Opinion

The facts about New Year Honours

  • Taken to task: Chris Famous (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

I read with great interest the front-page story in The Royal Gazette on January 5 titled “Anger over absence of diversity in honours” and the opinion by Chris Famous titled “No honour in the lack of diversity”.

I followed this debate when it first surfaced on social media and I commented to offer some clarification on how the process works, as it is apparent that many do not know how the honours and awards system works.

Famous is one of those who was unaware of the process and made some unsubstantiated comments, which perpetuated misinformation and the divide to which he so often refers. There are those in the Progressive Labour Party who do not support the programme, even though many have accepted the awards; awards rightly earned. The PLP has always wanted independence; this type of issue is raised to help to push them on that path.

I have great respect for the honours and awards programme, and consider it truly an honour to those awarded after the review process. They earned it and should be immensely proud of the recognition.

How could it not be?

After all, a person has to be nominated by a member of the public, considered by the committee that makes recommendations to the Premier and the Governor, who then sign off for the Queen’s approval. I was honoured to be part of this process on a number of occasions as the Premier and this further enhanced my support of the programme.

It is valid for those who commented on the lack of diversity this year to raise the subject, but it would have been much more appropriate to look at the facts before making comment.

Following are a few facts to consider:

• The public can nominate anyone and suggest the honour but the honours committee decides the specific honour

• Early in 2017, the Department of Communications released information on the programme and requested nominations. I supported that on social-media platforms. This has also been done in previous years

• I have researched the awardees over the past few years and it is a diverse list

• It is my view that because anyone can nominate an awardee, a committee reviews and then the Premier and the Governor sign off, you have a system that has checks and balances

Can we improve how it works? Of course, and it is clear by the social-media chatter that more public information is critical. I am sure many fellow Bermudians can think of worthy nominees and people should be encouraged to nominate.

So let’s commit to making it work better and not resort to ridiculous comments such as what Famous made when he said I was “dismissive of Bermudians’ concerns”. Nothing is farther from the truth.

Let’s face up to the reality and not get sidetracked by soundbites or rhetoric. Any lack of diversity this year can be attributed only to the lack of nominations by Bermudians.

One cannot fault those who were nominated or awarded. We must fault ourselves for not seeking to recognise a diversity of worthy Bermudians this year.

We can do better and build a stronger community by recognising those who make valuable contributions to Bermuda.

Michael Dunkley is the former Premier of Bermuda, and the MP for Devonshire North (Constituency 10)