Our Readers' Opinions
March 17, 2006
Appointing a National Hero

EDITOR: It is that time of year when national pride takes precedence over everything else. This state of affairs gives rise to the discussion as to which member of our community should be given national honour, attention or be proclaimed a national hero. But who is a national hero? {{more}} In my opinion a national hero is one who has contributed positively to the development of the community. Not one who merely satisfied the conditions and expectations of his or her office, but one who sacrificed and went beyond the call of duty, to bring about meaningful change in the life of the people of his or her nation, or one who performed or demonstrated acts of selflessness that may or may not be acts of courage, and which carry with them lessons that are worthy of emulating by other members of the community.

Very often we hear the names of politicians coming to the fore to be given national hero honors. But the question must be asked, did that politician satisfy the conditions of his office, did he go above and beyond the call of duty, did the changes brought about under his leadership have national impact (change the ideology of the people). After these questions have been answered, then we can decide whether or not the nominee was just another employee performing a job for which they were paid.

If the nominee is proven to have gone above and beyond the call of duty and brought about significant changes, then the next thing to be considered is whether the nominee’s private life was/is such that if brought to international attention, would bring pride to our people.

I must give support to Dr. Adrian Fraser’s opinion that the lofty status of national hero should not be awarded to an individual while he or she is still alive, and can bring dishonor to the award. Remember that to err is human and a dead person cannot err.

We must not be pressured into proclaiming individuals as national heroes. We must be careful that declaring an individual a national hero does not bring disrepute to, or lower the standard of the nation’s highest honor. It is clear that St. Vincent and the Grenadines needs a system of honors for the people. This system of honors should fall outside the perimeter of the national hero honors, but must correlate with the stages or process of selection.

This system needs to be guarded carefully. There must be a set of clear and understandable principles and standards which an individual should meet before they can be considered for such award. A committee should be set up to examine, explore, and investigate the recommended individual to be honored.

National Hero Award Should Not Be Taken Lightly

This committee should be free from political influences. When names are approved by the committee, there must be public education and then public debate as to the validity of the names. Should the name survive the national scrutiny, it should be finally approved by Cabinet before that person receives a national award. In this case Cabinet is the final stage.

There must also be a system of appeal. This system should facilitate any objection that members of the community or interest groups may have. A committee should be set up to examine the content of the appeal. If in the committee’s opinion the appeal has merit, there must be an open hearing. This hearing should make recommendation to Cabinet. The findings of this hearing should be made public, thus ensuring transparency.

The criteria for national hero award should go one step further. After the recommended names have passed though the above scrutiny, every adult member of the community should be given an opportunity to decide whether or not a nominee should be given national hero status. The national hero honour should be considered every five years if there is a nominee to be considered. This should be done in a referendum, making it a decision of the people, for the people and by the people. The national hero award should not be taken lightly.

Allan Palmer