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Trinity Cross scrapped

RIA TAITT Saturday, June 3 2006

Committee to review national awards

This year’s national awards will see a new name for the country’s highest honour.

The Trinity Cross, after 37 years as Trinidad and Tobago’s most distinguished medal of honour, has been “removed from our national life.”

In a history-making statement in the House of Representatives yesterday, Prime Minister Patrick Manning confirmed that Cabinet decided to abolish “this anomaly.”

But Government would not stop at the Trinity Cross.

“We must not lose this excellent opportunity to examine any other similar situation which has been allowed to persist to the discomfort of any section of the national family,” Manning said.

The PM therefore announced that a committee would review not only all aspects of the Trinity Cross, but it would also examine “other national symbols and observances which may be considered discriminatory” and make “appropriate recommendations to Government.” (Analysts cited Indian Arrival and Emancipation Days — both of which have ethnic associations — as prime targets for this examination).

The committee is chaired by the highly respected UWI historian, Professor Bridget Brereton.

Other members are Gillian Bishop, designer; Dr Selwyn Ryan, political scientist; lawyer and businessman Devanand Ramlal; DOMA president Gregory Aboud; head of the Arthur Lok Jack Institute of Business, Dr Rolph Balgobin; head of Policy Research and Development at the Tobago House of Assembly Dr Anselm Richards and head of the Public Service Sandra Marchack, who will serve as its secretary.

The committee would report its findings on the matter of the Trinity Cross by mid-July and on its larger mandate by the end of September.

Manning said Government was determined to conduct this year’s national awards, for Independence Day, on the basis of more acceptable arrangements.

Manning said his Government’s decision was driven by two compelling factors. The first was that Government was not above the law, a reference to Justice Peter Jamadar’s declaration, on May 26, that the Trinity Cross discriminated against non-Christians, even though he dismissed the Maha Sabha and Islamic Relief Centre’s application to the court to abolish the award. Jamadar said Parliament had that power not the court.

“The court has now ruled that the continued existence of the Trinity Cross...is indirectly, discriminatory against non-Christians. My administration therefore has an obligation to comply with this ruling,” Manning said, adding that the second “supreme and unassailable fact” was that TT was a secular democracy.

While the Constitution declared the society was founded on the recognition of a supreme being, a religious interpretation of the concept of God could not be the basis on which the society advanced, he said.

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