PETALING JAYA, July 3 — Penang police are considering anti-colonialist and anti-slavery sentiments as possible motives for vandals who defaced a statue of British coloniser Francis Light.
George Town OCPD assistant commissioner Soffian Santong issued a media statement today saying that the statue was found splashed with red paint on the morning of June 30 by Fort Cornwallis’ operations manager, who lodged a police report yesterday.
The case is currently being investigated under Section 427 of the Penal Code for committing mischief.
Soffian also confirmed that the operations manager was not in debt to unlicensed money lenders or “Ah Longs,” who are known to use red paint as a warning to those who failed to pay up in time.
The police are looking into the possibility that the vandals were inspired by Black Lives Matter activists in the United States and Europe who tore down monuments of slave owners and white supremacists after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man who died at the hands of a white police officer in May.
The Penang vandals could face a jail term between one and five years, a fine, or both if found guilty.
The issue became a hot topic on Twitter on July 1 after user @AntifaM3 tweeted out images of Light’s defaced statue.
“Finally in 2020, the statue of a coloniser and slave owner named Francis Light in Penang, Malaysia meets the same fate as other statues around the world,” the user wrote.
Akhirnya pada tahun 2020, tugu penjajah dan pemilik hamba bernama Francis Light di Pulau Pinang, Malaysia menemui nasib yang sama dengan tugu-tugu lain seumpamanya di seluruh dunia. pic.twitter.com/vRkleKpLI5— AntifaM (@AntifaM3) July 1, 2020
A post on The Thrifty Traveller blog shows a transcript of Light’s will at the Penang state museum, which states that he did own slaves and bequeathed them to his partner Martina Rozells.
“I leave all my Caffree slaves the following choice, either to remain with Martina during her life she being willing to maintain them or each man to pay her 50 dollars and be free,” Light wrote in the document.
Light is best known for founding the British colony of Penang in 1786 and was a prominent representative of the British East India Company.
His acquisition of Penang from Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Shah allowed the British to expand rapidly into the Malay states and accelerate British colonisation in Southeast Asia as a whole.
Light’s statue in Fort Cornwallis was first erected in 1936 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of George Town.
The Star wrote that the monument has been cleaned since the vandalism incident but remnants of red paint remain visible.