Attorney General Carl Bethel defended the government’s decision to recommend former United Bahamian Party (UBP) Minister of Education Godfrey Kelly for a knighthood, noting that Kelly is “fully deserving”.
Kelly, a former Olympic sailor, was named Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George for service to business and sports in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours.
On Monday, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said he was “appalled” by the decision to give Kelly a knighthood.
He questioned whether it is “an effort to rewrite history or is it just awarding persons who would’ve perpetrated ideologies and policies and philosophies that treated the majority of our Bahamian people as second-class citizens?”
However, Bethel said, “He is fully deserving of this consideration. He served the country well.”
The attorney general added, “He did not perpetrate any ideology when he was minister of education except building the schools to educate the Bahamian children Over-the-Hill, properly educate.
“And nothing in his life has displayed any retrograde ideology from that time to this…”
According to Davis, individuals who understand the UBP’s educational policies during Kelly’s tenure as minister “would be appalled that he is being awarded such a prestigious award”.
However, Bethel said that Kelly was “an excellent minister of education”.
“When he was UBP minister and they got internal self government — we talk about his record of education — he started a massive building program of schools for Bahamian children when he was minister of education,” he said.
“H. O. Nash [Junior High School], C.H. Reeves [Junior High School are] two that come to mind immediately. I think also the school they call T. A. Thompson now.
He continued, “And as soon as they (the UBP) got internal self government and the power to control their own budget, he spearheaded a massive education drive to build [schools] for Bahamian children so that their quality of education could be improved.
“Of course, they lost in ‘67 and it was the PLP who opened the schools that Godfrey Kelly had built. But it was Godfrey Kelly’s drive that caused them to be there to be opened when the PLP came to power.
“He has unquestionable dedication to the Bahamian people and to improving public life.
“When it was clear that, you know, the political dynamics had changed in the country, he gracefully stepped back.”
Kelly is not the first UBP member to be bestowed a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II. Some received knighthoods prior to 1967.
Sir Roland was knighted in 1958.
Sir Stafford Sands and Sir Harold G. Christie both received knighthoods in 1964. They were both elected to Parliament for the UBP in 1962.
In 2001, Geoffrey Johnstone, a former UBP Cabinet minister, was also knighted.