Current Affairs

Current Affairs




PMs accept national honour with humility
INDI MCLYMONT, Observer staff reporter
Thursday, December 05, 2002


Prime Minister P J Patterson (left) and former prime ministers Hugh Shearer (centre) and Edward Seaga pose for a historic photo yesterday at Shearer's house after they, as well as late former prime ministers Donald Sangster and Michael Manley, were conferred with the Order of the Nation, the country's second highest honour. The investiture ceremony was held at King's House, but Shearer, who is ailing, received his award in a private ceremony at his house. (Photo: Michael Gordon)

PRIME Minister PJ Patterson and four former Prime Ministers of Jamaica -- Edward Seaga, Hugh Shearer, Michael Manley and Donald Sangster -- were yesterday conferred with the Order of the Nation, the nation's second highest honour.

"This is an historic occasion, not only for me but for all who have served as prime ministers of Jamaica. It is a privilege to be so recognised," said Patterson.

Similarly Edward Seaga, who became Jamaica's fifth prime minister in 1980, said he felt privileged to be honoured by his country.

"Any honour given to you by your country has to be received with humility. It's also a major task to live up to the title of 'honourable'; it puts a burden on us to make sure we are honourable," he told the Observer.

Shearer, who is ailing, was unable to collect the award at the King's House ceremony, but it was later presented to him at a private ceremony at his residence.

The awards for the late Michael Manley and Donald Sangster were collected by widow, Glynne Manley and Sangster's son, Bindley.

"My heart is full right now," said Glynne Manley. "I get emotional when acting on behalf of Michael, especially in a situation like this. I value the award and my only regret is that he is not here to share it."

Michael Manley became Jamaica's fourth prime minister in 1972. He passed away on March 6, 1997.

Donald Sangster -- Jamaica's second prime minister -- died on April 11, 1967. He was appointed to act as prime minister and minister of external affair and defence in January 1965 as a result of the illness of then prime minister, Alexander Bustamante. He served for three months.

According to Bindley Sangster, the award meant a lot to his family.

"The family is appreciative of the award. We are honoured and humbled. The nation needs role models like those persons honoured today. It is service like this that has really built our country and given us some of the privileges we enjoy today."

The awardees were congratulated by Governor-General Sir Howard Cooke, who praised them for their local and international contributions to society.

"Was not Donald Sangster one of the foremost leaders in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and did he not save the 1966 Commonwealth Heads of Government in crisis? Did not Alexander Bustamante show the world a new approach to the worker?" he said. "Did not Hugh Shearer influence the United Nations and Edward Seaga the cultural dimensions of UNESCO? Did not Michael Manley make a great bid to influence the economic relationship and philosophy of the north and south?"

Sir Howard was also particularly warm at the presentation at Shearer's home later in the afternoon. He spoke of being motivated by Shearer and the leadership example that he had set in his over 60 years of public service. He related anecdotes from his working relationship with Shearer over the years and spoke of his admiration of Shearer's courage.

"I have always liked his courage, his is the sort that we need more of in the country today," he said.

Shearer was sworn in as prime minister in April 1967 and remained in office until March 1972. He retired from politics in 1993 after serving as a parliamentarian for 38 years.

"It's a wonderful occasion for us. It's an awesome moment and I am glad it's being done during his lifetime while he is able to appreciate it," said wife, Dr Denise Eldemire-Shearer.