NZ removes statue amid protests against oppression

Wellington, June 12 (IANS) The statue of a British naval captain was removed on Friday in New Zealand amid growing demands in the country, as well as in Australia to remove monuments linked to racism and oppression.

The removal of the statue of Captain John Hamilton comes as part of a global response triggered by the death of African-American George Floyd in the US, and which has led marches against racism and the removal of monuments around the world, reports Efe news.

Hamilton was killed in the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864, part of the New Zealand wars – a series of battles between Maori and the British over disputed land purchases and colonization.

The bronze statue in the North Island city of Hamilton, which was named after him, was erected in 2013 after it was gifted by a local company.

It comes after a Maori ‘kaumatua’ (elder) threatened to tear it down during a planned anti-racism protest over the weekend, and the city council said it had decided to remove it from Civic Square after a formal request from local ‘iwi’ (tribe) Waikato-Tainui.

“I know many people, in fact a growing number of people, find the statue personally and culturally offensive. We can’t ignore what is happening all over the world and nor should we,” Mayor Paula Southgate said, according to national broadcaster Radio New Zealand.

In New Zealand, there are hundreds of statues relating to British colonization – as well as many streets bearing names of people, including slave traders – compared to the little public recognition of Maori people.

Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer asked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government on Thursday to identify and remove all colonial monuments, statues and place names symbolizing racism and oppression.

“We have children growing up proud of who they are, learning about history, and then seeing streets and parks named after racists who murdered their tupuna (ancestors),” Ngarewa-Packer said.

The removal of the statues, such as that of slave trader Edward Colston in the UK and colonizer Christopher Columbus in the US, also echoed in Australia, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been victims of abuse and mistreatment since British colonization in the 19th century.

In this country the debate focused on the removal of the statue of British captain James Cook, who arrived in Australia in 1770 and declared it “terra nullius” (no-one’s land), despite the presence of the aborigines for more than 50,000 years.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told broadcaster 2GB on Thursday that Cook was “one of the most enlightened persons” of his time, and sparked anger from indigenous people and academics when he asserted that “there was no slavery in Australia”.



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