A ‘perverse’ decisionPLP objects to Sir Roland’s designation as nat’l hero
The decision to bestow the honor of Order of National Hero on former leader of the United Bahamian Party and Premier of the Bahamas, the late Sir Roland Symonette is “perverse” and an attempt to rewrite history, Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin asserted yesterday.
Her comments came after the government announced the names of 38 Bahamians to be honored – some of them posthumously.
Along with Sir Roland, former Prime Minister the late Sir Lynden Pindling, former Governor General the late Sir Milo Butler and former Free National Movement Leader the late Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield were also awarded the honor of Order of National Hero.
But Hanna-Martin said Sir Roland should not be named a national hero.
“I don’t think that’s the criteria of who you raise up in your nation as a national hero,” she said.
“A national hero’s work must be seminal, groundbreaking, advancing the causes of our people and personally I do not see that as having been the role played by Sir Roland Symonette, quite the contrary.
“He led a regime that actually led to the formation of the PLP and also led to the entire political struggle that led to January 10, 1967. It was to resist the cause or the regime that Sir Roland Symonette led.
“For that now to be twisted in this exercise and to see Pindling and Symonette in the same class and being honored as national heroes when they were diametrically opposed in terms of what they stood for and what they sought to do in our country’s history, is to me quite perverse.”
Minister of Trade and Immigration Brent Symonette, Sir Roland’s son, had no comment on the matter when asked yesterday.
He noted that he had nothing to do with the award.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian in 2012, Symonette said he was proud of his father.
“…I will remain proud of him all my life,” he said.
Sir Roland served in the House of Assembly for 52 years and represented the white merchant class of Bahamians known as the Bay Street Boys.
Fort Charlotte MP Mark Humes, who chairs the advisory committee for national honors, said yesterday that the committee’s recommendations were done after “careful deliberations”.
“…Others may, because of their personal biases or personal beliefs, have a different opinion about the matter,” he said.
“But at the end of the day it’s about what is written in the law, what the [National Honors] Act says. If they can say that in any way that this individual does not line up with what the act says then we may have a case.”
PLP Senator Fred Mitchell, a member of the committee, said yesterday that the party does not believe that Sir Roland fits the legal definition of a national hero.
“We made that point clear in all of the correspondences with the government on this matter,” he said.
According to the National Honors Act 2016, a national hero must have made “a seminal contribution to The Bahamas and which contribution has altered the course of the history of The Bahamas in a positive way”.
It goes on to note that the individual would have given service to the country “which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attainment of the highest excellence which has redounded to the honor of The Bahamas and which service and attainment have been acknowledged as a source of inspiration by a significant portion of the nation”.
Mitchell said his recommendation was for Sir Lynden to be awarded the honor.
He noted that while the committee can recommend names, it is ultimately up to the prime minister to advance them.
“We have no specific quarrel except that when we look at the law we ask the question: How can someone who opposed all of the marches up to independence, all of the historical points up to independence, qualify for having made a seminal contribution to the development of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” he asked.
“That’s an answer that must come from the prime minister. That is our position.”
The act notes that the governor general, in his or her position as chancellor, shall “on the advice of the prime minister after consultation with the advisory committee, appoint a person to an order