BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment email@example.com
THE Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) said it is waiting on the St Thomas Parish Council to put measures in place for the protection and maintenance of the Paul Bogle statue before returning the national monument to Morant Bay.
Chairman of the JNHT Board of Trustees Ainsley Henriques said the restored statue is now ready to be mounted, but stressed that it will not be done until the Parish Council takes steps to secure and maintain the heritage site.
"We are ready to mount the statue and was targeting this year, but now it is a case of if the Parish Council plays their role we will do our part," Henriques told the Jamaica Observer North East.
The statue was damaged three years ago by a mentally ill man and was removed by the JNHT for restoration by sculptor Fitz Harrack. The Trust intended to remount it a year later, but came under intense public resistance in Morant Bay. The objection to the work was rooted in the residents' claim, which was then corroborated by the JNHT, that the statue was not a true replica of the National Hero.
But the JNHT chairman told the Observer North East last week that the controversy is not the reason the statue is not yet mounted.
Henriques said the condition of the heritage site, which includes the area where the statue was mounted and the ruins of the Morant Bay Courthouse which was destroyed by fire more than a decade ago, has been unsavoury. That, he said, was one of the reasons the statue was damaged because the site was not being properly maintained.
While the JNHT awaits a response from the Parish Council, the residents are clamouring for the return of the statue to the parish capital where it was first erected in 1965. They say they are now willing to accept the same image, as long as it is returned to its place of prominence.
"The statue teck down too long now and we want it back in Morant Bay so everyone can see and remember dat is him fight for Jamaica," said John Largo.
Henriques, himself a St Thomas native, said he was not only eager to have the statue remounted, but also wanted to see the courthouse rebuilt at the original site.
"It is the hope and wish of the people that the courthouse can be restored by the anniversary of the Bogle martyrdom and that is by October 2015," Henriques said.
He said the dimensions of the existing ruins can facilitate a modern courthouse, however even if it is not used as a courthouse, Henriques said the building could be used for other purposes.
A resident of Bath who identified himself only as Patrick said the statue has always helped Jamaicans to recall that Bogle was the man who stood up for the poor to the highest level.
"The statue is something people will look upon as an important monument in the town and so we don't want to forget the past," he said.
He, however, noted that while he is eager to see the statue returned to its pride of place he would much prefer if it were a true replica of the hero.
"We want them to come up with the real Paul Bogle statue because we feel foolish to know a hero like that does not have a picture... Every parish has a real statue, how come we don't?" he said.
The St Thomas residents insist that they want the Government to commission a statue of Bogle that shows his true facial features and illustrates what he stood for.
They noted that history portrayed him as a six-foot-tall man with an air of authority, but the statue does not reflect that.
The controversial statue, which for years stood in front of the Morant Bay courthouse, was designed by the late sculptor Edna Manley, wife of National Hero Norman Manley. Erected in October 1965 and declared a national monument by the JNHT on April 3, 2003, the statue has always been regarded by many Jamaicans as a true image of Bogle who, in October 1865, led black Jamaicans in a march on the Morant Bay courthouse that triggered the now famous Morant Bay Rebellion.
Historians say the rebellion sprung from the conviction of Bogle who was charged for trespassing on a long abandoned plantation. He was freed by the local population who had protested his conviction. However, on returning to their village of Stony Gut, the residents and Bogle learnt that warrants had been issued for the arrest of 27 men for a number of offences, including rioting and assaulting the police.
Bogle, a Baptist deacon, led nearly 300 locals on the march to the courthouse where they were confronted by the militia which opened fire on them, killing seven.
Bogle was later arrested and executed. He was eventually named a National Hero and his image appeared on the $2 note from 1969 until it was phased out. It has been on the 10 cent coin since 1991.