Dr. Fraser- Point of View
February 23, 2024
As we approach National Heroes and Heritage Month

As we move into the month of March, the month in which we celebrate our lone national hero, I am back on my favourite topic. Although I have my candidate who I hope will be our next National Hero, I am really not as concerned about this as I am about seeing a system of national honours coming into existence. I have been writing and speaking about this for quite a long time. I have made references in the past to Trinidad and Tobago which, apart from having national heroes, also has in place a system of national honours. For those who might not know, Vincentian born Elma Francois who migrated to Trinidad and became involved in the struggles of the labour movement had, since 1987, been named a national hero of that country. T &T’s highest national award is the “Order of the “Republic of Trinidad and Tobago” which replaced the “Trinity Cross” that had been the highest award up to 2006. Among the other awards are the “Chaconia Medal”, the “Humming Bird” Medal all given in gold, silver, and bronze. There is also the “Public Service Medal of Merit”. People from all stations of life have been given awards in those categories. I note, for instance, that calypsonian Scrunter was one of the recipients of the “Humming Bird” medal.

We had even after Independence been rewarding citizens with the Imperial honours – OBE, MBE, and Knighthoods. The OBE, to show how ridiculous this is, stands for Order of the British Empire which no longer exists. I assume that today it simply stands on its own for OBE or MBE and is not a symbol of an Empire that no longer exists. But it is still on the books. Forget this nonsense about being a member of the Commonwealth over which the King ‘rules’, but perhaps doesn’t reign. He has been declared a friend of SVG. Well so much for that. But it should go no further, although we still have appeals to the Privy Council, a contradiction to our declaration of Independence. So much for our pride in belonging to a post-colonial society and the rhetoric that follows it!

But there are some practical things we need to look at. Qualifications to be a national hero is a tall order. Actually, one does not set out to be a national hero. It is the country which decides on this after. In fact, to be a national hero you have to be dead. I have no problem with that. My big question is – why not honour persons who have done remarkable work for their country while they are alive? Moreover, many persons who have made significant contributions to their country and its development would not qualify to be national heroes. And by national I am referring to impact on the entire nation. There might be teachers, nurses, or ministers of religion who might have made a significant impact on a particular community rather than on the nation as a whole, who might deserve to be honoured. I think, particularly of “Mother Sarah Baptiste” who I featured in my text, co-authored with Keith Joseph, Caribbean Social Studies-St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I wrote then, “‘Mother’ Baptiste’s impact was not on a national scale, but she played a significant role in the lives of the people of the Carib community, a community that was extremely marginalised and with a population that lacked self-esteem and needed the kind of guidance and leadership that she gave.” (p. 85).

When the public is asked to submit names for persons deserving to be national heroes, many of the names do not meet the criteria established but are persons worthy of our honour. Let us concentrate first on national honours before we return to having another national hero. I have my own pick which I submitted and am prepared to defend my choice, but this can wait. The choices for national heroes are already dead and could wait. Let us instead honour those still living who have contributed to the development of the country and its people.

  • Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian