KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Vincentians are being encouraged to approach in a dispassionate way the discussion about the possible appointment of more national heroes over the next year.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, delivering the feature address at the Wreath-Laying Ceremony at The Obelisk in honour of National Hero Joseph Chatoyer, said Wednesday – Hero’s Day — that the discussion should not be used to “settle scores”.
“We celebrate today the life of Joseph Chatoyer. We celebrate very much his immense contribution. We thank him, we honour him,” he said at the event at Dorsetshire Hill, where Chatoyer is believed to have been ambushed and killed by the British in 1795.
He said the names of several individuals have been the subject of discussion for possible candidacy for National Hero.
These persons, he said, include Hugh Mulzac, Elma Francois, George Augustus McIntosh, Ebenezer Theodore Joshua, Robert Milton Cato, and Dr. J. Pamenos Eustace.
“There may well be others but those are some of the names that people have been talking about for the possible elevation to the status of National Hero,” he said, adding, “Over the next year, we will have a conversation and I am hopeful that the debate will be robust, honest, reflective and respectful.
“I know that there are some people who are alive who would have worked with or against persons like Ebenezer Joshua and Milton Cato,” Gonsalves said.
“We must not allow this debate to be used to settle scores; because some persons may have a score which they want to settle. Please, let’s not use it for that. Let’s have a dispassionate discussion and let us use it for unifying purpose and let us use it for upliftment and national reconciliation,” Gonsalves further stated.
Joshua, a former premier, was a leader of the People Progressive Party, the base of which formed the current opposition New Democratic Party, which was founded in 1975.
Cato, this country’s “founding father”, was the first premier and first prime minister and was a leader of the St. Vincent Labour Party, which, in 1994, merged with the Movement for National Unity to form the Unity Labour Party, which Gonsalves leads.
Joseph Chatoyer, Paramount Chief of the Garifuna People, became this country’s sole National Hero in 2002. Gonsalves said that after ten years, his government thought it appropriate to make other deserving Vincentians national heroes.
He said that, in accordance with the Order of National Hero Act, Cabinet has begun to establish the National Hero’s Advisory Committee.
The panel will comprise two persons appointed by the Governor General in his absolute discretion, two persons appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister and one person on the advise of the Opposition Leader, three persons approved by the Governor General — after consultation with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition — from a list of names submitted by local non-governmental organisations.
The Committee will receive and consider nominations of persons for the Order, investigate the persons on whom honour may be conferred and carry out duties assigned by the Governor General, the Chancellor of the Committee.
The Committee may consult with other persons or bodies as it thinks necessary and its findings will be submitted to the Governor General who will submit the report to the Cabinet for consideration.
The Committee will conduct its business of in private.
To be a National Hero of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) a person must be born in SVG or was a citizen at the time of death or was entitled to be a citizen.
The individual must also satisfy one of the following criteria:
- Has given outstanding service to SVG and their contribution has altered positively the course of the history of the country.
- Has given service to SVG, which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attainment of the highest excellence which has redound to the honour of SVG.
- The person has through heroic exploits and sacrifices contributed to the improvement of the economic, social and political conditions of SVG generally.
The persons must also be deceased.
“You can’t have in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as in some other places, a live national hero. It would be a problem if you have a live national hero who goes to an after-dinner party and in a moment of weakness drives his vehicles into somebody else and you have to take him to court for negligent driving or something of the sort,” Gonsalves said.