Jamaica Gleaner - - FEATURE -

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.

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