PM Politicised Awards

By Raffique shah
August 23, 2014

Raffique ShahPatrick Manning was absolutely correct on all the reasons he cited for declining the Order of Trinidad and Tobago, as announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last Thursday.

It is amazing that in just about everything she says and does, the PM gets it wrong nine out of ten times. The furore over her insistence on enacting and implementing the “run-off” provision in general elections still rages, yet she puts both feet in her mouth by publicly announcing that she has advised President Anthony Carmona to confer the ORTT on Manning and Basdeo Panday.

Everything was wrong with that proclamation—effectively, that’s what it was—so much so that a down-and-out Manning was able to get up from the canvas and score a flurry of knockout punches.

It was the PM who politicised the issue when she breached protocol, not to add common courtesy, by publicly announcing the awards before consulting the awardees. In fact, she committed several breaches of convention that left me wondering if she was of sound mind when she made the announcement.

There is a national awards committee chaired by the Chief Justice that considers all nominations for honours. The committee accepts or rejects nominations as it sees fit, then refers its recommendations to the Prime Minister who, in turn, has the overriding power to strike off names, but not to add (that’s my understanding).

Of course, the PM may make her own nominations, with which the committee would hardly disagree.

Also very important, at some stage between nomination and announcement, awardees are contacted by a senior official from the Office of the President, informed of his/her name being on the list, and asked if he or she accepts or declines. In the case of awards made on Independence Day, there is also confidentiality between acceptance and the public announcement, which the Office of the President makes on the morning of Independence Day, not earlier.

In this instance, the Prime Minister breached all these conventions.

Manning said he first read that he was being awarded the ORTT on Facebook! It seemed that Panday was abroad, so unless he, too, is a Facebook fan, or some friend or relative communicated with him, he might still be unaware of his soon-to-be-bestowed “handle”.

The PM did not extend the courtesy of asking Manning if he would accept the award. That was crass, insulting and presumptuous. In fact, it was vulgar politicking. And it gave Manning the opportunity to publicly reject the offer, if only on that ground.

But there were more reasons for him to decline, all of which are valid. He is still a sitting MP, and although there is no law debarring an MP from accepting such award, common decency dictates that he should not for as long as he remains in Parliament.

Manning also noted that he has been demonised by Kamla, her aides and supporters, accused of every sin and malfeasance while he was Prime Minister—corruption, nepotism, racism, wastage and worse. Indeed, the People’s Partnership rode into power by convincing the electorate that Manning was the worst thing to have happened to the country since slavery.

To this day, four years into office, they blame him for everything that they cannot fix or deliver even as they claim fame for the fruition of programmes and projects that began under his stewardship.

How, therefore, does the PM justify conferring the nation’s highest award on such a person? Should he not be in jail instead of President’s House? Or is it, as Manning asks, that she is retracting her many charges against him?

It can’t be both—that he has “rendered distinguished and outstanding service” to the country, and that he has looted the Treasury. Make up your mind.

Look, I have been a severe critic of Manning, especially of the seeming wildness in which he engaged in his final, truncated half-term in office. I condemned his “two, three smelters” in the face of public outrage over one such plant. And I argued against his focus on the skyline of Port of Spain even as the capital city, at ground level, was in disrepair, often flooded and always stank.

But in his sober years he made some sterling contributions to national development, expanding the downstream energy sector, extending educational opportunities from early childhood to tertiary level, and more.

Panday, too, for all his foibles and unrestrained vindictiveness, has made significant contributions to his native land.

Both men are deserving of national honour, and, if they agree to accept them, to national awards.

What politicians like Kamla do not understand is that you do not play politics with this.

I can say with authority that there are people who hanker after recognition and awards to the extent that they solicit others to nominate them, to lobby for them, even though they are mostly less than ordinary. Many such persons equate the acquisition of wealth or contributions to political parties with contribution to country.

Then there are those who do what they must and what they can, who seek neither fame nor fortune, decorations nor high offices.

Such citizens cannot be bought, not with money, not with medals.

21 thoughts on “PM Politicised Awards”

  1. PM’s Slip of the Tongue?

    In rejecting the offer of our country’s highest national award, the former prime minister, Mr Patrick Manning, is alluding to at least two salient points that our society must be mindful of in its day-to-day life, particularly in the context of the continuing degeneration of our moral and spiritual values.

