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Bermuda Drops Ban on Accepting Queen's Honors

Reuters, Wednesday 17 January 2001, 8:21 PM ET

HAMILTON, Bermuda (Reuters) - Bermuda's ruling Progressive Labor Party, which wants independence from Britain, is dropping a ban on members accepting honors from Queen Elizabeth, an island newspaper reported on Wednesday. The PLP, which is supported predominantly by the island's majority black population and won power for the first time in 1998 after 30 years in opposition, said the ban should be lifted now that is has become the ruling party of the British Overseas territory.

"Fundamentally, and still, the PLP has sought independence for Bermuda, and while the transition to independence was not in our control (as opposition), accepting the Queen's honors was seen as diluting the thirst for independence," PLP Spokesman Corey Butterfield told the Bermuda Sun newspaper.

"But now we are the government and we can lead toward independence, it doesn't really matter if people want to accept honors from the Queen or not," he said.

Current Attorney General Dame Lois Browne Evans recently caused a stir among PLP supporters when she accepted the title Dame of the British Empire.

The government of the 22-square mile island, located in the mid-Atlantic about 600 miles east of North Carolina, has established a commission to look at setting up a national honors system which would replace the Queen's honors.

Premier Jennifer Smith said the PLP will not push for independence in its first term of office, but has refused to say if she will introduce it if the PLP is elected again. An election must be held by 2003 at the latest.