There are calls for a statue in Jersey of Sir George Carteret to be removed.
The figure was erected in St Peter’s village in 2014.
Then-Constable John Refault says it was unveiled to acknowledge the prominent Vice-Admiral’s part in Jersey’s history.
But fresh concerns have been raised against the back-drop of recent protests following the death in the US last month of George Floyd in police custody.
Former Bailiff and founder of New Jersey, George Carteret traded slaves in the 17th century.
Last week, anti-racism protesters tore down a statue in Bristol of Edward Colston – a slave trader – and threw it in the harbour.
The city’s Mayor has suggested it is now likely to end up in a museum.
Deputy Montfort Tadier, who raised questions about the Carteret statue when it was first put up, says he’s not a figure islanders should be looking up to because of his links to the slave trade:
“The Bailiff’s role in those days was effectively a hereditary title, passed on from generation to generation – from the rich and powerful to another rich and powerful relative.
“[Sir George Carteret] made his wealth by dehumanising other human beings of a different race and selling them for profit – is that the kind of aspiration we want our children to be looking up to?”
St Brelade Deputy, Montfort Tadier
But Mr Refault says islanders should look to make a difference to victims of modern slavery today, rather than being caught up on the past:
“If we are really concerned about slavery, then the people who are making all the noise should get active and do something positive. Tearing down a statue is not going to help victims of extortion and human trafficking today one iota.
Former St Peter Constable, John Refault
“Don’t get angry about the past – the past is the past – there was a time we used to hang people and it was a public exhibition at Westmount… totally reprehensible with today’s values, and quite rightly so – as is slavery.
“Tearing things down isn’t going to make that better, but actually if we focus on modern slavery – and work proactively to stop modern slavery, that could make a real positive difference for people suffering today.”
Current Constable of St Peter, Richard Vibert, has been giving his reaction to Channel 103:
“Racism and slavery have no place in today’s society, but the opinions and values of people 400 years ago were very different from those of today, and we definitely wouldn’t find them acceptable.
“John Refault has been instrumental in having the statue erected, and of course it wasn’t in any way to glorify George Carteret’s involvement in slavery and there was no intention to do that.”
St Peter Constable, Richard Vibert
He says a Parish Assembly could be called to make a decision on the statue’s future:
“At this point, I haven’t made a decision that the statue should be removed. It certainly needs further discussion but I don’t have any intention at this time to remove it.
“It’s only a Parish Assembly that could make that decision – I can’t as Constable. It would need an Assembly to make that decision, and if it was the view of parishioners, we would have to abide by their decision.”
Constable Vibert added that he’s not had any direct complaints from his parishioners about the George Carteret statue:
“As yet, very few parishioners have actually contacted me, and I’m not actually sure if we’ve had any parishioners at all ask for the statue to be removed. From the emails I’ve received, most pertaining to the statue have been from outside the parish.
“The important thing is that we actually learn from history and continue to teach tolerance and address failings in our modern society. It has saddened me what happened to George Floyd, and it’s really incomprehensible that there’s still prejudice like that in certain areas and that people who should have been protecting the public have caused a man’s death. We should be taking active steps to prevent that type of thing by making sure we have tolerance throughout the world.”