The Reverend Canon Sebastian Campbell is passionate about our home-grown national honors system and well he should be. He has worked assiduously to bring it into being.
But he has completely deluded himself into thinking that before the Honors Act 2016 came into force, we did not have a national honors system in The Bahamas.
We have always had a national honors system administered by our sovereign, the queen, on the advice of her Bahamian ministers. Twice a year – on her birthday and to mark the new year – the queen bestows ancient honors on those citizens who have served her realm.
If the reverend canon doesn’t like that he should first and foremost begin a lobby to change our government from a monarchy to a republic. Or he can go back on his own hard work on the national honors committee and persuade Parliament to abolish one of the two systems we now have in place.
But it is going to be a bit rich for the good canon to argue for republicanism given the fact that his very existence and life work is tied to the monarchy. The queen, after all, is the head of the Anglican Communion and even his elevation in 2013 to the ecclesial rank of canon can be viewed as a gift of Her Majesty.
Perhaps he may want to consider returning this holy honorific which is akin to the title monsignor in the Roman Catholic Church. That would be his right and could help remove any hint of hypocrisy from this man of the cloth.
The National Honors Act 2016 is law because it received royal assent via the governor general who, incidentally, serves as the chancellor of the honors program. The only way to give it a more royal blessing would be to have named the queen herself to that role.
We elected not to make our modern honors a replacement for the ancient honors, like Jamaica did with theirs. By their law, the only Jamaican who can accept an ancient honor from the queen (who is also their head of state), is the governor general since it would be complete farce to legislate that the personal representative of the monarch couldn’t receive a direct honor from the woman at whose pleasure he or she serves.
The savings clause of the Jamaican law further states that the queen can override the ban on honoring Jamaicans other than the governor general by giving them any of her personal honors such as the Royal Victorian Order, which is the exclusive gift of the queen for services rendered to the royal family personally.
Much like Campbell, the Jamaicans never bothered to understand that the queen doesn’t bestow ancient honors. The Cabinet imbues them with the necessary stamp of domestic authenticity.
One of the honorees in the New Year’s honors list is Dame Janet Bostwick, a most deserving awardee. Last year she was installed with the award of Order of The Bahamas, and because our legislation has a savings clause that permits it, she can dutifully wear both honors. One doesn’t lessen the other.
Indeed, all four of our awardees for national hero carry two Bahamian honors – the ancient one from the sovereign that they all served, and the modern one which is also from the same sovereign that they all served.
If Campbell didn’t want it that way he should have stormed out in protest when they made the queen’s representative the chancellor of the honors system, being careful not to trip on his own tippet on the way out the door.
He would do well now to go and re-read chapter 18 of the act, which states: “For the avoidance of doubt, any honor conferred upon any citizen of The Bahamas by Her Majesty the Queen shall not be extinguished by reason of this act.”
It might be useful to refer the canon to a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “My words fly up; my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”
– The Graduate