Close to 200 Jamaicans were honoured for their exemplary contribution to the development of the nation during a virtual ceremony aired yesterday, on National Heroes’ Day.
The Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen conferred the nation’s fourth-highest honour, the Order of Merit (OM), on this year’s sole recipient, Professor Orlando Patterson; while five equally distinguished Jamaicans were bestowed with the Order of Jamaica (OJ), the nation’s fifth-highest honour.
These recipients are Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda; President of the Senate Thomas Tavares-Finson, former Governor of the Bank of Jamaica, Brian Wynter, for distinguished service to central banking and the financial sector in Jamaica; Olympian Merlene Joyce Ottey and banker Patrick Hylton, for distinguished contribution to the financial sector and philanthropy.
The governor-general also bestowed 31 Jamaicans with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (CD), while 40 received the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer (OD), for outstanding work in various fields. The recipients included leading football goal scorer Khadija Shaw, Comedian and actor Oliver Samuels, Mayor of Lauderdale Lakes Hazelle Rogers and legendary drummer and musician Willie Stewart.
The airing of the 2020 national honours and awards ceremony on national television and social media platforms was preceded by a floral tribute, which was broadcast live from National Heroes’ Park in Kingston.
The Badge of Honour for Gallantry was bestowed on one civilian and three district constables for acts of bravery they displayed to save lives. In addition, the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service was conferred on 26 people, while 20 individuals received the Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service.
Of note, late Superintendent of Police Leon Clunis, late Detective Corporal Dane Biggs, and late Constable Decardo Hylton were bestowed with the Medal of Honour for Gallantry, posthumously.
“They are examples for others to follow,” he emphasised.
“Each year, as we recall the contribution of past and present heroes, we are inspired by their selflessness and moved to emulate their courage. By their outstanding sacrifices, our heroes have made Jamaica a better place,” the governor general said.
Replying on behalf of those honoured, Professor Patterson expressed gratitude to the Government and people of Jamaica for recognising his contribution to Jamaica and that of fellow awardees.
“On behalf of all of us, it is with great humility, gratitude and joy that we accept these national awards. We are humbled and privileged to walk in the footsteps of those who have previously been honoured, who have contributed so much to our country’s social and spiritual life, its politics, business, security, and vibrant culture,” he said.
Professor Patterson, who was honoured for his highly distinguished international contribution to academia, West Indian literature, sociology, and the epistemology of social culture, thanked previous honours and awards recipients for paving the way “and for being the martyrs of excellence that we all strive to emulate”.
“On behalf of my fellow honourees, I also wish to give thanks to the parents and relatives who brought us up, and to all those who helped them. In the sacrifices they made, they went well beyond the call of duty, nurturing us to work harder, to think more clearly, to be courageous, to strive always to become the best that we could be,” he said, in his recorded message.
Known for his work on issues of race in the United States, Professor Patterson is a historical and cultural sociologist, and the John Cowles professor of sociology at Harvard University.
Professor Patterson is presently spearheading Jamaica’s 14-member Education Transformation Commission, which is being tasked with carrying out a comprehensive review of the country’s education system.
The OM may be conferred upon any citizen of Jamaica or a distinguished citizen of another country who has achieved international distinction. This order is not conferred upon more than two people in any one year.
The ceremony was enlivened with performances from Jermaine Edwards, Stephen “Cat” Coore, Michael Sean Harris, Ja’mila Falak, J-Summa and the Outlawz, Rory Baugh, Maylyn Dillon, and the National Dance Theatre Company.