Butler: Disband the National Heroes panel

Former Culture Minister Dale Butler yesterday called for the National Heroes selection panel to be disbanded immediately.

Mr. Butler said the almost all Progressive Labour Party committee would not be a good legacy for Premier Ewart Brown and argued it should be made up of Island historians like himself instead.

Former Bermuda Sun journalist Meredith Ebbin the author of the Bermuda Biographies website also criticised the make-up of the panel, pointing out it contains only one woman and no whites.


Former Culture Minister Dale Butler yesterday called for the National Heroes selection panel to be disbanded immediately.

Mr. Butler said the almost all Progressive Labour Party committee would not be a good legacy for Premier Ewart Brown and argued it should be made up of Island historians like himself instead.

Former Bermuda Sun journalist Meredith Ebbin the author of the Bermuda Biographies website also criticised the make-up of the panel, pointing out it contains only one woman and no whites.

The group, announced by Culture Minister Neletha Butterfield on Wednesday, is chaired by Deputy Speaker Dame Jennifer Smith and contains fellow PLP MPs Ashfield DeVent and Alex Scott, PLP Senator Thaao Dill and Independent MP Darius Tucker.

They will submit ideas to Cabinet, which will then decide who will join Dame Lois Browne Evans as Bermuda's National Heroes.

Mr. Butler, the Minister who established the National Hero concept but is now a backbencher, told The Royal Gazette: "The best way to build national unity is to have a committee of at least seven citizens who know Bermuda's history give the Minister a recommendation for her review.

"The Minister's decision would then be taken to Cabinet for the final decision.

"I consider myself to be a specialist in the study of such processes and it is my considered opinion that Bermuda will never have more than ten such citizens.

"Until additional citizens are chosen, we have to be mature enough to celebrate the one or ones selected. In this light we need to pay more respect to the legacy of the late Dame Lois Browne Evans until someone else is selected."

He said Sir Henry Tucker and E.F. Gordon should have been selected as heroes during Bermuda's 400th anniversary celebrations, with Gladys Morrell, Barbara Ball and Roosevelt Brown to follow.

"I encourage Bermudians to read their histories to discover why they stand out above and beyond many who may be outstanding in their field but did not excel to the heights of a National Hero," said Mr. Butler, who is challenging Finance Minister Paula Cox and backbencher Terry Lister in the race to succeed Premier Ewart Brown.

"Selecting an almost all PLP committee is not a good legacy for the Premier to leave having initiated to his credit such national awards and although he failed, national honours as well," said Mr. Butler.

"Such initiatives do not develop harmony and do not foster respect in the people finally selected. The committee's life is short term and should be disbanded post-haste.

"It is not a progressive move that is welcomed by Bermudians and I cannot support it privately or publicly having taken the Bill to the House to establish such an event."

Suggestions for National Heroes on Ms Ebbin's website include Eustace Cann, Edward Harris, John Henry Lefroy, Alfred Brownlow Place and Mary Prince.

Ms Ebbin criticised the make-up of the panel and suggested it could have input from people like Dr. Harris or Clarence Maxwell.

She told The Royal Gazette in an e-mail: "The panel is not bipartisan, as I believe was promised. Neither is it representative. There is only one woman and no whites.

"The fact that this decision is being put to a panel of politicians, with no apparent input from historians, scholars, researchers, authors, filmmakers (Dr. Edward Harris, Dr. Clarence Maxwell, Ira Philip, Dr. George Cook, Dr. Jolene Bean, Lucinda Spurling, Rosemary Jones, William Zuill, Dr. Michael Jarvis come to mind), is flawed.

"But if it has to be politicians, then the absence of people like John Barritt, a veteran UBP politician and a former journalist, Senator Walton Brown, a former Bermuda College politics lecturer, and author Dale Butler, is a major oversight."

Earlier this week, the United Bermuda Party described the selection of a "heavily partisan" committee as "very disappointing".

Ms Butterfield says the UBP was invited to join the committee; the Opposition argues the committee should be made up of people from the community.

The Culture Ministry said in a statement: "Government absolutely refutes the claim that the National Heroes Parliamentary Committee is heavily partisan as the purpose of celebrating National Heroes Day is to include people from all walks of life and sections of community who have made a significant contribution to the development of Bermuda's heritage and culture."

The Minister added: "The Opposition's regrettable attempt to portray the committee's work in choosing a National Hero is reprehensible, however Government will not dwell on unnecessary distractions and will continue its work in involving the community in this national endeavour."

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