Senator Proposes Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Usain Bolt & Miss Lou For National Heroes

Opposition Senator Floyd Morris served notice this morning in the Upper House of the Jamaican Parliament that he would be moving a motion for Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Usain Bolt and Louise Bennett Coverly to be all made National Heroes, no later than Independence Day next year.

His proposal comes on the heels of the recent declaration of pop star Rihanna, as a national hero of Barbados, which re-ignited calls for Marley especially, to be conferred with the honour.

Citing the Nationals Honours and Awards Act which gives the authority to the Governor-General to confer the status of national hero on a citizen of Jamaica subject to recommendations from the Prime Minister, Senator Morris said he would be moving the motion at next week Friday’s sitting of the Senate.

“Whereas the Act requires that an individual with such conferment of National Hero should be a citizen of Jamaica who has given most distinguished service to the country; and whereas the Honourable Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley, the Honourable James Chambers ‘Jimmy Cliff’, the Honourable Louise Bennett Coverly  ‘Miss Lou’ and the Honourable Usain St. Leo Bolt, have all given most distinguished service to Jamaica in the areas of music, sports, and culture…,” Senator Morris stated in his notice.

“And whereas these citizens have presented Jamaica in a positive light across the world and contributed to the dominance of the country in reggae music, sports and culture, since the country gained political independence in 1962, and where as they are prodigious efforts through their careers have contributed to the global recognition of Jamaica; be it resolved that this Honourable Senate calls upon the government to put in place the necessary mechanisms and procedures for these iconic Jamaicans to be declared national heroes and heroine respectively.  And be it resolved that these conferments be completed in time for the 60 anniversary of Jamaica’s independence on August 6, 2022,” he added.

Section Five of the Nationals Honours and Awards Act, Senator Morris said, gives authority for the establishment of an advisory committee for the order of National Hero, and also says that the advisory committee can conduct investigations as to individuals that it thinks fit to be conferred the honour of National hero, “whether living or dead” and convey the findings to the Prime Minister for action.

Following the conferral of Rihanna with the title of National Hero almost two weeks ago, calls have resumed in Jamaica for Bob Marley to be declared a National Hero.  Dancehall artist Spragga Benz, who was among the first to rehash, stated that Jamaica seemed to be awaiting Queen Elizabeth II’s “approval to honour Bob Marley as a National Hero.

For many years prior to this, there have been incessant calls by many Jamaicans for Marley to be declared a National Hero, among them music industry veteran Tommy Cowan, who was once his marketing manager.

Cowan had argued in February last year, that Marley was a global figure and no other person, including the seven National Heroes, had the impact of the Simmer Down singer, but that there were people in Jamaica who cannot “get beyond the fact that they see this man with a spliff that he can’t be a National Hero”.

A Bill Johnson poll, which was commissioned by The Gleaner in 2017, had shown that the country was divided on the issue as to whether Jamaica ought to declare any new National Heroes.

At the time of the poll, 55 per cent of the 1,500 respondents had said they could not think of anyone else who should be conferred National Hero, while the other 45 per cent had said that Jamaica could add Marley and track icon, now Dancehall producer Usain Bolt, to the line-up.

Opposition Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Western, Hugh Graham, had batted for Marley to be made a National Hero in an opinion piece in The Jamaica Observer in October.  Graham had stated that Marley was chief among those Jamaicans who were “just as deserving of the honour who are yet to be granted their earned consideration”.

Declaring that he fully expected his suggestion to be met with routine resistance, Graham had said that he saw no valid reason why Marley was not already designated a National Hero and that the Redemption Song singer, was no less a hero than Norman Manley

He also said that while Marley had been already been awarded the Order of Merit (OM) for having achieved ‘International Distinction in the Arts’, “to settle at OM is to confine Bob Marley to the status of a stellar international artiste when he was all that and much more”.
The MP said that Bob’s actions were heroic because he dedicated the bulk of his craft to “highlighting and combating injustices of the island as well as giving a voice to the disenfranchised sectors of Jamaica”.
“He never incited physical or violent rebellions like some of our most beloved national heroes but he was a reggae pioneer,” he noted. “Reggae” comes from the term “rege-rege” which means “rags” or “ragged clothes” so the very music he pioneered and championed was born from the will to uplift the lower class.

“Through his music he led a rebellion against all factions that perpetuated inequality and systems that exclusively favoured the haves. He withstood institutionalised classism becoming a hero among the have-nots,” he added.

Graham had also stated that in making the case for Marley, he was “fully aware of his transgressions” but there was no one who could “correctly claim that any of our established heroes were saints”.

“Based on the criterion outlined, how is Bob Marley not qualified to be a national hero? If after all that has been said and documented we are still on the fence then perhaps we ought to restructure our national hero criteria. After which we must reconsider our existing seven…” he had posited.