MAYOR of Port of Spain Joel Martinez will approach the city council to discuss the removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus, after he receives a petition from the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project this Wednesday. The petition is expected to bear thousands of signatures.
In a phone conversation on Monday, Martinez said he was taking into consideration all the letters and various comments and contributions, and the council will make a decision after a discussion.
He condemned vandals who defaced the statue, which was seen on Monday covered in paint, caution tape and with a plastic bag over its head, with a sign that read “murderer” on the front.
“I have to tell you I think it is wrong,” Martinez said. “The statue is not there for the people to deface. It was put there in 1881 and it spent many years in Port of Spain. Not because a group wants the statue removed people should think it is right to deface it. I believe we can do things civilly. I thought a mature society would not stoop to doing something like that to any statue.”
The statue is in a square east of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Independence Square. The bronze statue stands in a fountain donated by cocoa proprietor Hypolite Borde.
The Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, in a media release, said it will hand over a petition with 8,000 signatures asking for the removal of the statue. The release said the effort is supported by indigenous leaders and a broad cross-section of civil society groups. “Even the city corporation’s own poll demonstrates overwhelming support for removal,” the release said.
The Cross Rhodes Freedom Project also called for a commission similar to one launched by London mayor Sadiq Khan to review the effect of names on public buildings, streets, plazas and plaques.
“We cannot continue this casual celebration of colonial violence. The country’s monuments must now come to reflect the diversity and embody our highest ideals.
“Those who think that this is a radical proposition must step back and see that it fits clearly with a longstanding global consensus. Germany, for example, has several statues of Hitler by the renowned British sculptor Arnold Brecker. Absolutely no one in their right mind believes that these should be put back on public display because Hitler was part of their history. There is a clear understanding that he represents something that is morally reprehensible.
“The problem some of us are having in the Caribbean is that we are unable to make the connection between fascist violence against white lives and colonial violence against black and brown lives.”