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Discovery Day Debate

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"We are behind progressive countries in the region in honouring our people," said Rev. Father Sebastian Campbell...

Familiar Debate As Discovery Day Approaches







By Candia Dames


Nassau, Bahamas

12 October 2005






A familiar debate has again emerged as the Discovery Day holiday approaches, with one special interest group advocating for the name to remain unchanged and another urging parliament to pass a bill to formally rename the holiday National Heroes Day.


Just last week, the government introduced in the House of Assembly The National Heroes Bill, which would formally change the name of the holiday to National Heroes Day.


It is something that the National Heroes Committee welcomes.


"We are behind progressive countries in the region in honouring our people," said Rev. Father Sebastian Campbell, chairman of the Committee.


"Many of our Bahamian nation builders are under rated, dozens are never rescued from obscurity. We find it ever so convenient to wait until persons die and then and only then - to set aside time for flowing tributes that are oft interred with their bones."


He reminded that the National Heroes Committee was born out of a passion to celebrate Bahamians.


But while the Committee continues its push for National Heroes Day, the Bahamas in Prophecy group held its annual press conference this week, reiterating that it is continuing its quest to advocate for the preservation of Discovery Day as a national holiday in The Bahamas.


The group claims that it conducted an independent survey, which indicates that more than 85 percent of the people in the country would like to see Discovery Day remain a national holiday.


The day commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the new world in 1492.


"We call on the government to acknowledge the desires of the majority of the people and not to be sidetracked by a minority who would like to rewrite our rich historical heritage," Bahamas in Prophecy said in a statement.


The group also renewed its call for Minister Fred Mitchell to remove himself from the National Heroes Committee.


"The cabinet is responsible for making the final decision on recommendations put forward by the Cultural Commission," the statement said.


Minister Mitchell confirmed on Tuesday that he is still a member of the National Heroes Committee.


The Bahamas In Prophecy group said it is imperative that the name of the holiday not be changed.


"It is indeed the day these islands were rediscovered thereby making us the gateway to the new world," the group’s statement said. "This fact should be celebrated and not discarded.


"Discovery Day is the day from which the preamble [to] the constitution of the Bahamas draws its reference point upon becoming a nation in 1973."


The group added, "Bahamas in Prophecy believes and supports the idea that a holiday should be established to honour our heroes. However, a more appropriate day should be chosen. Such a day should embody the struggles and efforts as well as mark the event/events that made those that we seek to honour, national heroes. Otherwise the day will be empty and meaningless and not worthy of celebrating."


Prime Minister Perry Christie acknowledged in the House of Assembly last week that the proposal to change the name of the Discovery Day holiday continues to be a controversial one, but he said the government would move carefully and hear all views.


He also moved for a first reading of The National Honours Act, which would create four societies of honour – the Order of The Bahamas, the Companion of the Order of The Bahamas, the Order of Merit and the Order of Distinction.


Prime Minister Christie said the government was taking under consideration the recommendations of the Cultural Commission it established.


A Bahamian system of honours is something Father Campbell, and his group have been pushing for several years now.


"The New Year’s honours award should be the last we hear of colonial awards," he said in his statement. "It’s ironic that the Chairman of the Cultural Commission (Winston Saunders) has accepted a CMG – a colonial award, when he was to see to the demise of such an appendage of colonialism."


Prime Minister Christie said last week, "There is a strong minority report which says you don’t take an about face on history…the fact of the matter is it is an imperative that this country comes face to face with the need to have a national honour system and to have recognized in it the appropriate level of recognition for those men and women who have contributed greatly to our country.


"There is a very strong school of thought, notwithstanding this bill, that we, if only for a time, continue with the queen’s honours. Other countries in the region and the world have eliminated them."


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