P J: Establish another national heroes committee
Former Prime Minister P J Patterson

Long retired Jamaica Prime Minister P J Patterson has suggested the establishment of another committee to decide on the merits of having additional national heroes.

Simultaneously though, Patterson, Jamaica's lead policymaker from 1992 to 2006, refused to be drawn into the question of which individuals would, based on performance over time, be qualified to receive this north Caribbean island's highest honour.

There are seven national heroes, all named over four decades ago, but the debate over who should be so recognised reignited with fellow Caribbean island Barbados' appointment last week of internationally acclaimed artiste Rihanna as that country's latest addition to its previous list of 10 names.

Under Patterson's stewardship, a committee had been established to look into the process of determining whether or not more individuals were qualified to be elevated to the status, but no recommendations were made public, even after the now octogenarian's departure from the Jamaican Parliament and direct politics itself.

“Yes, a committee was established and we acted on the first report that came from Rex Nettleford. That report was later revised under 'Babsy' Grange, but I am not aware of its present and past constitution,” Patterson said on Friday.

“The time for a new committee is long overdue,” Patterson added in the interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Asked if someone like reggae superstar Bob Marley would be a hot choice for selection to national hero status, Patterson again stayed far from the matter.

“I am not making any comment on any of the people who are before us. Some polls have been done, but we can't depend on polls alone. A committee should be set up to set out very clear criteria and then make the recommendations for implementation,” said the man often referred to as Jamaica's 'elder statesman'.

– H G Helps

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