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Happy National Heroes Day with our sole National Hero!

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Fri, Mar 13, 2015

Another National Heroes Day is upon us without the naming of additional national heroes.

Three years ago, while giving the keynote address at the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Obelisk at Dorsetshire Hill in recognition of National Heroes Day, the prime minister said he hoped that at least one additional person would be named national hero by 2013.{{more}}

Well 2013 has come and gone, so has 2014 and so will 2015, without anyone joining Chatoyer on his pedestal. And that is a good thing.

As we have said in previous editorials, there is really no need to rush this exercise as the selection of national heroes should be done with wise and careful reflection and consideration. We are not saying that a person should have lived a perfect life to qualify, but we do not think that sufficient time has elapsed to give proper perspective on the merits and demerits of the various nominees and their contribution to the country.

Consider the criteria for a person to be elevated to national hero status: besides being born in SVG, the person must have given outstanding service to St Vincent and the Grenadines, and his or her contribution must have altered positively the course of the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines; the person must have given service to SVG, which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and attainment of the highest excellence, to the honour of St Vincent and the Grenadines; and through his or her heroic exploits and sacrifice, the person must have contributed to the achievement of the economic, social or political conditions of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Vincentians generally.”

Time and distance would help us in our assessment and lessen the intensity of the partisan bias we observed during the debates on the nominees.

His Excellency Joseph Chatoyer, the Paramount Chief of the Black Caribs was named as this country’s first, and so far only National Hero back in 2002. Had Chatoyer’s contemporaries been alive when he was being considered for elevation, he may not have made the grade. One would have heard all about his human weaknesses and the persons with whom he conspired or had squabbles. The truth is, we only know the basics – he fought and died in an effort to save our homeland from plunderers. That is one of the problems with which we have to grapple, when today, we sit to discuss the merits of the nominees before us. How do we focus on the overall contribution of the individual to nation building, without getting distracted by the nominee’s human frailties?

So the solution is to let that decision be made by a generation which will be able to look at each nominee’s contribution with more objectivity. By putting this matter to rest for now, the work of the National Heroes Advisory Committee over the past three years or so will not be in vain. They have collected and done analyses on submissions made by the general public, and their work will prove invaluable to generations to come. Chair of the National Heroes Advisory Committee René Baptiste says her committee has finished its work and is in the process of preparing a letter to the Governor General giving the Committee’s recommendations. That, too, is good and may be instructive when our grandchildren revisit this matter somewhere down the road.

Happy National Heroes Day, Vincentians!

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