83-Year-Old Francis Light Statue In Penang Splashed With Red Paint

The statue is believed to have been vandalised during the night between 29 and 30 June.

Cover image via Twitter @AntifaM3

The statue of Francis Light, the founder of George Town, was recently defaced by unknown individuals

The statue - erected in 1936 to honour his contributions to Penang - is situated at Fort Cornwallis, a famous tourist landmark in the state.

According to checks by New Straits Times, a staff working there said the statue was vandalised with red paint on Tuesday, 30 June.

"I was here until Monday, 29 June, at about 7pm and it was fine. We came the next day and found it splashed with red paint," the staff said.

While the statue has since been cleaned, faded red stains are still visible on the surface

When asked if any closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) in the area captured the culprits in action, the staff said the footage was unclear.

The Star reported the operator of the site had lodged a police report yesterday, 2 July, and an investigation is underway.

George Town OCPD ACP Soffian Santong said the case will be investigated under Section 427 of the Penal Code for committing mischief. If convicted, the suspects could face imprisonment between one and five years, a fine, or both.

The vandalism on the statue was first brought to light by a viral tweet

In a post published on Wednesday, 1 July, photos of Francis Light vandalised with red paint went viral with over 900 retweets.

"Finally in 2020, the statue of colonist and slave owner Francis Light in Penang Island, Malaysia meets the same fate as other statues around the world," read the caption of the post.

Following the death of American citizen George Floyd due to police brutality in May, Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the world. The movement saw many statues featuring historical figures who supported slavery during their lifetime being defaced or officially dismantled by local authorities.

Although Malaysia's history textbooks in public schools do not delve into Light's vices, which the viral post had claimed, the official website for Southern Seberang Perai Land and District Office Penang noted that Light once "loaded his ship with a silver gun and fired into the jungle to stimulate the work of cleaning the bushes by its employees faster".

The company he represented - British East India Company - however, is marred with atrocious history. National Geographic reported that the company was involved in getting China hooked on opium, transporting and trading slaves, and many more throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

The company had the ability to 'wage wars' and was history's largest company that controlled territories in the Persian Gulf, China, and elsewhere in Asia.

Image via Historic UK

Fort Cornwallis was built in 1786 - the same year Francis Light landed in Penang, according to the operator of the site

Representing the British East India Company at the time, Light made a pact with the Sultan of Kedah and acquired the land in Penang. In return, he provided protection for Kedah against powerful neighbours.

Fort Cornwallis was intended to be used as a defensive structure against pirates, Kedah forces, and even the French during the Napoleonic Wars. However, the fort with no permanent structure was later used for administrative functions instead of being a defensive fortress.

The Star reported that during the Japanese occupation in World War II, the sword on the statue went missing.

"It is believed that the sword was taken by the Japanese, who removed the statue during their occupation of Penang in 1942," reported the English daily.

The site is currently closed to make way for conservation works. Malaysiakini reported that two old cannons were discovered on 9 and 27 December 2019 during works to strengthen and reconstruct a structure on site.

As of yesterday, 2 July, New Straits Times reporters found researchers working at the fort some 100m away from the vandalised statue.

Meanwhile, check out how some parts of Malaysia used to look like in the past:

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