Former Prime Ministers Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Prime Ministers Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie will be invited this year to accept the government’s Order of Nation award, the same honour they rejected last year, according to Mark Humes, chairman of the advisory committee for national honours.
Mr Humes said: “Because the award is automatically given to prime ministers or former prime ministers, that invitation will be extended to them again. It will be up to them to determine if they will want to accept that award.”
The comment came after he announced the advisory committee is now accepting nominations for people to be awarded under the National Honours Act 2016.
Reverend Sebastian Campbell, chairman of the National Heroes Committee and a longtime advocate for the national honours system, called the former prime ministers’ rejection of the award last year an embarrassment for the Minnis administration.
Mr Ingraham told the press he was in no rush to accept the award, noting Sir Lynden Pindling received it posthumously.
Mr Christie, on the other hand, said he would not accept the award after several Progressive Liberal Party officials were charged with crimes in he sees as politically motivated prosecutions.
PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell, a member of the national honours advisory committee, said yesterday he hopes the former leaders accept the national award this time.
“I didn’t quite agree or understand why they (declined the awards the first time),” he said. “I heard their reason but my view is this is an honour bestowed on the country, by the country on them and they should accept the honour. That’s my firm view but they have their individual views.”
Mr Mitchell said he is eager to see more regular Bahamians awarded with honours this year, decrying last year’s process by which prominent people were mostly awarded.
“The thing I’m really concerned about is not the people on the top,” he said. “It comes off like we fixed up everybody on the top. What I’m talking about is the bravery medal for the police, the long service medal for the public service, the badges of honour for people at the community level. I know a man named Bill Swain up in Abaco. He deserves one of these things. He’s 80-years-old, an excellent contractor, one of the first local people to be appointed a building inspector, and it’s about time he be given such an honour. That’s why I continue to work with this, for these small people who continue to make their contributions as teachers, nurses, doctors in their communities. That’s the group I want to get and none of them were accepted last year and that I find very troubling and hope to correct next time.”
Last year during the debut year for the honours system, the Minnis administration bestowed the awards on 38 people. Mr Humes said the advisory committee had received more than 100 applications. Asked to respond to Mr Mitchell’s criticism, he urged people to convince committee members of why their nominee is the “cream of the crop in their respective areas.”
“If you feel there are people who are deserving out there, go ahead and flood us with the nominations,” he said. “You have to be able to say they made some significant contribution to the system, that at the end of the day they had some widespread effect. We have a tremendous amount of brilliant people in our society who make seminal contributions, so that’s a large category. What is so exceptional about this individual among all teachers that they should receive the national honour? Everybody won’t be able to get the award. What we’re looking out for is whether there will be a limit on the number of awards we can give up. We don’t want to water it down, giving out hundreds of awards. And of course we’re not the final say on what is awarded, we’re an advisory committee.”