Bridgetown, Barbados (292031)
Bridgetown, Barbados Credit: Cyril Josh Barker photo

It seems as though Barbados’ tolerance for the controversial statue of late British naval hero Lord Nelson has finally run out, with authorities naming Monday Nov. 16 as the date that the imposing structure will be torn down and relocated to a less prominent venue.

Nov. 16 is the globally designated “International Day for Tolerance” so the cabinet of Prime Minister Mia Mottley has decided that that day would be the most appropriate one to signal to all and sundry that the island’s tolerance for the statue in the heart of Bridgetown, the capital, has run out, completed its course.

People in the most easterly nation in the Caribbean island chain have long been clamoring for the removal of this white European naval warlord who won many battles for Britain during the colonial era, arguing that his accomplishments had little to do with the island and was in fact offensive to national sensibilities.

The intensity of activism for the removal of the statue picked up steam in the wake of global protests linked to the Black Lives Matter movement and efforts for amelioration. The increased activity appears to have given authorities just the impetus they needed to decide on his removal in spite of the fact that Barbados is the No. 1 tourist playground for visitors from the United Kingdom. Many wealthy British and United Kingdom celebrities also invest heavily in property and the hospitality industry in Barbados, contending that they are most comfortable in a place many refer to colloquially as ‘Little Britain or Bimshire.’

Culture Minister John King appeared to have captured the national mood perfectly saying that while Lord Nelson is associated with the island’s past, it is not in the way a modern nation wants to be interlinked.

“Over the past two decades, we have had many difficult national conversations about Lord Nelson and his statue located on Upper Broad Street, eventually coming to the conclusion, under this administration that while we acknowledge that Lord Nelson and his statue are a part of our history, they do not represent the part of our history with which we would wish to identify, endorse nor celebrate,” King said.

All this is happening as Barbados prepares to dump Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as the island’s head of state after nearly 400 years and replace her with a local black or brown skinned person from next year.

The date identified is the end of Nov. 2021 when Barbados would be celebrating 55 years as an independent nation. Fellow community nations Guyana, Trinidad and Dominica are among countries which have local heads and are republics.

King said these two important moves are “a step toward the healing of the nation and to remind us all that tolerance is a universal human right. The government of Barbados has announced its intentions to officially become an independent republic on November 30, 2021, which is our 55th anniversary of independence. This is indeed an ultimate statement of confidence in who we are as a people and what we are capable of achieving. Cabinet’s decision to remove the statue is part of this process as we seek to promote national identity as part of a modern Barbados.”