Once again, the death of another outstanding Saint Lucian – this time around, Hunter J. Francois – has placed the spotlight on what has become a national cliché: that we never seem to honour our greats, especially while they are alive and well.
Known for being a trailblazer on many fronts, especially the enhancement of the social condition of Saint Lucians, Francois’s political ideology seemed to rest on the premise that politics only works best when it does so in the best interest of the people.
Francois was truly a Saint Lucian icon long before that title was conferred on him and others like him at a special ceremony in 2010. By then his legacy would have been written down in the annals of Saint Lucian history – read by few but felt by many. Many people remember him as being humble, quintessential and a man of service.
Two and a half years ago, a committee was set up to make recommendations for selecting sons and daughters among us regarded as heroes. That committee, the National Heroes Commission, was announced by Governor-General, Dame Pearlette Louisy, during the Throne Speech at the opening of the First Session of the Tenth Parliament in April 2012. Chaired by Adrian Augier, the 10-member committee was to identify persons – living or dead – to be conferred with the title of “hero”.
The committee’s tenure ends in March 2015 but to this day no hero has been named. Not that our heroes are nameless; we know who they are but they just haven’t been officially deemed heroes. If we had to peruse our nation’s history books, we surely would come across many outstanding Saint Lucians who would have done extraordinary work to make our lives better. Every community across this island is replete with teachers, doctors, poets, painters, writers and a host of other professionals who would have dedicated their lives to serving country and countrymen heroically. They are indeed heroes, just not officially.
As we draw closer to celebrating Saint Lucia’s 36th anniversary of independence from Britain next February, one of the highlights of such an observance should be to finally recognize our heroes by inducting the first candidates. On subsequent similar occasions, other inductees can be added. But the initial step needs to be taken in that regard. Becoming 36 means that our nation would have become an adult two times over, so it’s only fair that Saint Lucia acts its age and gives credit where it’s due.
Pinning a medal on an outstanding Saint Lucian’s chest does have its merits. However, recognizing our people’s heroic efforts should come at no less a reward than treating our heroes for who they truly are – heroes. We need to start naming our heroes.