CHOOSE HONOUREES WISELY
UWI PROFESSOR Verene Shepherd thinks there is great value in recognising persons who have gone beyond the call of duty and met the criteria for receiving national honours, but she cautions against abandoning the selection criteria in preference for reliance on the “politics of memory”. Shepherd also is opposed to something that should properly be recognised at the level of the organisation or workplace being elevated to the level of national awards.
Professor Shepherd, who is a historian, questions the decision to cut off the recognition of national hero/heroine at 1962 on Jamaica gaining political Independence, arguing that it did not end the fight for rights, respect, justice and true liberation.
“If the main criterion for being a hero/heroine is advocating for emancipation and independence, then Louise Bennett and Bob Marley qualify,” reasoned Shepherd. “Miss Lou struggled for respect for our language and culture and for the creation of a post-independence society that functioned less like a colonial space. Marley used his lyrics and sayings to carry on Garvey’s work of mental liberation. These are worthy post-colonial projects,” the professor declared.
In November 2009, the human resources and social development committee of Parliament had recommended the establishment of a new honour – Order of Jamaican Heritage (OJH). That honour would be the second highest national honour and would be bestowed on “individuals who made significant contributions to Jamaica’s heritage over an extended period of time, for example, the Honourable Louise Bennett Coverley and the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley”, the committee stated. The committee also recommended that a limited number of individuals be admitted to the Order of Merit and other honours.
However, former Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall disagrees with this approach, telling The Gleaner that the decision to recognise persons to receive national honours should be influenced by criteria rather than a historical period or quota.