Barbados’ political leaders are being challenged by a former ambassador to “do the right thing” and move the statue of Lord Nelson from “loitering in Heroes Square” instead of waiting for yet another extended discussion on the controversial monument.
Reverend Guy Hewitt, who served as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 2014 to 2018 and played an instrumental role in the fight against the 2016 Windrush scandal also believes that “open-minded” private sector entities should bear the economic burden of moving it.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY the religious leader expressed disappointment with the “silence” of Caribbean governments amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement in the same way they neglected members of the diaspora who were facing deportation, unemployment and isolation from British social services, in 2016.
“The Caribbean was a strong voice in the anti-apartheid movement; it has been a strong voice in terms of third-world solidarity and South-South cooperation and we need to be consistent. Our voice does matter . . . and we must ensure that those injustices do not continue and are not perpetuated on anybody else,” the former diplomat declared.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, in response to criticism for her silence on the Black Lives Matter movement that gripped the world after the death in police custody of African American George Floyd, declared that as Chairman of CARICOM, she had to be mindful of her comments.
But Hewitt argued: “That kidnapping from Africa that many of us went through historically is one that unites us in terms of a common desire for liberation, equality and recognition in a system that ultimately judges people still according to their skin.
“Unfortunately, two years ago and continuing in the UK, people were judged harshly and ill-treated because they are black. Unfortunately in the United States, people are being judged harshly because they are black. In the Caribbean and in Barbados, the debate over Nelson is largely one of colonization and colour and this is why it is imperative that people see the need to stand together on these issues,” he added.
The Anglican priest, who is currently based in Florida, stressed that an integral part of the movement at the domestic level is the need to remove monuments and symbols that perpetuate the mindset of “colonialism and enslavement”.
He noted that although Barbados has managed to maintain a certain degree of “social cohesion” and “commonality”, avenues for economic enfranchisement continu to be a challenge for most citizens who are not part of “a white minority” whose legacy is steeped in the colonial society that Lord Nelson’s statue embodies.
While addressing the issue last month, the Prime Minister said that a decision on the monument would only be made after consultation with Barbadians, although extensive discussions were already facilitated under a previous BLP-administration.
Hewitt disagreed with the notion of further public dialogue and instead challenged the Government to use its overwhelming legislative and executive power to prevent Lord Nelson from “loitering in Heroes Square well after our 50th anniversary of independence”.
“My understanding of the Constitution of Barbados is that leaders and parliaments are elected to speak on the people’s behalf. If you want to consult the people of Barbados, you can consult them through their representatives and let the parliamentarians take a vote,” the former High Commissioner suggested, while adding that even a “straw poll” would reveal Barbadians’ opposition to the statue.
“It is not a hard decision. I respect the Prime Minister’s commitment to democracy, but sometimes we have to just do the right thing and I am almost certain that Mia Mottley knows what the right thing is and where the people of Barbados stand.
“Emancipation day is coming soon and what more suitable time it would be to announce on that day that it is time to emancipate from Lord Nelson and his likeness,” Hewitt declared, before suggesting that open-minded members of the country’s private sector ought to foot the bill.
“I saw recently that one of the larger trusts in Barbados gave a $1.5 million donation to help feed poor people during the Covid-19 pandemic. I am sure that they could similarly be persuaded to not only put some food in our bellies but also help open our minds and put Nelson where he deserves to be,” he added.
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