Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday he is “appalled” that the government recommended former United Bahamian Party (UBP) Cabinet minister Godfrey Kelly for a knighthood.
Kelly, an Olympic sailor, has been named Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George for services to business and sports.
He served in Sir Roland Symonette’s Cabinet as minister of education from 1964 to 1967.
Davis told The Nassau Guardian, “What we have to look at is what are we saying to the Bahamian people?”
He questioned whether Kelly’s knighthood 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?”
Davis said, “Had it not been for the election of 1967, we might have still found ourselves in the state that we were then.”
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, 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.
Yesterday, Davis called on the government to address the pattern of recommending former UBP politicians for knighthoods and other national honors.
“I’m calling for an action or form of reparations and repentance and an acknowledgement of that that was perniciously inflicted on the Bahamian people and until that is done no consideration should be given for any awards,” Davis said.
However, George Smith, a former PLP Cabinet minister, yesterday disagreed with Davis’ position on the matter.
“I agree that those who were a part of the repressive and the racist government, the UBP government, should have to bear the burden and the guilt that come with the deeds that they did to suppress the majority of the Bahamian people, but on an individual level some of the major personalities of that era have made contributions in other areas and it is to the judgment of the government of the day to determine who they would recommend for honors, and of late, when you consider some of the names that have been advanced, Godfrey Kelly is as deserving in my mind as many others because he certainly made a greater contribution than many others; his contributions in sports, and in business and in the law were greater than many of the people who have been honored.”
Last year, the government announced that Sir Roland, who was the first premier of The Bahamas, was being honored posthumously. He was awarded the Order of National Hero at the inaugural national honors.
The move was met with criticisms from some members of the public.
Following the announcement, Archdeacon James Palacious said he did not believe that Sir Roland met the criteria as defined in law to be considered a national hero.
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”.
Palacious said, “In light of those criteria, I find it difficult to say that Sir Roland ought to be called a national hero.
“In fact, I could quote a speech made by the prime minister at the recent majority rule [celebration] in which he talked about the abuses under the former regime, which was headed by Sir Roland.”
However, former Court of Appeal President Dame Joan Sawyer shot that down, noting that Sir Roland was “beyond national hero” and “more in a sanctified situation”.
Yesterday, Davis also expressed concern that some of the individuals receiving honors from the Queen also received national honors in October.
Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest and Reverend Dr. Carrington Pinder are receiving the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire.
Kelly, Turnquest and Pinder were all honored at the National Honors Investiture ceremony in October.
Pinder was named a companion of the Order of Merit.
Turnquest was named a companion of the Order of Distinction, whereas Kelly was named a member of the Order of Distinction.
Davis said the repetition of honorees “speaks to the partisan nature of these things”.
“You would’ve thought that there are more deserving persons for awards,” Davis said.
“Just to keep it narrowed in their partisan compartment that they have, also speaks to the denigration of the awards.”
He added, “The concern is that the pool of Bahamians who are deserving of award are being overlooked, and that you would just continually give the same persons awards speaks volumes to the partisan nature and thinking of this government. That is worrying and it continues to worry me.”