Ex-president: Give Panday Trinidad and Tobago’s highest award

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A military honour guard surrounds the body of former prime minister Basdeo Panday as he lies in state at the Red House Rotunday, Port of Spain, on Friday. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

Confer on former prime minister Basdeo Panday the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT) which was awarded to him since 2014.

The bold appeal was made by former president Anthony Carmona, who was among many paying tribute to Panday at a remembrance ceremony at Panday’s alma mater, Presentation College, San Fernando, on Thursday night.

Carmona said it would be a most fitting tribute to Panday’s contribution to the development to Trinidad and Tobago if he could be addressed at his funeral as “former prime minister Basdeo Panday, ORTT.”

At the funeral of former chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Hochoy Charles on Thursday, current Chief Secretary Farley Augustine presented Charles’s widow, Eka Frank-Charles, with a posthumous Tobago Medal of Honour (Gold).

Charles rejected the award while he was alive.

In 2014, prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar offered the nation’s highest award to the two men she dethroned in 2010 – Panday, as political leader of the United National Congress (UNC) and opposition leader, and Patrick Manning, from his seat as prime minister.

Carmona addressed an audience in the Presentation auditorium which heard speeches from Justice Anthony Lucky, San Fernando East MP Brian Manning, San Fernando mayor Robert Parris and Panday’s brother Subhas, among others.

He said the senior Manning wrote to him rejecting the ORTT.

“Bas never officially rejected me. Bas never officially rejected the ORTT, he never contacted me on the issue and never wrote to me officially as President.

“Mr Manning, on the other hand, did write to me rejecting same.”

He recalled, “There were all kinds of comments on this issue in the press, but nothing was officially relayed to me by Mr Panday.”

At that time, Manning took to Facebook to explain his reason for not accepting the award was that Persad-Bissessar had engaged in “character assassination” against him.

He also alluded to improper procedure and process and said he would not accept such an award while he remained MP for San Fernando East.

While Manning’s refusal was clear-cut, Carmona insisted the situation was very different in Panday’s case.

“I cannot interpret an omission as a rejection, and I refer specifically to the national award.

“The President cannot act on ‘dey say’ and ‘dem say.’ When my secretary contacted the Panday home, she spoke to his daughter Mickela, who stated that her father was out of the country and she cannot speak for him on that issue. She was totally correct.

“Mr Panday had been out of the country for several weeks.

“Sometimes when we met socially I would engage in banter with him, asking him, ‘Bas, when yuh coming to collect the people thing?’ and then I would go official, saying, ‘Mr Panday, delay and omission do not constitute or add up to being a rejection of the ORTT.’

“He would laugh and say, ‘That is why you were a judge – the way you see things’ – and we would both end up laughing.

“I therefore wish that the authorities consider having the family receive, on behalf of the former prime minister, the ORTT, posthumously, and that he be given his just due for his contribution to Trinidad and Tobago’s development so that he can be addressed at his funeral as former prime minister Basdeo Panday, ORTT.

“It would be a fitting tribute to this ‘general,’” he said, pointing to a larger-than-life photograph of Panday which graced the stage. In the photo Panday is wearing a black beret with the Presentation insignia, and saluting.

Members of the armed forces line the streets as the body of former prime minister Basdeo Panday is carried by military escort to the Red House, Port of Spain, on Friday. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

“He always considered himself a soldier – a proactive soldier in the trenches of social, economic and political reform, development and advancement,” Carmona said.

After the inter-faith ceremony, which featured the singing of Bhajans, pan music and videos highlighting important points in Panday’s life, Carmona and his wife Reema visited Panday’s widow and family at their Bryansgate home in Phillipine.

At a press conference at the Red House on Friday afternoon, UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar supported the idea, now posthumously, recalling that he and his family declined it in 2014 when she offered it.

Now that he is no longer alive, she said she was unsure if the family would have a change of heart.

“I think he deserves it. At that time, we offered, and he and his family declined,” the Opposition Leader told reporters.

She also thinks the former prime minister Patrick Manning, who died in 2016, also deserved the ORTT, the nation’s highest honour.

The UNC leader repeatedly quoted Panday as saying he did not have political enemies but instead political opponents.

Moments before the conference, she signed the condolence book and viewed Panday’s body as it lay in state in the rotunda of the Red House.

Efforts to contact the Prime Minister and the Panday family for a reaction to Carmona’s suggestion were unsuccessful.(With reporting by Laurel Williams.)

The Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT), formerly the Trinity Cross Medal of the Order of the Trinity, can be awarded to any citizen or non-citizen, who has exercised distinguished and outstanding service.

The ORTT can be awarded posthumously; however, a deceased recipient will not become a society member.

The maximum number of ORTT awards given out in one year is five.

Anyone wishing to apply or nominate someone should submit any recognition for contributions made, such as awards, medals, or certificates, that includes the name of the organisation, year given and reason for the award.

Academic certificates should also be included as accolades, such as degrees, diplomas and other such certificates, in the nominee’s résumé. If the nominee’s on a board, committees, associations, and governmental and non-governmental organisations should also be included.

The nominator should be familiar with the nominee’s work or service in the area in which they are being nominated. Three 800-word essays with the award criteria being considered should also be submitted.

Nominations are made to the National Awards Committee which then considers them and forwards its recommendations to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister in turn considers the committee’s recommendations and may accept, reject or add to them.

The Prime Minister then advises the President accordingly, who then makes the award on the advice of the Prime Minister, subject to the consent of the recommended nominee.

An in-depth description of the requirement can be found on the Office of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago website.