The call by UWI Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles for the removal of the name Alfred Milner on a UWI campus as the university enters its 70th year as an independent Caribbean institution, has been welcomed by the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project (CRFP).
In a statement, CRFP Director Shabaka Kambon said Beckles made the call at an orientation ceremony for new students at the Cave Hill Campus and the CRFP is endorsing the call for Alfred Milner's name to be removed. Kambon also said Beckles indicated that the UWI had become the latest battle ground in the global fight over historic figures
“The unambiguous statement by one of the region’s leading luminaries is welcome news to the CRFP, which has held a number of consultations with university students over the last year, including one with those currently living on Milner Hall in an effort to push through a name change”
“Built in 1927, the oldest Hall of residence on the St Augustine campus still pays tribute to a man who was in the vanguard of the late 19th century genocidal European imperial project in Africa which brutally wiped out large percentages of many ethnic groups, while plundering resources using forced labour.”
He said the appointed British High Commissioner to Cape Colony (South Africa) in the late 1890s, Lord Viscount Alfred Milner, close collaborator of Cecil John Rhodes, quickly provoked the Second Boer War (1899-1902) to seize control of the richest colony in Africa for Britain.
“Believing that they would have a chance of regaining the lands that the Boers had stolen from them, Africans threw their support behind his war effort ensuring victory, but Milner would not honour the expectations of people he regarded disdainfully as ‘the most primitive savages.’”
Kambon said CRFP wrote UWI St Augustine Campus principal, Professor Brian Copeland on June 22, stating that “We can no longer tolerate the continuation of this abomination.”
“We are asking the university to consider renaming the Hall after Caribbean hero, Henry Sylvester Williams, who was born in Barbados and grew up near to the St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago to become internationally renowned as the Father of Pan Africanism.”
He said it has been established that Williams’ travels took him to South Africa to practice law where he opposed the efforts of Milner and his colleagues to establish their racialised system of oppression.
Kambon also said the CRFP will deliver a letter to Joel Martinez, Mayor of Port-of-Spain for the removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus.
He said the CRFP believes it is wrong to ask Caribbean citizens, particularly Indigenous People, to accept national property occupied by reverential statues to the man who stole and renamed their lands. “He trafficked, raped and enslaved their ancestors, destroyed their way of life and denied their humanity.”