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  • John Hamilton statue removal, Hamilton City, New Zealand, June 12, 2020.

    John Hamilton statue removal, Hamilton City, New Zealand, June 12, 2020. | Photo: Twitter/ @alghadeertv_eng

Published 12 June 2020
Opinion

Meanwhile, Australia's PM Scott Morrison maintains that slavery did not exist in his country.

In New Zealand, Hamilton City Mayor Paula Southgate Friday removed the statue of John Hamilton, a British captain who died in the Gate Pa battle against the Maori people in 1864.

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Her decision occurs after a Maori resident publicly declared that he had planned to tear the statue down during anti-racist protests over the weekend.

"An increasing number of people consider the statue to be personally and culturally offensive. We cannot ignore what is happening around the world," Southgate said, as reported by RNZ.

The removal of the Hamilton statue is part of the reaction generated by the George Floyd’s murder in the United States, a violent act that triggered marches against racism and the withdrawal of symbols linked to the oppression of minorities around the world.

In New Zealand, whose Maori name is Aotearoa, hundreds of statues, streets, and cities are named after British colonizers and slave traders. In this country, however, the symbolic recognition of the Maori and their historical legacy is practically non-existent.

On Thursday, Maori Party leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer asked New Zeland's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to remove all monuments and names of racist characters.

"We have children, who grow up proud of who they are, learning our history and then see streets and parks named after racists who have killed their ancestors," Ngarewa-Packer said.

In Australia, the debate on the removal of the statues was centered on Captain James Cook, who arrived in this territory in 1770 and declared it uninhabited land, although Australian indigenous peoples had inhabited this continent for over 50,000 years.

On Thursday, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Cook was "one of the most enlightened people of his time" and argued that "there was no slavery" in his country.

Historians and human rights defenders came forward to recall situations of slavery such as the withholding of wages of Indigenous workers in the last century, or the forcible transfer of over 62,000 Melanesians to work in the harvest between 1863 and 1904.

Lawyers Thalia Anthony and Stephen Gray also recalled that rural employers used to list their "Aboriginal" workers among the assets of a farm for sale.

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