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I support PR’s view

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Fri Apr 12, 2013

Editor: I must commend and give my support to Bro. ‘PR’ Campbell for the views expressed on Monday of this week in his popular weekly media programme, “The Law and You”, on the planned lecture by Prime Minister Gonsalves on candidates for National Hero status. That lecture is one in a series being organized by the UWI School of Continuing Studies, in order to promote public discussion on the topic.{{more}}

In his comment, Bro. “PR”, who led the comprehensive constitutional review exercise of 2003 – 2009, opined that the Prime Minister should not go ahead with the planned lecture. He said that, in view of the fact that as Chairman of Cabinet, the Prime Minister has the ultimate authority in deciding whether there would be any additional National heroes, and if so, who, it would be inappropriate for the PM to be advancing any cases for such acclaim.

That position has nothing to do with the pros and cons of any or all of the possible candidates, nor does it matter who is responsible for organising the series. Rather, it is a fundamental matter of principle. The Prime Minister has already played his part in raising awareness on the subject, in initiating the process by which any other National Heroes are to be selected, and will then have to be the final arbiter.

PM Gonsalves continues to argue, not without merit, that not because he holds the office of Prime Minister should he be deprived of the right to his personal opinion as a citizen. But it is not as simple as that. For instance, a judge of the High Court, is a citizen with the same rights as every one of us, including the right to his/her own opinion on issues. But as arbiter on cases before the Court, he/she must be selective in expressing personal views publicly.

We can “preach Paul” until “Kingdom come”, there are political considerations involved in the choice for National Hero, particularly because the prime candidates were political figures of relatively recent vintage. There are strong political feelings, mainly partisan-based, in the cases of Ebenezer Joshua and Milton Cato. It should not be so, but the reality is that it IS SO. There are strong reservations in some quarters concerning both men with the more recent memory of the last days of Cato’s administration weighing against him.

To be fair, Mr Cato may not have wished to be the unfortunate centre of such a controversy, and according to reports, did not desire any such honour. Time may be not only a great healer, but the best judge. So, why are we in such a haste to court controversy in making selections now? We have yet to recognize appropriately our lone National Hero, Paramount Chief Chatoyer; shouldn’t that be the thrust of our efforts at focusing on National Hero status?

It is true that other countries have accorded National Hero status to more than one person. Each country has its own peculiarities. Barbados, for example, not only has more than one National Hero, but also a living one. We have agreed and legislated that this honour must be a posthumous one.

There are real challenges in making our choices. The advancing of some names for this ultimate accolade tells us that we have not yet come to grips, maturely, with what it is all about. What harm is there in taking our time, especially since it is a posthumous award? Similarly, our PM will not harm the process by listening to the advice of the wisened “PR” Campbell.

Renwick Rose

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