On Monday, national honors, announced at the 46th anniversary of independence in July, were awarded to 21 recipients at a ceremony at Government House on a day reserved for remembering national heroes.
Leading the list of honorees were Frank Watson and OAT ‘Tommy” Turnquest, both former members of Parliament appointed to Cabinet following the signal 1992 general election which created the first Free National Movement (FNM) government.
The former parliamentarians were made Companions of the Order of Distinction.
They were joined at various ranks in the order by additional deserving individuals who gave, and others who continue to give, sterling service to the country in public service like Frank Rolle and Missouri Sherman-Peter, in business, like Godfrey Kelly and Andrew “Dud” Maynard, and in the church as Norward Rahming.
Additionally, five other men of religion were made Companions, Officers or Members of the Order of Merit including Bishop Carrington Pinder, Rev. Bishop J. Carl Rahming, together with posthumous awards for two cultural icons, the late parliamentarian and Jumbey Village motivator and creator, Edmund Moxey, and the late, great Bahamian trumpeter, Lou Adams.
And, The Bahamas’ newest addition to its iconic athletic hall of fame, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, was awarded the Order of Lignum Vitae.
This was just the second occasion for the formal conferring of Bahamian national honors under the system of honors enacted in 2017 and brought into effect in 2018. Previously, except for honors granted to mark the Silver Jubilee of independence in 1998, official government recognition of citizens’ service to the country have been through a royal award given by the sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, on the recommendation of the government in The Bahamas.
The system of Bahamian national honors was considered long overdue when it was enacted in 2017.
For some time, Bahamians have called for a Bahamian honor system. Indeed, former Governor General Arthur D. Hanna conspicuously refused to accept any British award upon his appointment as governor general in 2005 notwithstanding being offered the traditional knighthood which accompanies the post, on at least two separate occasions. And Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd also demurred, advising that he would await the adoption of a Bahamian system of national honors.
It was disappointing therefore to see the paltry turn-out of Cabinet ministers and other members of Parliament at the Government House ceremony.
Notably, a single member of Cabinet, Desmond Bannister, was present for the auspicious occasion. And only a handful of other members of Parliament bothered to attend.
The leader of the opposition was just as conspicuously absent; the opposition being represented by its senator and member on the National Awards Committee, Fred Mitchell.
Two front rows of seats prominently reserved for members of Cabinet and or of Parliament remained empty throughout the presentation.
Such conspicuous absences suggest either protest or disrespect. Perhaps those absent parliamentarians will provide their explanations to the country when next they meet in Parliament.
It is our view that respect and value for things Bahamian will only be garnered by our community if they are accorded respect and value by our leaders, be they public or private, civic or religious.
The biographies of each of the 21 citizens recognized and awarded on Monday demonstrate the worthiness of each. We congratulate each honoree.
If there was any fault that could be attached to the list of those recognized it was that 10 of the 21 had been recognized previously through awards granted by Her Majesty the Queen and in the 1998 Silver Jubilee Independence Awards.
We are aware that the general public is always invited to submit recommendations for national awards.
We believe that responses are few and far between.
Perhaps greater exposure and promotion needs to be given to that invitation through the print and audio visual media because left to officialdom it seems that a few deserving individuals are repeatedly recognized to the exclusion of others who are also deserving.