldness as I have said over and over, we can solve simple problems like letting our people eat at affordable prices.”

“This is not 1945 with 50 countries. This is 2021 with many countries that did not exist in 1945 who must face their people and answer the needs of their people. Who want to know what is the relevance of an international community that only comes and does not listen to each other that only talks and will not talk with each other.”

Not since South African President Nelson Mandela stood at the same podium at the 49th session in 1994, has such an awakening message resonated with such urgency.

At that time, the freedom fighter focused on the topic of apartheid, however the Barbadian leader presented a myriad of issues and did not skirt scolding selfish behavior exhibited by some wealthy nations.

She blamed some rich countries for expanding the digital divide and for hoarding vaccines.

“We have the means to give every child on this planet a tablet,” she said. “And we have the means to give every adult a vaccine. And we have the means to invest in protecting the most vulnerable on our planet from a change in climate. But we choose not to.”

“It is not because we do not have enough, it is because we do not have the will to distribute that which we have.”

The attorney offered a stern and less than subtle rebuke to the 193-member, 76-year-old organization for being complacent and often in a ‘constant state of inertia.’

Elected in 2018, Motley seemed fierce and furious with the UN she accused of being ‘unengaging and only giving token initiatives that will not close the gap.’

She challenged the Assembly to declare which way forward.

“How many more leaders must come to this podium and not be heard before they stop coming? How many times must we address an empty hall of officials and an institution that was intended to be made for leaders to discuss with leaders?”

“This age, dangerously resembles that of a century ago, a time when we were on the eve of the Great Depression, a time when we fought a similar pandemic and a time when fascism, and populism and nationalism led to the decimation of populations through actions that are too horrendous for us to even contemplate. Our world knows not what it is gambling with and if we don’t control this fire, it will burn us all down.”

All in all, the Bajan prime minister delivered more than lip-service, Mia Motley issued a call to action to the avowed, united powers who might now want to revisit the lyrics of the signature song wailed in 1973 by Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and Marley.

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