Group to select national heroes has no place for UBP

The National Heroes selection panel was revealed yesterday — but the United Bermuda Party is complaining it's been left out in the cold.

Four months ago, Culture Minister Neletha Butterfield said the panel would consist of three Government representatives and two from the Opposition.

Yesterday, the Minister announced Dame Jennifer Smith of the Progressive Labour Party would chair the group, with PLP MPs Ashfield DeVent and Alex Scott, PLP Senator Thaao Dill and Independent MP Darius Tucker comprising the rest of the team.

  • <b>Remembering our heroes: </b>Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation Neletha Butterfield along with members of the National Heroes Parliamentary Selection Committee gather for a press conference in Hamilton, pictured left to right are Senior Officer at Department of Community and Culture Affairs Heather Whalen (not on committee) Fromer Premier Alex Scott, Ms Butterfield and Chairperson of Committee Dame Jennifer Smith. Not present Senator Thaao Dill, MP Darius Tucker and MP Ashfield DeVent. Opposition party the UBP has complained at being left out.

    Remembering our heroes: Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation Neletha Butterfield along with members of the National Heroes Parliamentary Selection Committee gather for a press conference in Hamilton, pictured left to right are Senior Officer at Department of Community and Culture Affairs Heather Whalen (not on committee) Fromer Premier Alex Scott, Ms Butterfield and Chairperson of Committee Dame Jennifer Smith. Not present Senator Thaao Dill, MP Darius Tucker and MP Ashfield DeVent. Opposition party the UBP has complained at being left out.


The National Heroes selection panel was revealed yesterday — but the United Bermuda Party is complaining it's been left out in the cold.

Four months ago, Culture Minister Neletha Butterfield said the panel would consist of three Government representatives and two from the Opposition.

Yesterday, the Minister announced Dame Jennifer Smith of the Progressive Labour Party would chair the group, with PLP MPs Ashfield DeVent and Alex Scott, PLP Senator Thaao Dill and Independent MP Darius Tucker comprising the rest of the team.

United Bermuda Party chair Jeanne Atherden, Shadow Culture Minister, reacted last night: "The PLP Government's decision to appoint a heavily partisan committee to select Bermuda's national heroes is very disappointing."

Ms Butterfield argued the make-up of the committee would make it simpler to select future heroes.

She added that including lay people on the committee was also not suitable, saying: "We have looked at where they tried that in other jurisdictions, such as in the Caribbean, and it did not work."

Sen. Atherden said: "We have said from the very beginning of this exercise that decisions on National Heroes ought to be made by people chosen from the community, not for their politics but for their good judgment and, perhaps, their knowledge of history.

"We believe the Government would have best served the will of the people by turning the job over to the people. Instead, we have a committee of politicians representing one political party.

"Once again, the Government is putting politics before policy, partisanship before Country. It wants to control something that could be such a pure expression of community spirit."

So far, National Heroes Day has celebrated only Dame Lois Browne Evans, but the group will select more names from publicly submitted nominations.

"The designation of National Hero is considered to be an honour bestowed on a truly extraordinary individual," Ms Butterfield said.

"We believe that increased awareness of collective history enhances our sense of national unity amongst Bermudians."

She said the Minister would review all nominations for National Hero received from the committee.

However, she added: "The Cabinet is not obligated to select a National Hero each year."

Sen. Atherden responded on that point: "When Bermuda has produced so many great people past and present, we wonder why this power is included, unless it is contemplated that nominees might not be favoured by the Cabinet.

"Bermuda recognises great performers every year in sports, education and the hospitality industry, so this possible restriction on National Heroes comes across as odd.

"The Government, with these appointments, is saying it knows better than the people. That is a sad reflection on where we find ourselves today. In order to get this Island pulling together, we need to have a Government that has more faith, more trust in the people."

New selections will be formally announced by Cabinet at least three months before National Heroes Day in June. The closing date for the public to send in suggestions has been extended to the end of November.

The committee will choose individuals or groups based on qualities like enriching the lives of others, ready name recognition among the general population and the extent to which candidates reflect Bermuda's cultural heritage and diversity.

One of the panel members, Mr. Scott told The Royal Gazette: "I think there are so many individuals in the community who are unsung heroes."

"Hopefully this is an opportunity to recognise not just those who are high visibility but those who fly under the radar and quietly make Bermuda work."

The public is invited to make submissions to the Department at 81 Court Street in Hamilton, or check the website www.communityandculture.bm for more information. Any member of the public, including civil servants, is free to submit a name.

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