Bird was named Knight of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero (KNH) for his contribution to national development as an outstanding sportsman, lawyer and parliamentarian for 38 years. He is that country’s sixth National Hero.
The two-term prime minister who joined the ranks of his father, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Sr, and cricket legend, Sir Vivian Richards, the only other living national hero, said he was “proud and humbled” with his recent accolade.
“I feel after years of having made such an input into the development of this country in sports, in law and in other matters pertaining to the development of this country, I am proud that this is being done,” Sir Lester said.
Opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer has disassociated himself from the honour of National Hero, which was bestowed on former prime minister Lester Bird pointing out that he was “not consulted” during the consultation process.
“I was not officially consulted by the powers that be, neither as it relates to the honour bestowed on Lester Bird and also the exchange of honours to individuals representing the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George,” Spencer said.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has described as “an act of treason” the decision by opposition legislators to boycott of the independence ceremonial parade here on Monday.
Neither Opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer nor any key members of his United Progressive Party (UPP) attended Monday’s ceremonial parade and awards ceremony where former prime minister Lester Bird was knighted and named a national hero – the highest honour the country can bestow.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne chastised Spencer for the no-show, adding that there is no other celebration more important than independence.
“To boycott our independence celebrations is to disrespect the 400 years of toil, the 400 years of sacrifices that were made by our forefathers to ensure that Antigua & Barbuda ends up as a sovereign nation. It is just to abandon, to disrespect that contribution, that commitment of our forbearers,” Browne said.
“I’ll go as far as saying that I think it’s really an act of treason against the commitment of our forbearers and it’s very unfortunate that the leader of the opposition and his followers that they do not understand that our independence transcends partisan, political differences,” he added.
Browne recalled that he once faced disciplinary action from the Antigua and Barbuda Labour party – the party he now leads – after he defied a call to boycott independence celebrations when the ABLP was in opposition.
“I did not adhere to that call to the extent that there was even a petition to have me expelled from the party but that is how strongly I felt about independence and the fact that we need to embrace it. It is in essence a symbol of the unity of our nation and ought to be respected of all costs.
“I don’t condone any act of sabotage, boycott or disrespect in so far as our independence is concerned and I think it’s yet a monumental error that was made by the leader of the opposition and it begs the question of his level of maturity.
“With this type of narrow thinking, this type of narrow outlook it was a fundamental error in the part of the leader opposition and I’m quite sure he’ll regret what he did today,” Browne said.