By Elesha George
“I believe the debate should start as to the most appropriate day to celebrate National Heroes Day as a public holiday,” expressed Prime Minister Gaston Browne, as he petitioned in his speech, to observe National Heroes Day as a public holiday in Antigua and Barbuda.
His statement took centre stage at this year’s wreath laying ceremony at the Heroes Park, St John’s, where Browne said he was dissatisfied with this year’s event.
“I believe that the time has come for us to make National Heroes Day a holiday. An existing holiday should be designated as National Heroes Day. Maybe we could consider the first Monday of August when we celebrate our carnival and to designate that Monday as National Heroes Day because truth be told we are diminishing their contributions by not celebrating National Heroes Day as a public holiday,” Browne stated.
It is akin, he said, to the observance of V C Bird Day, which is celebrated each year on December 9th, in recognition of the “Father of the Nation” who brought the country into independence in 1981, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Sr.
The other national heroes are Prince Klaas, who led a slave revolt in 1736; Dame Nellie Robinson, a pioneer in education; Sir Vivian Richards, one of the world’s greatest cricketers; former premier Sir George H Walter; and former prime minister Sir Lester Bryant Bird — the son of V C Bird.
One of the only two living national heroes has supported the call for a public holiday to be designated in observance of National Heroes Day.
Sir Lester told OBSERVER “I think that’s an excellent idea”.
Reluctant to comment on the suggestion, being observed as a hero himself, Sir Lester said, “If you have national holidays and you have people who are considered national heroes, excluding myself, I think you should go out of your way. Antigua needs icons. Antigua and its young people need to know what has been done by people in the past – Prince Klaas, Nellie Robinson, all of them. They made tremendous contributions to this country and the fulcrum on which this country is built was started by them. Therefore, there is absolutely every reason why you should recognise them and if the prime minister wants to make one day a regular holiday, I think it is eminently a great idea.”
The observance of National Heroes Day has been a fickle topic. Under the former United Progressive Party (UPP) government, the occasion was once celebrated on December 9th, which was also observed as V C Bird Day.
However, on coming to office in 2014, the ABLP government restored V C Bird Day as a lone public holiday, while Heroes Day was moved to October 26th and is currently not being recognised as a public holiday.