Politics

New Zealand city removes statue amid Oceania protests against oppression

Sydney, Australia, June 12 (efe-epa).- The statue of British a naval captain was removed on Friday from a New Zealand square amid growing demands in New Zealand and 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 sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd in the United States, and which has triggered marches against racism and the removal of monuments around the world.

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, the Maori name of which is Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud), 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 United Kingdom and colonizer Christopher Columbus in the United States, 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.”

Historians and human rights defenders came forward to recall situations of slavery such as the withholding of wages of indigenous Australians in the last century and the more than 62,000 Melanesians brought to work as farm laborers in the country between 1863 and 1904.

In an article in The Conversation, law academics Thalia Anthony and Stephen Gray gave an example of the pastoral sector, where employers exercised a high degree of control over “their” Aboriginal workers, who bought and sold them as personal possessions, in particular when they “went with” the property upon sale.

Meanwhile, Netflix has pulled four programs by local comedian Chris Lilley, who used blackface or brownface in his portrayal of non-white characters. EFE-EPA

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