Emotions run high
By Richardson Dhalai Monday, September 2 2013
click on pic to zoom in
For a fallen cop: President Anthony Carmona greets, Kim Manwaring, wife of Sgt Hayden Manwaring who was killed in the line of duty, and received a pos...
The 2013 National Awards took on a homely air, unlike the usual stolid aura of pomp and ceremony of past years, as recipients blew kisses at the audience, jogged with the Prime Minister and generally turned protocol upside down.
Dignitaries were embraced and put to pose with recipients for group photographs, as the awards ceremony had its first outing to San Fernando on Saturday evening.
Held at the Sundarlal Popo Theatre, Southern Academy for the Performing Arts, (SAPA), San Fernando, the event had a few emotional moments when several posthumous awards were received by sombre relatives from an almost equally emotional President Anthony Carmona.
In presenting slain police officer, Hayden Dale Manwaring’s widow — Kim Manwaring —with his award, President Carmona took both of her hands in his and spoke to her for several moments before presenting her with the Hummingbird Medal Bronze for gallantry. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar also embraced her. After the ceremony, Mrs Manwaring, who wore an elegant black dress, declined to reveal to reporters the contents of both the President’s and Prime Minister’s conversations with her.
However, she remembered her husband as a “great man” and admitted that receiving the award had been an emotional moment for her.
“I remember him in death, he was a great man,” Mrs Manwaring said.
Asked if it was an emotional moment, she said, “Yes it is, it is. It did touch me.”
She said her children were doing “alright”, saying her son had accompanied her to the ceremony while her daughter had stayed at home with her mother.
Another poignant moment occurred when Barbara Kangaloo, mother of deceased Justice of Appeal, Wendell Neil Kangaloo, received the Chaconia Medal Gold on his behalf. President Carmona held her hands for a few moments and spoke with her before presenting the award.
And speaking later with reporters, Barbara Kangaloo admitted to feeling both sadness and pride on accepting the award for her deceased son.
“I received the award on his behalf, posthumously. With a bit of sadness and a bit of pride because I feel very good seeing that the powers that be decided to give him this award for all his service to the country in the short years that we had him so I am grateful,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ansonia Torres, who received the Hummingbird Medal Gold for her grandfather, historian and journalist Louis B Homer, who died earlier in the week, also admitted that she was on the verge of tears while accepting the award.
“To be honest I was trying not to cry because it was a bitter-sweet moment for me and for the family but I am just glad that even though he isn’t here to collect it today, that he knew he was getting the award and he left knowing that he was going to be awarded in this way even though he is not a man who looks for recognition, but he got it nonetheless,” she told reporters afterwards.The ceremony, which began at 6.48 pm, also witnessed its fair share of light moments, which began when retired Justice of Appeal, Madam Justice Margot Warner, who received the Chaconia Medal Gold, became engrossed in shaking hands with and speaking to President Carmona, that she forgot to let him pin the medal to her blouse and began walking towards the next in line, the President’s wife, Reema, only to have the President touch her on the sleeve and remind her about the medal. There were smiles all around as she hurriedly spun around and the medal was affixed to her blouse.
Then, the stage was temporarily transformed into an athletics track as Lynette “Granny” Luces, who had been previously helped ascend the stairs leading to the stage, then jogged to President Carmona as the crowd laughed and applauded.
However, Granny’s run was not over as, upon reaching Persad-Bissessar, both women embraced and then, arm in arm, jogged to the far end of the stage and back, to the applause of the audience.
And speaking to reporters afterwards, Luces said she was “very happy” about receiving the award and would continue running until she was 100 years old.
“When I am running in the foreign countries, I am running as Trinidad,” she said, adding, “I always remember my country and I feel so happy to get this national medal.”
Asked the secret of her long life, Luces, 85, said her secret was she loved to run saying she had been running since age nine when she would run errands for her mother.
And not to be outdone was traditional Indian singer, Ramragee Prabhoo, who outfitted as an Indian princess complete with tiara, blew kisses and waved enthusiastically to the audience when she ascended the SAPA stage.
