Tomorrow at 10 am, in a ceremony involving the Port-of-Spain City Corporation and the South African High Commission, King George V Park will be renamed the Nelson Mandela Park, says Port-of-Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee.In a telephone interview yesterday, Tim Kee said the decision was made by the corporation's 16-member council, and not by himself.
Asked if there were any consultations about the renaming of the park, he said, "I don't know what consultation we have to do. I spoke to many people around the area about the initiative and they were all gung-ho about it."Asked if he thought a town meeting should have been called to discuss the plan, he said, "I didn't have to do that, because council made the decision. The corporation is the owner of the property and the councillors made the decision. Now if residents had said 'no,' what will I do now?"
Tim Kee said renaming the park after Nelson Mandela was a befitting way to honour the world icon."Mandela has changed the whole world. He was referred to as the man of the century and surely the best way to honour him is not by naming an animal in the zoo or an aircraft after him."King George V had his place, but change has to take place," he said.But Tim Kee said the commemorative stone at the south-west corner of the park bearing the name King George V Park would remain.
Tim Kee added he considered it disrespectful to question the move to name the park after the South African freedom fighter."I am sure the South African ambassador, on hearing that Mandela's name is being questioned, would think that it's disrespectful," he said.He said a sign with the name of Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5, will be unveiled at the ceremony tomorrow.
When the T&T Guardian visited the King George V Park yesterday, there were mixed feelings among regular users about the name change.A founding member of the Harvard Club, on the western side of the park, said he preferred the name to remain as it was."They should leave it just as it is. Everybody knows it as it is and to go and change it now will lead to confusion.
"Find another way to honour him. You're taking someone who we have already honoured, King George V, to remove him and honour someone else. That doesn't make sense."He added: "They should really consult the people around here before they make any decisions on these things."Another person welcomed the move. "Mandela is an icon. He is a man known throughout the world and King George V is outdated right now, so I am for Mandela. I have no problem with the change." he said.
Lee Sing: Consultation needed
Widespread consultation is needed before renaming King George V Park, says former Port-of-Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing."A matter like this needed consultation and wider airing so that the people who are affected by it, like the residents around the park, would have been apprised as to why the change is being done. I'm hoping that that happened."This is a fundamental change and under my tenure we would have taken something like this to a town meeting," he added.
On the suitability of naming the park after Nelson Mandela, he said, "I wonder if we are not riding the Mandela thing. What about Toussaint L'Ouverture? He is more relevant to be given pride and place. He was a Caribbean man who came long before Mandela and he did all the things Mandela did."Lee-Sing said authorities needed to be cautious not to be hasty when renaming places.
"Many people approached me when I was mayor to rename places and institutions, but there are many things to take into consideration, like the history and the significance of the person. Is it that every time a government changes we change the name of something?"