    Firstly, both as a people and as individuals, we must reject the aphorism which apparently has been gaining credence and acceptability in our society that “Politics has a morality of its own.” This acceptance serves to recommend the jettison of ethics and promote and sanction the disrespect and abuse of people under the guise of another aphorism, “All is fair in love and war.”

    Secondly, an individual is a human being with feelings and one ought not to demonise or ostracise an individual for making a mistake or doing wrong. This dismissive putting-down has all but become a cultural trait in our society. We should constantly remind ourselves of the Biblical injunction, “Who is without sin let him first cast the stone” and the popular version, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Also and importantly, one does not thump one’s chest, even in private, in acknowledgement of one’s adherence to these principles of humane behaviour.

    Prime Minister, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in her published reply to Mr Manning’s statement of rejection of the proposed national award, stated, “It was meant to be a gesture of magnanimity and a moment to reach beyond the issues that divide us to acknowledge Mr Manning’s many national contributions.” What bombast! Magnanimity, on whose part? Is the award a personal gift of the prime minister or is the awards committee being magnanimous in fulfilling a national responsibility? What’s more, to whom and to what do the words “the issues that divide us” refer?

    The prime minister further averred, “It is regrettable that in rejecting the nomination, Mr Manning should seek to politicise the matter. …” Is the prime minister politicising the issue by affirming, “The decision to honour Patrick Manning was based on the changing philosophy that has underlined many of the reforms brought by my Government …”?

    There is another saying, “A slip of the tongue is a direction of the mind.” Is this a “PM’s Slip of the Tongue?”

  2. The gerrymandering of the political boundaries started by Eric Williams as early as 1956 and the house padding skillfully initiated by Manning were deliberately engineered to give the PNM political advantages in elections.In spite of protest speeches by opposition interests, these intentional changes were instituted unashamedly.There was no hue and cry eminating from the streets of Port Of Spain. PNM supporters gleefully accepted the biased advantages.
    The difference between Kamla’s desperate attempt to reform the constitution this time from the PNM’s tinkering in the past is that the outcome of election results in the proposed new run off are not as predictable as the opposition claims. Can anyone predict with any reliability or validity that the new run off would benefit the UNC?
    The fear of another UNC/PP victory seems to be unpalatible to many. Let’s hope that this fear is based on the perception of the failure of the PP and not on the racial composition of the government.

  3. He should have also refused all the financial aid that was given to him. He should have asked that it be given to the poor and destitute who can’t afford even basic health care. Its easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a Politician to enter Heaven.

    1. I totally agree.

      It seems for some it is the do as I say but not as I do. In the past many names were added and deleted but since those all belong to the same political party it was okay. By offering an award to someone not in your party seems to be the problem here.

  4. TMan, with all due respects, what has your reply above have to do with the proposed national award for former Prime Minister Patrick Manning? Can you help, please?

    What is your view on the national award issue?

  5. The PM is a “cut above” the rest. As an open society she did not want to offer Mr. Manning an award in secrecy and then have him come and publicly state that the PM offered him the nations highest award in secrecy. The political outcry would have been enormous.

    When the PM went to South Africa she took a contingent of PNMites and offered only Rowley the opportunity to attend Mandela funeral. Rowley did not make a fuss he simply accepted. Which was the right thing to do.

    Whether you agree or disagree with Manning or Bas politics they have the longest serving parliamentarians records in the history of TnT politics. I do believe the offer was genuine.

    The PM has signed off on $ millions in Manning health care cost, something the PNM never did for Panday. She did not make a fuss and demand that the seat be vacated when he skipped parliament for great lengths of time not speaking or representing his constituents. For the past 4 years Manning’s presence and contribution to debates has been near zero. Seeking extension after extension that was graciously afforded him. Yet drawing a huge salary for nuttin. That is the highest level of respect given to Mr. Manning.

    Manning claims that he was attacked by the PM is laughable. Wasn’t it Manning attacking the integrity of the PM by claiming she stole money to build a $20 million (lol) home. Never was there ever such a personal attack by any politician in the history of TnT politics. The PM had to get bills of payment for material that she had accumulated for over 7 years and present it in Parliament to clear her name. Maybe Manning should apologise for that..

    If Manning did not want the award all he had to say is I thank the Prime Minister for considering me for such an award but would like to humble decline. Thank you.

