On the third Monday of October in each year, Jamaica commemorates National Heroes Day and the nation takes time out to honour those who have given exemplary service. On this day, these individuals are bestowed with national honours and awards in recognition of their meaningful and significant contributions to the development of Jamaica and its citizens.

The system of national honours and awards was established consequent to the proposal by Prime Minister Hugh Shearer for the introduction of Jamaican National Honours. On July 18, 1969, there was a proclamation of the National Honours and Awards Act. It served to replace the honours and awards of the colonial period, and its observance on the third Monday in October was to replace the observance of the Sovereign’s official birthday. Notably, only the Governor General is now eligible to receive British honours as he is the representative of the monarch.

The first Jamaican Honours were handed out at a ceremony which took place on National Heroes Day, October 18, 1971, at Up Park Camp. At that ceremony, Sir Alexander Bustamante received the Honour of the Order of National Hero – the only person, to date, to have received such an honour while still alive.

There are six Orders of the Societies of Honour and two National Awards with which citizens can be conferred. They are as follows:

The Orders of the Societies of Honour:-

▪           The Order of National Hero – This honour is the highest Order and is given for services to Jamaica of the most distinguished nature rendered by native Jamaican or naturalized citizens, living or dead. The honour can be awarded either posthumously or on retirement from active public life. To date, seven such honours have been awarded. Recipients of this honour are given the title “The Right Excellent”.

▪           The Order of the Nation (ON) – This honour is reserved for Governor Generals and Prime Ministers upon whom the Order of National Hero was not previously conferred. Recipients and their spouses are given the title “The Most Honourable”.

▪           The Order of Excellence (OE) – This honour is ranked equally, in the order of precedence, with the honour of the Order of the Nation and may be conferred upon any foreign Head of State or foreign Head of Government, and upon any foreign former Head of State or foreign former Head of Government. Recipients are given the title “The Most Honourable”.

▪           The Order of Merit (OM) – This honour is awarded to Jamaican citizens who have achieved eminent international distinction in the fields of Science, Arts, Literature and other fields. A distinguished citizen of a country other than Jamaica may be conferred as an honorary member of this Order. The number of awards issued annually is restricted to two and the maximum number of living persons for this group is 15. Recipients are given the title “The Honourable.

▪           The Order of Jamaica (OJ) – This honour is bestowed on any Jamaican national or any distinguished citizen of a foreign country other than Jamaica, who has demonstrated outstanding distinction in service to Jamaica. This honour equates with the existing British knighthoods. Recipients are given the title “The Honourable”.

▪           The Order of Distinction (OD) – This honour is bestowed upon any citizen of Jamaica who renders outstanding and important service to Jamaica in any field. The Order has two ranks, Commander (CD), being the higher, and Officer (OD).

National Awards:-

▪           The Medal of Honour – This award is intended for members of the Uniformed Services which include the Army, Police, Correctional Services and Fire Brigade. Medals are awarded for gallantry, meritorious acts of service, and long service and good conduct.

▪           The Badge of Honour – This award is given to civilians for gallantry, meritorious service, and long service and good conduct.

The selection process for recipients of national honours and awards begins with the submission of nominees by members of the public. Nominations are accepted by the Chancery of the Orders of the Societies of Honour, between January and March of each year. After nominations are received, a selection committee, appointed by the Prime Minister, makes the final selections and then the Prime Minister makes the recommendations to the Governor General. The Ceremony of Investiture and Presentation of National Honours and Awards is held on the lawns of the official residence of the Governor General, King’s House.

  1. Government of Jamaica      Office of the Prime Minister. 2008. < http://www.opm.gov.jm/      opm_programmes/the_chancery_/_protocol/national_honours_and_awards>
  2. Jamaica Information Service. An      Official Handbook Jamaica 1971. [Kingston: Jamaica Information      Service], 1971.
  3. Records & Information Unit, Office      of the Prime Minister. Prime Access. Issue 1.10. October 2009.      <http://www.opm.gov.jm/files/Prime%20Access%20October%202009.pdf>
  4. The National Honours and Awards Act. 18 July 1969. <http://www.moj.gov.jm/laws/statutes/ National%20Honours%20and%20Awards%20Act.pdf>