Chancery of the Societies of Honour – Ensuring that Jamaicans are Rewarded for Excellence


Jamaicans have always excelled in their various fields of endeavour and for some 35 years, the Chancery of the Order of the Societies of Honour has played a major role in the process of ensuring that individuals are duly rewarded for their outstanding service.
The Chancery, located at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston, maintains the records of all national awards and the Prime Minister’s medal of appreciation.
As the administrative arm, it shoulders the responsibility for processing nominations and recommendations for national honours and awards as well as arranging the inauguration and presentation ceremonies. Nominations were opened in January and the deadline for submissions this year is March 31.
Secretary General of the Chancery, Sadie Ann Moore, who took JIS News on a journey through the selection process, explained that in Jamaica, there were six societies of honour. These are: Order of National Hero, Order of the Nation, Order of Excellence, Order of Merit, Order of Jamaica and Order of Distinction. The honours of these societies are conferred on deserving citizens each year. Some societies also recognize the work of foreign nationals. Nominations can be made by anyone and must be submitted on prescribed nomination forms obtained from the Chancery.
Once the nomination forms are received by the Chancery, they are submitted to a Cabinet sub-committee appointed by the Prime Minister for consideration.
The sub-committee, after deliberation, makes its recommendations to the Prime Minister, who then informs Cabinet of the decision regarding the conferment of the honours and the awards for the year.
He then advises the Governor General of the names of the persons on whom the honours should be conferred. The list of honourees is published each year on Independence Day, August 6.
Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke, confers the honours publicly at King’s House on National Heroes’ Day in October.
The most senior order is the Order of National Hero. An advisory committee appointed by the Prime Minister is mandated to make investigations to determine the eligibility of persons living or dead, upon whom the honour may be conferred. The honour is bestowed on any person who was born in Jamaica or at the time of his/her death was a citizen of Jamaica and rendered to Jamaica, service of a most distinguished nature. The next highest honour is the Order of the Nation. This is conferred upon Governors General of Jamaica or any person, who is appointed a Prime Minister upon whom the Order of the Honour of National Hero has not been conferred. Persons in receipt of this honour are addressed as Most Honourable. This award is not based on the individual’s performance and once a Prime Minister or Governor General has demitted office, he is still referred to as the Most Honourable.
Introduced two years ago, the Order of Excellence is the third highest honour and is bestowed upon foreign heads of state or government. One conferment has been made to date to His Excellency Thabo Mbeke, President of the Republic of South Africa, when he visited Jamaica in July of 2003.
The Order of Merit, previously bestowed on foreign heads of government, will now be conferred on persons of notable achievement in particular fields of study.
Miss Moore explained that only two persons could receive the Order of Merit in any given year and there should be no more than 15 living members in the order. It is given to citizens of Jamaica, or distinguished citizen of a country other than Jamaica, who have achieved international distinction in the field of science, the arts, literature or any other endeavour.
There are also honorary members of this order that are not included in the 15-member quota. They are: Caribbean Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott; former chief regional negotiator and retired Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Shridath Ramphal; former head of the Regional Negotiating Machinery and former UWI Vice Chancellor, Sir Alister McIntyre, and President of Cuba, Dr. Fidel Castro.
The final two orders in the societies of honour are the Order of Jamaica and the Order of Distinction. The Order of Jamaica is conferred upon any Jamaican citizen or upon any distinguished citizen of another country for outstanding work. Members of this order are styled honourable.
The Order of Distinction (commander and officer classes) is conferred on a Jamaican citizen, who renders outstanding and important services to Jamaica. It is also given to distinguished citizens of other countries, who are regarded as honorary members. Members of this order are also styled honourable.
Other national awards include the badges of honour for Gallantry, Meritorious Service and Long and Faithful Service.

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