    1) BOTH PNM and UNC\PP paid his Medical Bills treating him as an elder statesman.
    2) After the break up of NAR, Mr Robinson was accomodated in the UNC\PP where he was eventually honoured as the FIRST PRESIDENT and PM.
    3) Mr Robinson despite his FIGHT with PNM selected Manning to be PNM in the 18-18 tie even though UNC\PP had more votes and made him President.

  7. Protecting the national awards

    Express Editorial: Aug 24, 2014 at 9:29 PM ECT

    It is truly regrettable that the national awards should be dragged through the political mud. Trinidad and Tobago is a country still searching for symbols of honour and excellence and every effort should be made to protect the integrity of the national awards from the destructive impact of partisan politics.

    It was unwise of the Prime Minister to have pre-empted the President’s Honours List, disrupting the established tradition by which the Office of the President releases the names of awardees to the media under embargo on August 30, ahead of the next day’s Independence Awards ceremony. What could have prompted her to announce that former prime ministers Basdeo Panday and Patrick Manning were to be honoured with the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, remains a mystery.

    The disclosure was premature, both in terms of its timing, coming so long before release of the President’s list, and the fact that Mr Manning, at least, had not yet been consulted. While Mr Panday has not yet commented, it would appear that he, too, had not been consulted.

    As Mr Manning noted in his very sharp response, he would have availed himself of the option of privately declining had the Prime Minister not made a public announcement. In the circumstances, he felt constrained to reply publicly, peppering his refusal with a heavy dose of political commentary. When he does comment, Mr Panday, a man of notedly acerbic wit, is likely to add his own twist to the situation.

    As the East African proverb goes, when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. The political square-off between the incumbent and former prime minister runs the risk of tarnishing the national awards and increasing public scepticism about the involvement of partisan politics in the selection of awardees.

    Up to now, the national awards system has managed to survive the occasional challenge to retain a reasonable level of public respect. Hopefully, this latest squabble will not devalue the honour that will be paid on Sunday to the significant body of people who have served this country and distinguished themselves.

    The Prime Minister’s disrupting of protocol to announce awards to her predecessors suggests a weakness that should be immediately addressed. A protocol outlining the process needs to be clearly and publicly spelt out, not only to guide those within it, but the public as well. Clearly, individuals, even in high places, cannot be trusted to simply know right from wrong and appropriate from inappropriate.

    The priority now must be to protect public trust in the national awards system by anchoring it in a process that is independent of partisan politics and devoid of arbitrary decision-making. To allow it to be cheapened will be a disservice of tragic proportions to the many decent and distinguished citizens who have served this country so well. Among these, we should be able to count those who have served as prime ministers.–national-awards-272511791.html

    1. This is disingenuous. Other PMs announced awards before. And we know that what goes before the President must be cleared by the sitting PM. What is new here is the current PM has offered the award across the isle.

    2. The constant interference with the national awards system is more than a distraction, it is a downright devaluation of the merits of awards. In the case of the prime minister’s pre-empting of the awards commission, it is clearly a case of political expediency and an example of Kamla’s PR campaign. If government is to loose it’s meritocracy in appointments and staffing then we are NOT going to attract the very best for anything, because the effort to ‘balance’ is more important than getting the right people for the right jobs and appointing the right people with the right skills set for the right positions. This PR thing is going way too far ahead of competence.

    3. People accept or reject these things all the time. Mr Manning could not accept because of the amount of blood on his hands,under his stewardship Afghanistan was safer. Panday can’t because of the corruption. Nuff said.

  8. The key words, nomination (public), selection (Chief Justice), consideration, recommendation and submission (Prime Minister) and announcement and conferring(President). It appears to me the breach was on communication i.e. the PM letting the Media know beforehand rather than the President house. Maybe and just maybe she was aware of the upcoming information from Google pertinent to the e-mailgate scandal and thought of softening the blow by politicizing the awards beforehand. Politics do have a morality of it’s own.

  9. i have noticed in recent times bloggers have sprung up out of the woodwork to the defense of this government at every turn , i think the time has come for someone to tell all those paid fools that what we as ordinary readers look at is not the long winded replies to every post in every paper but the quality and stature of those writing against the wrongs and foolish actions of this pp government ,look at the persons stature and standing in society who write and that the fools cannot duplicate no matter how long winded their efforts are and trying to put up a defense we have enough respected and well know writers to inform the nation and not just bloggers trying to confuse the issues by writing a page of nothing , thank you mr.Shaw your writings always make good reading and give us food for thought .

