Maria Caulfield MP has called for plans to commemorate Newhaven’s historic links with a former Communist dictator to be reconsidered.
A competition has been launched around the erection of a statue of Ho Chi Minh, a Vietnamese nationalist movement leader who worked as a pastry chef on the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry after the First World War.
However, the Member of Parliament for Lewes constituency has written to the Mayor of Newhaven Town Council, Councillor Steve Saunders, asking for a rethink of the plans after receiving expressions of concern from local residents.
Maria Caulfield MP said: “While it is a laudable aim to want to promote international co-operation and friendly relations with other countries, I do not believe that, given the importance of using money to regenerate the area, a statue of a deceased Communist dictator should be a priority for the Town Council.
“I am happy to work with Newhaven Town Council to promote the area, and in fact I have based my constituency office in the town at the West Quay, but given there are already banners and a commemorative plaque to the deceased Vietnamese leader in the town, I am not sure why we also need a statue.”
Cllr Saunders said: “The Vietnamese Embassy approached the town in 2013, after the rather tenuous links to Minh were discovered. They wished to explore the possibilities of forming cultural, educational, tourism and economic links.
“This, we embraced as a Town Council, as we did our twinning with La Chapelle St. Mesmin near Orleans in France in 2011.
“We have marked the rather quirky fact that he served as a pastry chef on the Ferry in his younger years, with a mention on a banner along the West Quay. Along with such historical events as the discovery of Lord Lucan’s car in the 1970s, it seemed interesting enough to display along the harbourside.
“We have also allowed a further small commemorative plaque to be temporarily sighted on the West Quay and a competition was begun at the local University by the Embassy, to design a more permanent marker to celebrate the cultural links we are hoping to form with Minh City in Vietnam.
“The assertion that the Town Council was going to be spending inordinate amounts of public money on a statue to Ho Chi Minh is farcical and sensationalist, to say the least. No money has been spent by us, nor will be on the proposals.
“Once the Embassy has settled on a design for their proposals, it will be subject to agreement and further consultation with the Council and it will have to undergo the normal planning application procedures, along with getting the required permission of the landowners of the site.”
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