Three outstanding Jamaicans were conferred with the Order of Jamaica (OJ) yesterday (July 24), by the Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Honourable Professor Kenneth Hall, at King’s House.
Two church leaders – Reverend the Hon. Carmen Stewart, Custos of St. Andrew, and Reverend the Hon. Canon Weeville Gordon, Custos of Kingston – were among the recipients awarded for outstanding service in their fields, while former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Headley Cunningham is a member of the legal fraternity.
The awards are in recognition of their contribution as Custodes, to the legislature and the promotion of social and moral values through work in their respective fields of endeavour.
Mr. Cunningham was awarded for outstanding service in the field of Law, Rev. Gordon in the fields of Religion and Community Development, and Rev. Stewart for her outstanding service in the fields of Religion, Health and Education.
In his address, the Governor-General lauded the three leaders for their long and dedicated service to the Jamaican society, and their contribution to “the enlargement of our liberties and rights, while creating or maintaining institutions that ensure we can exercise our rights.”
“Through their sustained involvement over many years and the leadership they have provided, they have given hope to many of our citizens and have encouraged many others to willingly participate in the process of national development,” he noted.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in her remarks, also showered accolades on the trio.
“You are a fine example of those Jamaicans whose hearts are filled with a passionate desire to serve the land of their birth. With this honour we recognize your longstanding commitment and achievement as extraordinary Jamaicans. Given your accomplishments, you could have excelled anywhere in the world. The fact is, you chose to dedicate your talents and abilities to the building of our country,” she said.
The Prime Minister highlighted the valuable role of the church in the struggle for democracy, and recognized freedom fighters, Deacon Bogle and Sam Sharpe for their role during the era of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
She said that the church has been a valuable partner in meeting the social needs of Jamaicans in the fields of education, community outreach, leadership development and national service, adding that Rev. Stewart and Canon Gordon “stand tall as exemplary church leaders committed to serving their country.”
Mrs. Simpson Miller described Mr. Cunningham as “a distinguished representative of our political and parliamentary traditions, and legal fraternity,” of which Jamaicans could be proud, because “it is at the heart of our stable, democratic society.”
“It is your efforts and great achievements over the years that have been crowned with national recognition today,” she told the awardees.
Rev. Stewart has been pastor of the Windward Road Pentecostal Gospel Temple since 1966. She was the first female to act as Governor-General of Jamaica in 1996. Rev. Stewart has received many honours for her service in health, education and religion.
Mr. Cunningham began his career as a barrister-at-law in 1967 when he was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple, London. He was elected Member of Parliament in 1989 and served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1989 to 1993. He was Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association from 1992 to 1993 and served as a member of the Commonwealth Observer Group to South African elections in 1991. He has been a member of the Privy Council of Jamaica since 1998.
Canon Gordon has served the Anglican Church in various capacities for over 50 years. He has been the Custos of Kingston since 1991 and has acted as Governor-General on many occasions.
He has provided outstanding leadership to various development initiatives for inner-city youth, including the establishment of the Allman Town Training Centre. He also sits on the Board of several community based organizations and provides leadership in human and social development.