ORDER OF REPUBLIC FOR PANDAY, MANNING
By Clint Chan Tack Friday, August 22 2014
PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night announced she has recommended to President Anthony Carmona that her predecessors, Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday, each receive this country’s highest honour, The Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on Independence Day (August 31).
The country celebrates its 52nd Independence anniversary next Sunday, when the national awards ceremony is due to take place at Queen’s Hall, Port-of-Spain, after it was held for the first time in San Fernando last year.
Speaking at an Independence Day cocktail reception she hosted at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Persad-Bissessar announced, “It is my honour to announce that I have recommended, to His Excellency the President, that for our national awards, this year, that both former Prime Ministers Mr Patrick Manning and Mr Basdeo Panday be awarded the nation’s highest honour, the Order of the Republic of TT.” This drew lusty applause from the audience.
While not indicating whether Manning, who turned 68 last Sunday, or Panday, 81, were consulted about or had accepted this award, Persad-Bissessar declared, “They are worthy of awards. I thought it fitting that we pay tribute to those who came before us.”
Manning, currently member of Parliament (MP) for San Fernando East, served as Prime Minister for two terms: December 17, 1991 to November 9, 1995 and December 24, 2004 to May 26, 2010.
Panday, a former Couva North MP, was Prime Minister from November 10, 1995 to December 23, 2001. Persad-Bissessar served as Attorney General and Education Minister in Panday’s United National Congress (UNC) Government.
She defeated Panday to become UNC political leader in a landslide victory in the UNC’s internal elections in January 2010. She then replaced him as Opposition Leader in February of the same year.
Persad-Bissessar succeeded Manning as Prime Minister when the People’s Partnership (PP) coalition defeated the People’s National Movement (PNM) in the May 2010 general elections.
Manning had been political leader of the PNM since 1986 until he resigned following the party’s defeat in the 2010 general election in which he retained his San Fernando East seat.
Noting that Panday and Manning have been in politics for 48 years and 43 years respectively, Persad-Bissessar said, “Both gentlemen have served our nation for over 40 years, so I ask you to give them a round of applause.”
A woman who answered a call from Newsday to Manning’s residence at Sumadh Gardens, San Fernando last night said he was “in a meeting downstairs and could not come to the phone”.
Manning’s son, Brian, whom Newsday contacted after said, “I have no comment to make.”
Newsday made several calls to Panday’s residence in Phillipine and to his cell phone but they went unanswered. However, Panday’s daughter, Mickela, a former Oropouche West MP, told Newsday he was out of the country visiting family when interviewed at a Movement for Social Justice Forum on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill in San Fernando last week.
Calls last night to Mickela and Panday’s brother Subhas, also a former Princes Town MP, got no response.
During last night’s reception, Persad-Bissessar said Independence Day should not merely be a time of celebration, reflection and remembrance.
She said even if “we do not agree with everything that they say or do, I thought it fitting that we pay tribute to those who came before us.”
The Prime Minister then continued her call to the population to support the controversial Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 which she will open debate on in the Senate next Tuesday.
Referring to the Bill, which the Senate will debate on Tuesday and Wednesday, Persad-Bissessar said, “We stand upon the threshold of great reform which will signal that Trinidad and Tobago is evolving into a more advanced democracy by giving more political power to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
The Bill proposes a two term-limit for Prime Ministers, a right of recall for MPs and a second ballot election if a winning candidate fails to get 50 percent of the popular vote.
Dismissing concerns and criticisms raised by opponents of the Bill, Persad-Bissessar reiterated, “I ask you not to fear. The reforms that we bring to our Constitution have been mandated by the times, very modern times as we give to you, more power to the people.”
Labour Minister Errol McLeod supported Persad-Bissessar’s position on the Bill describing it as a way to “deepen the democracy” in this country. McLeod charged that while Government was attempting to do this, others were using the “opportunity for change to divide.”
Contacted last night, Opposition Leader and PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley said Manning and Panday had both served this country well.
“They both deserve to be recognised and acknowledged,” said Rowley, who served in both of Manning’s administrations. Rowley made no comment about the timing of Persad-Bissessar’s announcement or her continuing campaign to lobby public support for the Bill. Rowley has called for the Bill to be withdrawn from the Parliament and said the PNM will not participate in any joint select committee on the legislation which requires Government to get the vote of only one of the nine Independent senators for passage in the Senate.