What have they done for us lately, if ever?Thursday, August 12, 2021
I congratulate the list of 2021 national honorees; however, two in particular are confusing.
Donald Harris, professor emeritus at Stanford University, is the father of American Vice-President(VP) Kamala Harris. He will be conferred with Jamaica's third-highest honour — the Order of Merit (OM). For those who don't know, Jamaica's honour system is based on rank.
Harris was unknown to most Jamaicans until his daughter decided to run for president. His biography states that he is an economist who has conducted research around the world and has advised countries, including Jamaica.
He might be deserving of national recognition, but OM? Harris was not even acknowledged by his daughter during her historic VP inauguration speech, and the connection to Jamaica was not mentioned. Some are saying that the OM is a lame attempt by the Government to try to get the VP's attention.
If you look at the group of esteemed OM recipients over the years, one should realise that something is wrong. Harris will now join the likes of Orlando Patterson of Harvard, Rex Nettleford, Sir Philip Sherlock, Edna Manley, Olive Lewin, Miss Lou, Bob Marley, and a few others. This is an exclusive group of outstanding Jamaicans, known to most of us, who have excelled consistently in both local and international spheres.
Doing ones job does not, by itself, make you qualified for the third-highest national honour. I think of people like Dr Henry Lowe who has been making significant breakthroughs in scientific research and now wonder why he is ranked below Harris, having been conferred with Commander of the Order of Distinction (CD). Carolyn Cooper, noted author, journalist, literary and cultural scholar, who has served Jamaica with distinction for decades, will also rank below Harris with a CD.
The other controversial awardee this year is none other than the Rev Al Miller who will be conferred with the CD honour. Miller has known past convictions and rose to fame when he aided “Shower Posse” gang leader and now convicted drug trafficker Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who is currently incarcerated in the USA, serving time for his various crimes.
What has Miller contributed to Jamaica in terms of excellence and brilliance to deserve this award? What has he done specifically to uplift the lives of others? To place him in the same category as Cooper, Dr Lowe, Father Richard Ho Lung, and others is insulting to say the least.
The process of nominating individuals for national honours should be re-examined. I believe the selection committee should consist of equal members from both sides of the House; I'd go further and include some independents such as justices of the peace. If we continue without improving the process we will lower the status and damage the credibility of our national honours.