It will cost taxpayers less than $20,000 to have the statue of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson removed from National Heroes’ Square.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture, John King, announced this afternoon that the controversial statue will be taken down on November 16 – a day designated by the United Nations as International Day of Tolerance – before being exhibited at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.
And while not giving an exact figure for the job, Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Jehu Wiltshire said that, contrary to speculation, the exercise will not be very costly.
“There has been some discussion in the past, erroneous facts surrounding the costs of the relocation of the statue. Actually, the cost is quite minimal – less than $20 000 for the actual relocation of the statue,” he said.
Wiltshire said the statue’s removal will be preceded by a multi-disciplinary cultural presentation undertaken by the National Cultural Foundation.
Minister King disclosed that once Nelson was gone, the vacant spot will be used by artists and sculptors to display their work until a permanent place is found.
The news came three months after the Mia Mottley administration announced the decision to remove the 200-year-old statue of the former British colonialist, following a series of marches and rallies and calls for it to be moved.
Speaking at the press conference at the Wildey Gymnasium, King said the planned relocation is “a step towards the healing of the nation”.
He said that with Barbados set to become a republic within the next year, the removal of the statue was necessary.
“The Government of Barbados has announced its intentions to officially become an independent republic on November 30, 2021, which is our 55th anniversary of Independence. This is indeed an ultimate statement of confidence in who we are as a people and what we are capable of achieving,” King said.
“As we amend the Constitution to have a Barbadian Head of State, and as a symbol of the maturity of our democracy, it is imperative that we re-examine notable elements of our colonial past. Cabinet’s decision to remove the statue is part of this process as we seek to promote national identity as part of a modern Barbados.”
The Minister said he was particularly pleased that the statue’s removal had been achieved in a peaceful manner, especially considering the protests and unrest in other parts of the world.
Special Envoy for Reparations and Economic Enfranchisement Trevor Prescod said the move was a signal of the Government’s intention to transform towards national development.
“The removal of Nelson is but a small part of that transformation that will occur…. So you’re going to see a common trajectory in terms of national consciousness revealing itself in what we are going to be doing within the physical environment, but also in terms of the stories that will be told as a consequence of the things that we do,” Prescod said.
Ambassador to CARICOM and social activist David Comissiong said he was pleased to see that young people were at the forefront of calling for the statue to be removed.
He said he was proud that people like Alex Downes, who started a petition and organised a protest, were pivotal in influencing Government’s decision, even though recommendations had been made for its removal in the past.
Comissiong maintained that while Barbadians were not running away from their past, there were certain aspects that ought not to be celebrated.
“There has been an evolution in Barbados over the last 20 years and what some people couldn’t see back then they are now seeing much more clearly now,” he said.
“Another aspect of this is the role played by young people…. Young Alex Downes and other young people this year, inspired by the whole Black Lives Matter movement, they take up this issue of the Nelson statue and because of their activism, the Government goes back and takes back up those reports of 20 years ago. And so, we have this pleasing scenario of one generation helping to bring to fruition the work of a previous generation,” Comissiong added.
John Smith, who will manage the removal exercise, said the statue would be moved in one day.
He said an experienced team, including an architect, sculptor, contractor, and experts in excavation and craning statues, has been assembled for the job.