The Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) has declared its support for the removal of the Lord Nelson statue from Heroes’ Square.
The decision, communicated in a press release on Monday, marks an unprecedented departure for any organisation representing the business community, once dominated by white Barbadians.
Now the BPSA has said the controversial statue would be better placed in a “more suitable environment”.
And in a further break with precedent, the BPSA has made a call for attention to be paid to the imbalances in Barbados, including racial division and economic enfranchisement.
The statement read: “Given the need and opportunity for us to “reconstruct and rebuild” nationally, occurring at this time of global conversation on racial tensions and inequities, attention must also include a focus on imbalances that currently exist in our country. It is therefore timely, and necessary, to honestly look at the society we live in with a view to progressing Barbados to become a model of inclusiveness, diversity and equality of access for all. Undoubtedly, this process must necessarily include discussion on racial division and economic enfranchisement in Barbados.
“We also signal BPSA’s support for the removal to a more suitable environment the statue of Lord Nelson which was erected on March 22, 1813, to commemorate the anniversary of the British Royal Navy’s victory in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Indeed, the renaming of Trafalgar Square to Heroes Square renders the current positioning of Lord Nelson, overlooking the seat of our National Heroes, incongruous.”
Within the past month, there have been repeated calls for Nelson’s statue to be removed, as a wave of reckoning with the tortured legacy of slavery and racial injustice reaches Barbados from North America and Europe.
Critics have long pointed to the British peer’s support for West Indian planters and opposition to the abolition while a life peer in the upper House of Lords in London until his death in battle in 1805. Historians have also noted that Nelson, although stationed in the Caribbean during the Royal Navy’s campaign in the war against France and Spain, never actually stepped foot in Barbados, then considered a jewel of the British imperial crown. He was also said to be despised by Barbadian merchants for his rigorous enforcement of the Navigation Acts of the mid-1600s which restricted trade to English vessels.
An online petition calling for its removal has garnered over 10,000 signatures so far.
And just over a week ago hundreds of persons gathered in Heroes’ Square during a peaceful protest where they called for the statue’s removal.
Since then the statue has also been defaced with the writing Tek Me Down.
The BPSA said there was a need for consultation and dialogue if any major changes were to be achieved.
“BPSA recognises the benefit of consultation and dialogue and regards these as being critical if any meaningful, positive national change is to be achieved. More importantly, such consultation and dialogue must be of a calibre to develop an implementable plan to address, with success, the issues including any inequalities and inequities.
“It is anticipated that such a plan would be underpinned with a commitment from all stakeholders to be part of the change process,” the release noted.
“BPSA stands ready not only to be engaged in the dialogue but also for each of us to introspect and to answer all well-formulated, collective calls to action drafted with the input of every voice of our nation. We, therefore, call for discussion and engagement on these matters of national concern with a view to agreeing to specific and tangible actions, as collectively, we journey to achieve “One Barbados’.
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