by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): A conversation ensued on local talk shows in recent days about the prospects of individuals other than politicians becoming National Heroes.
On Monday (June 26) Host of WINN FM’s ‘Voices’ Program, Socrates, shared with the public, a recommendation from former Antiguan Calypsonian King Progress, that Nevisians and Kittitians make a united plea for King Ellie Matt and Kim Collins to be honoured as National Heroes.
King Ellie Matt officially known as Elston Nero is considered to be one of the Caribbean’s most gifted and celebrated musical icons, while Kim Collins is viewed as one of the Caribbean’s most successful track and field athletes.
Carl Browne, a frequent caller to the Federation’s talk shows, gave his candid opinion on the matter. He lamented that the call for King Ellie Matt, Kim Collins and also Elquemedo Willett to be National Heroes had been made for many years, but the men are yet to receive the honours.
“That’s been a debate we have been having since the Labour Government was in, under Dr. Denzil Douglas for 20 years. We have been having that debate for seven years under Timothy [Harris] as Prime Minister- the Unity Government and here is this talk coming up again [with] Dr. Drew, leading another Labour Party [Government] again. It is long overdue and overbearing. We have debated on talk shows for many years now that Kim Collins and Ellie Matt should be National Heroes. It should not just be politicians. These people have done tremendous advertisements, tremendous contributions to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and the world over. We all know, those of us who are old enough, all the nations and countries around the world that Ellie Matt and the GI’s Brass has made St. Kitts proud and beat up some of the best then.”
On Monday’s ‘Issues’ Program on Freedom FM, Carl Browne expressed why the first Leeward Islander to play for the West Indies, Mr. Elquemedo Willett, should become a National Hero.
He paved a way for all the other youngsters here in St. Kitts-Nevis and the little honours that they have awarded him is not enough. It’s not enough at all for what that man in Nevis, Elquemedo Willett, has done.”
In the case of Kim Collins, Browne said, age should not be a factor when choosing a National Hero.
Browne recalled “Many years ago when we brought it up, they said Kim Collins was too young. So, I hope now that won’t be the argument, because I don’t think National Hero, once you have made your contribution, should have any age on it.”
Browne pleaded with Dr. Terrance Drew, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis to ensure that Willett, Collins and Ellie Matt receive the highest honour of the land during his tenure in office. He said the 2023 celebrations of Independence and National Heroes Day is the ideal time.
“Now, under Dr. Drew as the leader and Prime Minister, we are suggesting that before the term ends, please honour these three honourable gentlemen as National Heroes. We don’t want to hear anymore politicians. We have other people in the constituencies, in the country, in the Federation, that have done just as much and even more than these politicians, to be honoured as National Heroes. Other people will have other people, because there are other people who are deserving, but I think these prime candidates should be honoured first as National Heroes.”
Considering who has been recognised as National Heroes in St. Kitts and Nevis thus far, the perception by some people in the Federation is that the likely candidates to be designated the Order of National Hero will be politicians. However in Section 9 (2) of the National Honours Act of St. Kitts and Nevis, it states “The Order of National Hero may be awarded to any citizen of Saint Christopher and Nevis who has rendered distinguished and outstanding service to the Nation.”
The National Honours Act was established in 1996 by the Federal Parliament of St. Kitts and Nevis with the passage of the National Honours Act. The three categories of awards under the National Honours Act are the Order of National Hero, the Companion of the Star of Merit and the Medal of Honour.
As it relates to the process by which individuals are selected for the award, persons are invited to submit nominations to the Ministry of National Security. The nominations would be reviewed by the National Honours Awards Committee. Recommendations would then be provided by the committee to the Prime Minister with the consent of the nominee; then the Governor General would give the approval, acting upon the advice of the Prime Minister.
The first Premier of St. Kitts- Nevis and Anguilla, Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw became the first National Hero in 1998. In 2004, the second Premier and first chief Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Sir Caleb Azariah Paul Southwell and Sir Joseph Nathaniel France, a politician and trade union leader, were awarded with the status of National Heroes. Sir Simeon Daniel- the first Premier of Nevis and Sir Kennedy Simmonds- the first Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis were named as National Heroes in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
The 25th National Heroes Day will be celebrated on September 16th, 2023, followed by the 40th St.Kitts and Nevis Independence celebration on September 19, 2023.