The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus this morning broke ground to start construction of an outdoor facility called the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park, but Principal Sir Hilary Beckles said the institution did not have any money to development it.
Expressing thanks to Innotech Construction for its contribution to the heavy duty equipment, Sir Hilary launched an appeal to Barbadians from all strata of society to pitch in and help the UWI build the historic park.
Sir Hilary revealed that the facility would feature a nature trail, 12 gazebos, a meeting room, sanitary facilities, landscaping, monuments and trees and plants from across the world. He urged architects and sculptors to make their contributions by producing anything which spoke to freedom.
He said the park, located in a wooded area at the back of the Medical Faculty and overlooking the Keith Hunte Halls of Residence on University Drive, would be a symbol of Barbados as the freest country in the world, after being the first slave society in this hemisphere.
He suggested that Mandela, the former President of South Africa and the epitomy of human freedom and a racial unifier, was the perfect person after whom the park could be named.
“This park is historic and significant. We can brand this island the freest in the world,” he added.
Sir Hilary recalled the Barbados Pan Africanists who, in the 1970s and 1980s, campaign for the release of Mandela and for Farley Hill to be renamed the Nelson Mandela Park. The UWI principal praised those freedom fighters and said, while they did not succeed in getting Farley Hill renamed, the time had now come where a park was being developed in his honour.
“We must all find a way to transcend conflict and find a bond for the human family,” he noted.
Sir Hilary was of the view that Mandela was the quintessential humanist of “our time”, adding he also saw the park as a play which linked students of the old campus and new campus.
“This is a student recreational facility. This park was long in coming,” declared Sir Hilary,while pointing out that students would be able to use it to relax and study.
It was envisaged, the principal said, that statues recognising freedom fighters such as Mandela, Errol Barrow and Mahatma Gandhi would be erected. Great women would also be honoured in a similar way.
When he addressed the ceremony, Minister of Education Ronald Jones cited the park as a space of spiritual reflection with no loud music, but serenity and reverence. Jones also recalled Barbadians who had campaign for Mandela’s freedom from jail and for Farley Hill to be named in his honour.
The minister said he believed that Mandela must be celebrated as a person whose philosophy went beyond that of a normal man.