THE EDITOR: I have become increasingly alarmed at the calls for removal of statues and renaming of places in Port of Spain and in TT as a whole. I am aware that historical artefacts reveal phases in the development of a country, and these public edifices serve to remind us of how people lived and what they valued in these different periods. Furthermore, it is my contention that no individual is entirely perfect when judged by his or her peers, or by posterity.
In addition, we must accept that values change over generations as people become more enlightened and sophisticated. Remember that slavery was an integral part of society even from biblical times, and that indigenous people warred among themselves, even before the arrival of the Spaniards.
Christopher Columbus was an outstanding Italian navigator who risked everything to find a new route to the East. In so doing he was the first to find the Western Hemisphere after it was unknown over thousands of years. According to the Collins dictionary, this qualifies as an act of discovery.
Of signal importance is the fact that Columbus landed here in Trinidad, and he even gave this country its name. In my view we should be proud of this historic association, as our ancestors have expressed, by the erection of statues, and the naming of places such as Columbus Channel and Columbus Bay.
If we were to persist with this Columbus witch-hunt, are we going all the way and change the name of this island and its geographical titles as well? Columbus’ ship La Vaquenos lost an anchor on that voyage; it was recovered centuries later, and displayed at fairs in Rome, Paris and Chicago. In our witch-hunt are we going to melt down this anchor that now rests at the back of the National Museum?
It is quite true that Columbus’ discovery opened the door to Spanish colonisers and priests who enslaved the indigenous people, particularly in the Encomiendas. Are we now going to outlaw the Catholic Church? Remember that Columbus’ discovery also paved the way for development of this island so that many of us can experience a better quality of life today.
We must remember also that there were slave owners in Trinidad, even among black people. Their descendants are now part of the population, so are we going to cast aspersions on their roots and question their morality? Historians Gertrude Carmichael and Antony De Verteuil have both referred to the rebel slave Daaga as a former slave trader. Are we going to ask UWI to change the name of its conference centre?
Internationally, there are foreign mischief-makers who wish to remove the statues of Lord Baden-Powell (originator of scouting), Winston Churchill and Mohandas Gandhi. Where will this hate campaign end? Are the responsible leaders of this country going to import this ideology of hate into TT? Are we going allow the leader of the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project to piggyback on the noble cause of Black Lives Matter with its misguided agenda to destroy all that is not black?
I admire the spirit of the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project. However, I take the liberty of pointing them to do something about the 40.3 million modern slaves that exist today in North Korea, Mauritania, Pakistan, India, Eastern Europe and the USA. But then that can be a more difficult task than tearing down statues.