Members of several advocacy groups held a lively demonstration in Tamarind Square, downtown Port of Spain, on Sunday as they continued their calls for the statue of Christopher Columbus to be removed.
Queen of the Warao Nation Donna Bermudez-Bovell went down on bended knees, as she performed a smoke ritual in which they burnt twigs and leaves to mark the beginning of the demonstration, as Port of Spain City Police kept a close watch.
Speaking at the demonstration, co-ordinator of the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project Shabaka Kambon said there was need for the authorities to remove the statue from the nearby Columbus Square. He said Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez acknowledged the need for the statue to be relocated to a museum and said this view was in keeping with that of various advocacy groups and academics.
Kambon asserted that such statues were a blatant insult to people of African and indigenous descent as it represented a painful chapter of their history and said the statue which was erected by cocoa plantation owner Hypolite Borde, had no place in modern TT. “We reject the morality of any law that purports to ascribe some legal status to such monument.
“During the colonial period when Hypolite Borde put up that monument there, he did not have to consider the opinion of indigenous people, African people, Indian people in this country. He had the right to decide what was put up in our state.
"We categorically reject any legal basis for a monument such as that in the 21st century.”
Kambon also announced that one of Borde’s own descendants, Elizabeth Noguera, was also opposed to having the statue in Port of Spain and said its removal would represent a step forward for TT's understanding of history and societal relations.
He said the project has already written to the Prime Minister and was optimistic that progress would be made in the statue’s removal.
“We will await word from the central government confident that our Prime Minister will not use his authority to try to normalise the acceptance of such crimes in this country, among the descendants of the victims at the very scene of the atrocities.”
Martinez was also at the demonstration and said while he understood the concerns of the activists, the decision to remove the statue came from authorities higher than his office.
“The first thing we need to note is the statue was not placed there by a mayor, it was put there by a governor/ There are a number of different considerations when removing the statue and there are different ideas on what to do with it. Some groups want it removed and placed in a museum, others want it gone altogether.”