And after receiving her award, the Hummingbird Medal Silver, Prabhoo, then hugged everyone along the greeting line, including Mrs Carmona, Persad-Bissessar and Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
Speaking to reporters, Prabhoo said the award was the highlight of her 30 years in the national spotlight.
“I am really happy and I want a say a special thanks to the honourable Prime Minister for remembering us, the artistes, who have started from scratch. I started 30 years ago, singing and walking, all in the mud, and today (I am) being recognised for my hard work and contribution,” she said.
Another outstanding personality was Hubert Peter “Flagman” Diaz, a retired police officer, who smartly outfitted in the national colours, quick marched to President Carmona to claim his award, the Hummingbird Medal Bronze.
Afterwards, Diaz said he was appreciative of the award saying “I thank God for the opportunity, thank God I am alive, thank God that I receive good things.”
Asked how he felt about the Police Service and the suggestion to introduce random drug testing, Diaz said, “I was a police officer for the past 46 years and long time it had good police, it have few good ones in our midst now. What I have to emphasise is going to schools and lecturing on crime prevention.”
“They have to bring back spirituality, you must pray, at the age of five and when you reach the age of seven, you have the age of reason and so they are accountable for the wrong things they are doing from the age of seven. You have to bring back prayer in the homes and in schools from a tender age,” he said.
Asked what should be done against rogue police officers, Diaz said emphatically, “Prosecute them, treat them like any other criminal, like any other lawbreakers without favour or affection.”
Another notable awardee was former Presentation College principal, Brother Michael Samuel, who taught President Carmona and who at first bowed to his former principal before embracing him before pinning the Public Service Medal of Merit, Gold, on his lapel.
Carmona’s act seemed contagious as Persad-Bissessar left her place at the line and walked to Samuel and held his hands as she told him something which caused laughter among them. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Samuel he felt “very ordinary but honoured and humbled” at the award which was made especially poignant as the person distributing the award was a “Pres man”.
Asked whether he had suffered a recent heart attack, he said, “the attack was minor, there was no damage to the heart muscles but I am having an angiogram Monday coming but I am looking good right and I am feeling well too, thank God.”
And regarding his memories of Carmona, he said, “I remember teaching him at ‘O’ levels. He is a fantastically humble, down to earth man. I think we are going to have a great five years under his presidency.”
Meanwhile, former politician, John Humphrey, who received the Chaconia Medal Gold, said he was “very happy” noting that he had not been bothered at not having received an award previously.
“I gave 50 years of my life to serving our people in politics and what His Excellency said in passing wondered why it took so long, quite frankly it never bothered me, I’m retired and I am very happy not to be noticed,” Humphrey said, before quickly adding that the award would encourage him to speak out on national issues. One issue was the land for the landless which he said had been implemented in the 1980s saying the plan could now be used to stimulate the economy and provide homes for families.
Two men who never dreamed of ever receiving an award, the Bansraj cousins, said they too were surprised at having been selected. Shiv Bansraj, who together with Ganesh, had dived into a river to rescue a motorist. Shiv said he had not even received an award while in school.
“I feel great, I went to school and I never get an award, I save a life and I get an award, I feel happy about that and I want to get gold next time,” a smiling Shiv told reporters
“When I saw my cousin in the river, I dived in also and when we were there, he, (the driver), would have died.” He said the man now visits them every week.
“Every week he does come home and check we and say what we want, but we say we don’t want nothing from you, we save your life,” Shiv said. His cousin, Ganesh said he never thought something would happen like this. “I proud I was there,” said Ganesh.
The award ceremony was followed by an entertainment segment with the Police Service, Fire Service and Prisons Band, together with the Richard Bereaux Ensemble and H2O Phlo, all of whom performed a number of pieces and which contributed to the show’s length.
By the time the guests and awardees had emerged, the Independence Night fireworks on San Fernando Hill, which had begun at 8.30 pm, had concluded.