Following the announcement of the Queen’s 2020 New Year’s Honours, leader of the opposition Philip Davis voiced his objection to the award of Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George KCMG to Godfrey Kenneth Kelly, CMG, DM.
Kelly led the list of Bahamians receiving the Queen’s New Year’s Honours. He was previously named Companion of Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) in 1999, was the recipient of a silver medal for his contribution to law on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee Anniversary of Bahamian independence in 1998 and made a Member of the Bahamas Order of Distinction in October 2019.
We do not recall the leader of the opposition voicing objection to any of these earlier awards including that bestowed on him just last October on the recommendation of the National Awards Committee on which the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is represented by Senator Fred Mitchell.
Now the leader of the opposition reveals a belief that membership in the Cabinet of the pre-majority rule United Bahamian Party (UBP) government disqualifies Sir Godfrey from additional national recognition — a knighthood bestowed by the Queen.
This new objection ignores some stubborn facts.
Godfrey Kenneth Kelly has a noteworthy record.
He is a graduate of Cambridge University who, before the advent of ministerial government, served on the Board of Education prior to his appointment as minister of education with responsibility for sport in 1964.
Late and inexcusable, it was only then that the UBP government, just three years before its overdue electoral defeat, began to make education more widely available for the grassroots, a matter they could no longer neglect and ignore.
Kelly as minister of education put in place the first expansion of government-operated secondary education beyond the elitist Government High School to include additional comprehensive high schools providing tuition up to the 12th grade, preparing pupils to sit General Certificate of Education (GCE). And, he established the first Out Island high school at Colonel Hill, Crooked Island.
Further, he had the foresight, even before the creation of CARICOM, for The Bahamas to join the University of the West Indies (UWI).
He was a sponsor for the establishment of the Cat Island Regatta in 1956, the second oldest Family Island Regatta.
As the minister responsible for sport and as an accomplished competitive sailor and Olympian — in Rome (1960), Tokyo (1964), Acapulco (1968) and Keil, Germany (1972) — Kelly recognized the value of sport in the formation of young citizens. He created a Sports Advisory Council and appointed a sports commissioner.
He had a hand in the dedication of nearly 600 acres of government land in Oakes Field to sports and was instrumental in planning the development of the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre. He presided over the official opening of the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in 1966.
The leader of the opposition seems to be mouthing history to fit the political propaganda of his party which likes to portray itself and its membership as the only agitators for change in The Bahamas.
The record suggests that there were others, including some members of the UBP government, who actively sought to challenge the social and economic norms of the country; Godfrey Kelly among them.
Davis’ blind spot regarding Sir Godfrey’s contribution to our national life ignores Godfrey Kenneth Kelly’s 66 years as a respected barrister, a successful businessman, an accomplished sportsman, indeed an Olympian, and an effective minister of education.
Fifty-two years since the achievement of majority rule and 47 years since attaining national independence, political parties in The Bahamas ought to have moved beyond race and discrimination as a basis of appeal to the electorate.
Surely the days when the PLP flooded the government monopoly television station with repeat airing of films like Roots, with the sole objective of fermenting racial division and strengthening their political base, are over.
So should be the tired practice of PLP leaders dredging up stories of political exclusion and minority government.
Those battles have been fought. And, those battles have been won by the majority.
Sir Godfrey’s knighthood is a deserved honor.