By Orville Williams
The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament has called for a non-partisan committee to be established, to manage the whole process of knighthood and other national awards.
The comments by Jamale Pringle come just a day after Prime Minister Gaston Browne confirmed that Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph will be awarded a knighthood as part of the country’s 39th Independence celebrations.
Speaking on Observer AM yesterday, Pringle questioned the appointment, citing Joseph’s active status as a salaried public servant.
“My problem with that — and I think the problem that many persons would have with that — is the fact that he is not retired and the contribution that he has made over the years, he was paid for it. What is it that we’re honouring? Is it for his longstanding service in parliament?
“I don’t think anyone who is using the resources of the state to carry out their duties that they’re being paid for, should be knighted [while] in active service,” Pringle said.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to suggest a fair solution to the matter, saying the current process leads to the inevitable question of bias.
“I think that the knighthood should be a situation where a committee that is non-partisan deals with knighthood and the whole aspect of national awards. [My] reason for saying that [is], the committee comprises six members of parliament and the chair, four of which belong to the government and two to the opposition,” Pringle said.
While critical of the current situation, he did say the knighthood could be deserving in another forum.
“I’m not saying that if you look at it when the member is retired from active politics and you say well listen, politics is not something easy and to put your family under such pressure for all this time, I think we can look at it from that perspective.
“But when you look at a situation where the member is still sitting, he didn’t take the money out of his pocket to do what he is doing – in terms of if they’re going to say the Covid situation and all of that – it’s the taxpayers’ money. So then, we should knight the people who provide the money,” he added.
After being questioned on his party affiliation, the Leader of the Opposition insisted that regardless of the party in power, it remains an issue that needs to be addressed.
“Not because it happened under the United Progressive Party (UPP); for me, the forward movement is for us to have an independent national awards committee. [If the UPP becomes the government tomorrow] it’s something that we have to look at.
“What we cannot continue to do, is to just honour people based on their political affiliation, because what happens [is], the people who are to be knighted, they’re left behind,” Pringle explained.
The prime minister, on Monday, said Joseph was deserving of the award “as a symbol of excellent performance”.