Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle has come out in strong support for the removal of the controversial Nelson statue located in Heroes Square in Bridgetown.
However, the St Michael South Central MP said she agreed with Prime Minister Mia Mottley that the matter must first be discussed and a decision made by Barbadians.
Two weeks ago a renewed call surfaced for the infamous Horatio Nelson statue to be removed from its place of prominence in the Capital.
The calls came on the heels of the Black Lives Matter campaign which has followed the recent killing of black American George Floyd in the US by a white police officer.
Subsequently, Mottley told a We Gatherin’ 2020 Zoom meeting with Barbadians overseas that she believed in consultation with people before a decision to remove the statue is taken.
Addressing Parliament on Tuesday during the introduction of a Private Members’ Business Resolution, to advocate for the freedom and respect for human rights including the eradication of all forms of anti-black racism, Caddle said the country was dealing with a centuries-old trauma and sometimes “others have to listen first”.
“And if your countrymen and women in their overwhelming majority tell you that a statue erected to serve to honour white supremacy disturbs them deeply in their souls, why would you want to hold on to it?” said Caddle.
“If you are an ally of the equality project with respect to race in your country why would you want to hold on to it? This notion that it erases history sir – I wake up with this skin every day in this country and when I go to different parts of the world I see the reaction that it gets. I see the reactions that it sometimes gets right here – I don’t need a statue to remind me that Barbados was the site of the great slave experiment in this region. Here was where they wanted to create the ‘perfect slave society’ and then the ‘perfect post-colonial society’. There is no possibility of forgetting that,” she said.
On June 8, Alex Downes started an online petition labelled Remove Lord Nelson’s statue from Bridgetown which has so far received 11,257 or the anticipated 15,000 signatures.
In her strong support for the removal of the symbol, Caddle said as a tourism-dependent nation, Barbadians should be ashamed.
“The notion that tourists come from far and wide to look at a statue to white supremacy should make us feel ashamed, because if we have nothing else . . . in the way of a tourism product to offer to people then something is desperately wrong,” she said.
“I don’t know too many people who come here and say ‘oh my goodness, I want to see that gentleman in Heroes Square, I have always dreamt of seeing him’. The notion that that kind of homage to white supremacy can be equated with historical buildings that still serve a function today, can be equated to institutions of faith, is a false equivalency,” said Caddle.
Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds, who spoke before Caddle, said he was neither for, nor against the removal of the statue.
He said he believed while the removal of the statue may bring some a sense of comfort, he suggested there were more pressing issues that should be focused on.
“I am now at an age and stage in life where I am not interested in the optics. You could pull down a thousand statues and it will fill nobody’s belly. I am interested in filling people’s bellies, I am interested in making sure that people have comfort when they sleep at night, that their children have satisfaction that they are going to inherit something in the land of their birth, and Mr Speaker, until we come to that point we are having an artificial debate, said Symmonds.
“So let us come to the point where we are dealing with the substance. Psychologically it might make things better in terms of the optics, it may make people feel there has been an achievement. That can be debated. I am neither for nor against quite frankly, but my feeling is that we cannot take our eyes off that ball call substance. That substance is how do we economically empower the working class people of Barbados so that they and their sons and daughters can be those people who are the guardians of the commanding heights of this country’s economy,” he explained.