Barbados declared hit singer Rihanna a national hero at its republican celebrations in her hometown of Bridgetown.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that the 33-year-old would be conferred with the honour of National Hero of Barbados to cheers.
Rihanna was called up before the crowds to be congratulated by Mottley.
“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation by your works, by your actions,” Mottley told Rihanna, a reference to her 2012 chart-topping single Diamonds.
While the declaration served as a fitting celebration for a nation that has now shed its colonial vestiges, it is likely to leave citizens of the country’s Caribbean neighbour, Jamaica, questioning why reggae legend Bob Marley has yet to received a similar honour.
Just last month, Hugh Graham, CEO of Paramount Trading Ltd and member of parliament for St Catherine North Western in Jamaica, sought to reignite discussion around bestowing Marley, who died 40 years ago, with the nation’s highest honour.
In an Op-Ed in The Jamaica Observer, Graham questioned the failure of the country to take the step of giving the island its eighth National Hero in the figure of the legendary international reggae icon who continues to be loved across the world.
Said Graham: “We love our national heroes, and we have all been mesmerised by stories of their efforts but, if I may, I’d like to argue that there are some who are just as deserving of the honour who are yet to be granted their earned consideration. In my opinion, chief among them is none other than Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley.”
He added: “I fully expect my suggestion to be met with routine resistance, so I’ll interject with the pre-emptive ‘why not?’. What reason do we have to disqualify Bob Marley as a national hero?
“Yes, he has already been awarded the Order of Merit (OM) for having achieved ‘International Distinction in the Arts’. However, to settle at OM is to confine Bob Marley to the status of a stellar international artiste when he was all that and much more.”
But long before Graham jumped into the discussion, and with Jamaicans making a similar call for more than a decade, Olivia Grange, as minister of youth, sports and culture back in 2011, vowed that she would lead the advocacy for Marley to be declared a national hero.
At the time Grange, who is currently the minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, told a national radio audience and those gathered at the Bob Marley Museum in St Andrew to celebrate the late singer’s 66th birthday that Marley was a “great Jamaican” and that she “supported the idea of making him a national hero”.
Grange said then that persons who believe Marley should be made a national hero should formally present their case through letters and petitions and that she would advocate on their behalf.