The Christopher Columbus statue in Tamarind Square, Port-of-Spain, after it was defaced yesterday. Members of the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project and the elders of the Warao Nation have launched a petition to have the statue removed.

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Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez will not be taking action on the Christopher Columbus statue, at least not yet.

At the end of the Port-of-Spain City Corporation’s statutory meeting yesterday, the mayor explained that any decision concerning removing or retaining the statue would have to come from the Government.

“(Over) the last couple of weeks various views are being expressed in the media about the historic Columbus monument which was donated to the city in 1881. The decision to remove or leave the Columbus statue has raised the much larger issue, particularly regarding the facts relating to our nation’s history,” said Martinez.

“Although the emerging view is that the statue should be taken down and placed in a museum, it is our stance as a responsible corporation that the capital city and the square where the statue is placed is not only utilised by citizens of Port-of-Spain but by the wider population.”

“The matter, therefore, has become a national issue and as such, beyond the sole purview of Port-of-Spain corporation. Therefore as Mayor, I withdraw from the matter as I await the input, advice and policy decision from the relevant arms of the national government,” he said, before closing the meeting at City Hall.

Last week Martinez was handed the petition which had over 8,000 signatures and given an ultimatum by queen of the Warao Nation Donna Bermudez-Bovell.

She said then, he had a week to come to a decision, and if no motion had been made about removing the statue she “could not promise the statue would not be forcibly removed by her people.”

In a letter published in the media yesterday, Senior Counsel Israel Khan explained that while he supports the removal of the statue, “the Port-of-Spain Corporation does not possess the legal right/authority to remove it.”

Khan said in addition to the removal of the statue, it should also be considered that Columbus’ ships also form part of the Coat of Arms and consideration should also be given to the removal of those symbols which also glorify Columbus.