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EDITORIAL: Recapture importance of Heroes Day


EDITORIAL: Recapture importance of Heroes Day

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ON FRIDAY we celebrate National Heroes Day. It should be an occasion that unites us as a people. Unfortunately, the occasion will likely highlight how politically divided we are, even if we agree that there is more that unites us than separates us.

Since its inception in 1998, National Heroes Day has been synonymous with the observance of the birthday of the island’s first Premier and founding father of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Sir Grantley Adams.

On the other hand, the January 21 birthday of Errol Barrow – another political giant, one of the founding fathers of the Democratic Labour Party and the man who led this nation into Independence – is celebrated by members of that party.

Barrow was the first to have a day in his memory – in 1989, two years after his death. The BLP could not touch that day and went one step further, by honouring Adams on his day and including the others elevated to National Hero status.

But the reality is that the other heroes – Bussa, Charles Duncan O’Neal, Sarah Ann Gill, Sir Hugh Springer, Sir Frank Walcott, Samuel Jackman Prescod, Clement Payne and even the only living member of that elite group, Sir Garfield Sobers – are secondary to Adams on April 28.

On reflection, we started on the wrong foot in our efforts to exalt the contributions of these men and woman who did much to make Barbados what it is today. Barrow had a day and Adams had to have one also. The two political parties had to have equality.

We have renamed Trafalgar Square as Heroes Square, but nothing much more of significance has occurred. The spirit and meaning of National Heroes Day have no real national focus or feeling and it is met with general apathy.

The fuss made at the launch and for a period after its institution seems to have all but disappeared. With the exception of Sir Garry, the National Heroes are merely people of yesteryear with whom a large segment of the society does not connect.

As the country struggles to overcome a prolonged economic crisis, most people are more concerned about bread-and-butter issues.This is why we must endeavour to bring a feeling of importance back into National Heroes Day and let it be more than a day of fun and frolic. It should be non-partisan with a clear focus, and of necessity must involve young people in our effort to strengthen civic engagement.

If as a nation we can’t work together and be more united, then National Heroes Day celebration will become increasingly irrelevant.