Reggae Legend Bob Marley Deserves National Hero Recognition, Says Golding

Opposition Leader Mark Golding has pledged that a future People’s National Party (PNP) government will name Reggae legend Bob Marley Jamaica’s next National Hero.

During the 2024/25 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Golding proclaimed that Marley’s significant contributions to Jamaican culture and his global influence as a beacon for the oppressed make him deserving of the prestigious recognition.

“One commitment that I have, which is in keeping with our seriousness about culture and the creative industries, when we form the next government, I commit to conferring the Order of National Hero on the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley for his service of a most distinguished nature in advancing Jamaican culture and his global impact as a liberating inspirational force for oppressed people across the world,” Golding said.

He added: “I say time come to recognise the ‘Gong’ as a true national hero and confer the honour on him accordingly.”

The National Honours and Awards Act, enacted in 1969, provides the framework for recognizing distinguished achievement and service in Jamaica.

This Act distinguishes the National Heroes’ designation by outlining specific procedures under its guidance, contrasting with other awards whose regulations are defined by the governor general. It appoints the governor general as the chancellor of the Society of the Order of National Heroes and establishes an advisory committee. This committee is tasked with conducting investigations to identify individuals, both living and deceased, who are eligible for the title of National Hero. Upon completing its evaluations, the committee advises the Prime Minister on its findings.

With Marley’s potential induction, he would join the ranks of seven other National Heroes.

Mark Golding
Mark Golding

Golding’s pledge comes amidst widespread acclaim for the Bob Marley: One Love biopic.

The film’s success, amassing nearly $200 million worldwide, underscores the economic and cultural impact of nurturing the creative sectors—a point Golding emphasized by promising substantial support for these industries under a future PNP government. “Nurturing and growing the cultural and creative industries, sports and their diverse ecosystems are extremely important for the economic development and cultural identity of Jamaica,” he said.

In January this year, during the Kingston premiere of the One Love biopic, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith told DancehallMag that now was the ‘right time’ to name Bob Marley a National Hero. 

“Emotionally, he’s a National Hero to all of us already, you know? Bob is in our hearts. I know that we’re also very big on governance as a country and we try to ensure rules are followed, but I think it’s absolutely something that should be considered seriously,” the Minister said.

“There’s no idea like an idea of whose time has come, and maybe that time is now.”

Kamina Johnson Smith

Over the years, several people have called for Marley to be honored with the title, including Opposition spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Lisa Hanna amidst talks of Jamaica transitioning to a Republic in 2022. At the time, the conversation was reignited after Bajan superstar Rihanna was named a National Hero in her country.

Johnson Smith emphasized Marley’s unique role in representing Jamaica worldwide, noting his influence on various foreign ministers she has met.

“It means everything. Bob is Jamaica, and Jamaica is Bob. [He’s] one of the first persons, if not the first person who’s recognised when you say ‘Jamaica’ overseas. For someone who doesn’t speak English, they say, ‘Bob Marley,” Johnson Smith said.

“As Foreign Minister, when I travel, I can’t tell you the number of Foreign Ministers that I’ve met who speak about how they listened to Bob Marley in their youth. He was a voice of liberation, he was a voice of freedom, he was a voice of self-empowerment and nationalization. He’s everything beyond Jamaican power and Jamaican strength beyond our own size.”

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