Former Prime Ministers Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE decision of former Prime Ministers Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie to reject the government’s national honour award is an “embarrassment” for the Minnis administration, Reverend Sebastian Campbell, chairman of the National Heroes Committee, said yesterday.
Mr Ingraham and Mr Christie, according to The Tribune’s sources, recently informed Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling of their rejection of the government’s Order of the Nation award, which is bestowed upon all who have been appointed governor general or prime minister.
The former leaders were among 38 people selected to be awarded the national honours this year in accordance with the National Honours Act, the first group of honourees selected.
Neither man has spoken publicly about his decision.
Rev Campbell, a strong proponent of the national honours system, said he is disappointed by the decision of Mr Ingraham and Mr Christie but added the Minnis administration should have asked them if they wanted the award before announcing them as recipients earlier this summer.
“They should’ve gotten their permission before they went public with it,” he said. “In my case they called me and got my permission and got it in writing before they went with it.
“The assumption is that once you are a prime minister or governor general it is automatic that you will get the award and that’s an unfortunate assumption because anyone has a right to refuse. Remember Arthur Hanna (former governor general) refused the knighthood? It’s not automatic. This is a lesson that the government will have to learn from.”
As for the decision of the former leaders, Rev Campbell said: “That seems to be a personal matter but those guys, Ingraham and Christie, that’s their business and I don’t want to speculate on why they did it. I’m disappointed, but I don’t want to sit as their judge. I thought it would have been a good thing for them to accept it. I would invite them to say why they won’t accept it publicly at this time. That might help further the system even more. Ingraham was in agreement with the system. He brought the first legislation. Christie came behind, polished it up and enacted the act. They all wanted it but maybe the time is not right for them to accept the award.”
Rev Campbell said he doesn’t believe the actions of Mr Ingraham and Mr Christie will damage the prestige of the award, saying if anything, it has given the system valuable publicity.
“The colonial awards are what needs to be abolished,” he said. “Its continued existence does something to the integrity of our national honour system but they not accepting the awards is a challenge more than a controversy.”
Speaking of the importance of the honour system, Rev Campbell said: “We are trying to carve out our own local Bahamian identity and we must look at the road we have trod; Majority Rule is one plank in that, independence is another plank in that and you can’t continue to say you are independent when you are depending on a foreign imperial government to honour your people.”
Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said yesterday that Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has “no comment” on the matter.