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Get serious about national honours

Get serious about national honours

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Three months of the year are of particular significance to Vincentians. They are March, now recognized as national Heroes Month, August – the month of Emancipation from slavery, and October, our month of national Independence. Of course other months have their own significance too, for, in our context, who can leave out December, both for its religious significance, as well as the unique Vincentian festival of Nine Mornings?

However, these three months are especially important as they are directly concerned with the soul of the young nation, the building of our independent nation. The series of events within them that we commemorate lie at the very heart of our being as a nation, therefore in and of themselves, they demand such attention.

Whether we do so fittingly is another matter and the debate in that regard rages from year to year. That debate takes place alongside the ongoing one about the composition of our pantheon of National Heroes. Thus far, we have had Paramount Chief of the Garifuna, Chatoyer, designated as the sole National Hero, but controversy still reigns as to whether any others should join him, and more so, who those persons should be.

On our National Day, October 27, at the main event, the official celebration at the Independence parade, in the absence of national honours, a practice has developed in naming cultural and sporting ambassadors. Admirable as this might be in intent, one is not clear how that process works and this can sometimes cheapen richly deserved honours.

No such controversy can be attached however to the honouring of our national musical maestro, Frankie McIntosh, in the first week of our month of independence. Not only is it a most deserving gesture on the part of the organisers, but it also served to showcase our two biggest cultural ambassadors, the ‘Maestro’ Frankie as honouree, and star performer Alston ‘Becket’ Cyrus, a cultural icon in his own right.

As we compliment the organisers for their foresight, we cannot but reflect on our failure after almost 40 years of national Independence, to arrive at a consensus on the award of national honours. The debate has tended to focus on who should be national Heroes but we cannot all be placed in that category. There are hundreds of outstanding Vincentians here and abroad who, in a myriad of fields, have made sterling contributions to nation-building.

We have to address such matters with the maturity that four decades of independence should have bestowed on us. Instead our “glory” still seems to lie in revelling in the colonial honours handed down for New Year’s and Queen’s Birthday, while shunning our own. It goes beyond that too, for we are in the unenviable position of being perhaps the only independent nation in the Caribbean not to be able to boast of such basic identities as an agreed national dress.

Surely, the time is long overdue to address these matters.

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