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UWI to remove name of ‘racist’ former British governor on St Augustine hall of residence

Friday, November 10, 2017

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Nearly a century after being named in honour of a former British governor, Milner Hall, a co-ed hall of residence at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is to be renamed.

In a statement, the UWI said that the decision to re-name the hall comes after months of internal discussion, some of it divisive and at times emotionally charged.

The UWI Finance and General Purposes Committee (F&GPC), comprising all stakeholders, from governments to graduates, unanimously accepted the recommendation from the university’s Senior Executive Management on October 30 and the name change will be done in accordance with the recommendations of the report by Pro Vice-Chancellor, Alan Cobley.

Cobley, a professor of South African History had been asked by UWI Vice-Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles to investigate the life and times of Lord Alfred Milner and to make recommendations with respect to Milner’s fitness to be celebrated as an icon within the 70-year-old regional institution.

Milner was a British Colonial Governor in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century.

UWI said that the Cobley Report sets out, among other things Lord Milner’s political identity as a self-proclaimed “British race supremacist”; his role as a formulator of British racial theory in which he described Africans as “savages” and the part he played as a founder of the criminal system of racial apartheid which was institutionalised in South Africa in 1948.

The UWI also noted the principal part he played as an architect of brutal Indian indentured servitude in the colony; his role as a proponent of military colonialism in Africa and Asia as the God given right of the English; and his function as an aggressive imperialist who is known for his part in the crimes against humanity committed in Africa.

The hall of residence took the name of Milner in 1927 when he contributed to the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture established in Trinidad, to train white colonialists, with a view to creating a pool of frontier farmers to settle on lands in the Empire taken from natives.

Milner saw this strategy as necessary to secure the long-term future of British rule in Africa, Asia and Australia.

Milner’s active political hostility to the human and civil rights of Africans, Asians, and devastated indigenous people, propelled his anger towards the early Pan-Africanists such as Sylvester Williams and Marcus Garvey, as well as Indian nationalists such as Mahatma Gandhi. He was a vehement opposer of Independence movements and saw nationalists as criminal and dangerous subverters of empire, UWI said, noting that Milner’s role as a foundation thinker of apartheid has gone largely undetected for decades in the Caribbean.

“The global movement to highlight his political crimes in Africa is now connecting to The UWI’s effort to clean-up its internal colonial legacies as an independent university. “

Beckles, a noted historian, acknowledged that while he wasn’t aware until two years ago while lecturing at the University of Johannesburg that the Milner who committed the crimes against humanity in South Africa in service of the British Empire was the same person whose identity is emblazoned on The UWI St Augustine Campus.

“The discovery of this truth has invited The UWI to reaffirm its commitment to the principle of justice for all regardless of race, colour or religion, and to turn its back on all forms of racial discriminatory practices.

“While recognising that the gravity of the matter is one that transcends the St Augustine Campus and threatens the reputation of The UWI as a whole, the F&GPC has asked that the management and student leadership of the St Augustine Campus complete its internal consultations with a view to proposing an alternate name for the Hall by mid-December 2017,” UWI said in the statement.

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