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The burden of the Cross

By Parsuram Maharaj
An Executive Member of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha

Newsday TT

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (Trinidad & Tobago), the only legitimate national Hindu voice has once again brought objections to the nation’s highest award — the Trinity Cross. The government this month invited national awards nominations. The Secretary General of the SDMS, Shri Satnarayan Maharaj, in response has called on members of the public to refuse to submit nominations for the national awards. The SDMS has been making this call to change the nation’s highest award for years across a series of successive political administrations clearly indicating that the objection against the Trinity Cross cuts across all political lines.

The substantial issue remains that the nation has to be equitable and that no citizen or groups within our society made to feel like second-class citizens. The Trinity Cross disregards all non-Christians and Tobagonians annually. In particular no Hindu will ever accept the Trinity Cross. Of course there is the likelihood a Hindu collaborator who will perhaps accept a cross for a “cap, a gown, and a mess of pottage”.

SWAHA’s PNM Senator Manideo Persad only a few months ago lamented in the Senate that the Trinity Cross should be changed. Ironically Senator Persad spoke as an Opposition Senator forgetting that he belonged to the ruling party and was indeed in a position to make the change. Or was it that SWAHA’s Senator Persad, like most Indians and Hindus in the PNM, have no real power do anything of real substance and are merely window dressing? Despite the earlier lamentations, SWAHA’s PNM Senator, Persad, in responding to the call to boycott the Trinity Cross nominations by the SDMS stated: “We can’t expect change overnight because there are so many other pressing matters” and called for “less confrontation and more dialogue”.

Dr Wahid Ali — a Muslim — refused to accept the Trinity Cross in the 1970s and only accepted it when then Prime Minister Eric Williams promised to change the Cross in the future. Williams, once having stated that Indians were a “hostile and recalcitrant minority”, it was no surprise the promised change never came. In 1995 the Dharmacharya of Trinidad & Tobago, Pundit Krishna Maharaj, refused to accept the Trinity Cross from the Manning administration.

In 1997 an independent and impartial National Awards Committee, chaired by Trinidad & Tobago’s Chief Justice Micheal de la Bastide, recommended that the Trinity Cross be renamed to the more inclusive title of The Order of Trinidad & Tobago. The Committee’s report noted that “the Trinity Cross...was perceived as a Christian symbol” in this multi-religious society. The recommendations of the Committee renewed the faith of the Maha Sabha that there are some individuals in society that are not blinded by sectarian interests. SWAHA’s PNM Senator Pundit Persad obviously is ignorant of the fact that this “overnight” objection has been on the national agenda for over two decades. How much more “patience” and “dialogue” must the Hindu community endure before an effective change is made? Last year during the throes of the historic 18-18 hung parliament, the Prime Minister Patrick Manning boldly gave an undertaking to seriously look at the issue of changing the name of the Trinity Cross to a more acceptable national award. Now without a hung parliament to force an appeal to the Hindu and Muslim voters, the elected Prime Minister Patrick Manning stated “it is very unlikely that will happen this year, very unlikely”.

Prime Minister Manning also noted that “it was very interesting that Mr Panday, who was very vocal against the Trinity Cross, in his six years as Prime Minister, never touched it. One of the things I would like to do before touching it myself is to find out why. ..We will adjust it yes, but before we do it, let’s look. We do not jump precipitately into these matters. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” One has to wonder if Prime Minister Manning’s actions are being guided by what former Prime Minister Panday did or did not do rather than what is “morally and spiritually” correct. SWAHA’s PNM Senator Persad revealed that the PNM perhaps is not changing the Trinity Cross due to ignorance on how it can be changed. Speaking on behalf of the PNM Administration Pundit Persad stated, “we were not sure of the mechanisms required to effect this change.”

Support for renaming the Trinity Cross comes also from the President of the Inter-Religious Organisation, Brother Noble Khan. Brother Khan stated that “the time was now right to make a name change” and suggested that The Order of Trinidad & Tobago should be the new name. Brother Khan explained that the Cross “has been aligned by many people in the country as a biased symbol, while substantial sections of our population would like something more neutral and acceptable.” The President of the IRO in his comments sees what the Prime Minister and SWAHA’s PNM Senator refused to see. Brother Khan observed that if the award was not changed the “bitterness” among the population would remain.

Of course Brother Khan assumes that persons in government and the ruling party care about the bitterness of Indians and Hindus. It concerns the Prime Minister Manning to “correct the historical imbalances” of those who have not in the past had access to begin their own business and indeed entrepreneurship — the rationale for CEPEP —. Yet the Prime Minister and SWAHA Senator remain unmoved with the concerns of the historical bias against Indians and Hindus. Given the track record of PNM Prime Ministers on the Trinity Cross and on matters concerning Indians and Hindus, it is predictable that the Trinity Cross will continue to be a burden on all non-Christians for decades to come.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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