By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
BUSINESSMAN and former Olympian Godfrey Kelly, 91, yesterday defended his knighthood saying he expected the award “earlier” and views it as government making “amends” for neglecting to recommend it after his decades of contributions to the country.
Over the weekend, it was announced the former United Bahamian Party education minister would be bestowed Queen Elizabeth’s 2020 New Year’s Honour of Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (KCMG). In this instance, the award was for Mr Kelly’s contributions in the business and sports communities.
The award has come under fire from the Progressive Liberal Party, its Leader Philip “Brave” Davis saying he was “appalled” by government’s recommendation to knight Mr Kelly.
Yesterday, the former minister in Sir Roland Symonette’s Cabinet said he doubted the Opposition’s criticisms would get them more support.
“Well you know when Sir Geoffrey (Johnstone) got his I should have gotten mine. I just got a CMG and he got a KCMG so they made amends,” Mr Kelly told The Tribune.
“I expected it earlier,” he said when asked if he saw the honour as long overdue. “I am quite happy. Even though I have already won I can’t jump around (because) I’m 91.”
Speaking of his contributions over the years, Mr Kelly said he has long “given a lot” to the Royal Bahamas Police Force and was an attorney for 66 years, adding he retired not long before his knighthood was announced.
He’s also contributed much to sports, particularly in the sailing arena.
“I have always helped,” he said.
Responding to the PLP, Mr Kelly suggested he was not surprised by the party’s attacks.
“Well, of course,” he said when told the opposition felt he was undeserving of this award. “You can’t stop the opposition. They say everything that they can to hurt you. They should have been more gracious.
“I don’t think they are going to get anymore votes by hammering me.”
His wife Sonia said she believed he deserved the recognition, noting she had been by his side through years of sacrifice and hard work.
She said: “Well I am very thrilled for him, absolutely. It’s too bad it’s so late in coming, but better late than never.”
On Monday Mr Davis told The Nassau Guardian the situation raised questions over what the governing party was saying to Bahamians.
He also questioned whether the knighthood was an effort by the Free National Movement to rewrite history or award people with ideologies that treated Bahamians like second-class citizens.
Mr Davis said those with knowledge of the UBP’s educational policies during Mr Kelly’s tenure as minister “would be appalled that he is being awarded such a prestigious award”.
PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell also chimed in saying he disagreed with the recommendation.
Former National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest was among the 2020 honours for Commander of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire (CBE) and FNM Chairman Carl Culmer received the British Empire Medal for service in politics.
In a statement Mr Mitchell said the nomination of Mr Culmer and Mr Kelly displayed a government that is driven by “shameless partisanship” since there was “no objective evidence” to support their awards.
“It appears that Mr Culmer is being rewarded by the prime minister for his very harmful brand of personal political attacks, diatribe and invective while unwittingly providing political cover and justification for every corrupt misdeed by this FNM administration,” the statement read.
He added: “The knighthood for Godfrey Kelly is a continued and studied attempt to rewrite Bahamian history. This is the man who presided as minister of education in the last ignoble UBP administration and was responsible for the education policies that retarded the country’s growth and national development, under educating the black majority in the country. What has he done since then to make national amends?”
He insisted that history should not be rewritten and urged the government to “cease trying to make right what was wrong.”