  10. A Trojan horse

    By Sasha Harrinanan Wednesday, August 27 2014,199636.html

    A “Trojan Horse” was the term used by Independent Senator, Helen Drayton, to describe the runoff proposal in the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014.

    The first of the Independent bench to speak during yesterday afternoon’s debate on the controversial Bill, Drayton argued that a runoff would be most beneficial to a minority party that is a member of a coalition, since the second round of voting “eliminates vote-splitting.”

    “In our context, the runoff is not designed to deepen democracy but will deepen the principle of winner-takes-all and I think the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) knew this.”

    “Power to the people sounds laudable,” Drayton added. “It is populist but there can be no guarantee that the majority of the electorate would have expressed their will in a second round.

    “It could be a minority minus a minority, and in our culture, with the increasing number of voices saying ‘none of the above,’…the second round could be, and is likely to be, a minority vote.”

    Not mincing her words, the most senior Independent Senator earned desk-thumping support from the Opposition when she declared that runoffs are a “discriminatory process” which deprives citizens of the right of a second vote, “simply because they’d made up their minds they do not want any of the two parties contesting the second round.”

    Chairman of the CRC, Prakash Ramadhar, who also holds the posts of political leader of the Congress of the People (COP), Tunapuna MP and Legal Affairs Minister, came in for serious criticism from Drayton yesterday.

    Noting that Ramadhar had previously said the runoff proposal was a poor substitute for proportional representation, Drayton revealed that statement “irked” her because the CRC had spent two years and public funds to fulfill its mandate.

    After consulting scores of persons across the country about their views and desires regarding constitutional reform, “then you turn round and say we must now accept a poor substitute,” she said.

    Drayton then asked why the leadership of any political party would want to subject the electorate to an inferior system when their aspiration is for a progressive one.

    “No wise leader settles for poor substitutes to systems necessary for maintaining the integrity and good functioning of pillars of our democracy, unless it serves their narrow interests,” Drayton declared.

    Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her coalition People’s Partnership Government were then urged by the Independent Senator “not to ignore the goodwill and integrity of the people.”

    She reminded them that even if the Bill became law this year, “you can’t recall anybody until 2018…So I believe we have much time to re-evaluate this runoff.”


  11. The PM and her sycophants again reflect the mindset of the People Kwame Toure and Charles Hamilton described in their work, “Black Power, the Politics of Liberation in America” as those who, over a period of time, have enjoyed the privilege of defining the social order according to their own racial perspective, that they have come to the erroneous position that that privilege is theirs by divine right”, or words to that effect anyway. So Her Majesty Queen Kamla, from her ethnic group constructed lofty pedestal of the Supreme leader of the exalted group, waves her scepter and bestows an award on her subject, fully expecting that he had no choice but to obsequiously accept it. Maybe in her haste to fully assume the position of the replacement slave master, she forgot that those she considers her ethnic slaves had already been emancipated from that condition.

    Of course there will be the usual noise sycophancy who will be indignant that this son of the formerly enslaved would dare to take slight over Her Majesty’s exercising of what they consider to be her royal fiat. After all, what else can be expected from them. They can no more change their ways than a zebra can change its stripes. A thousand Years of supremacist history and thinking cannot be wiped away by a few hundred years in a social environment where their cultural inclinations are considered by the “lowly” to be repugnant.

    There is a school of historical thought that argues that the British were particularly cunning in choosing the culture from which they would bring replacement labor for those pesky Africans who dared to expect dignity along with their freedom from centuries of holocaustic bondage and cultural destruction. And the more that issues are played out in those societies in which these replacements were parked, the more one has to silently applaud the keen understanding the British developed about those they had colonized. As an after thought, they probably regret today not seeking accord with some of their brown allies who shared their racist ideology about which human groups were superior and which were inferior. Think about how much more longevity the British empire would have had if they had done this.

    Still they achieved their immediate goal, which was to ensure that those they brought into the post slavery mix would find closer affinity with their perspective about black people, and thus be unlikely to join in a phalanx of resistance against them. The rewards they doled out, in the currency of land and rights they had refused to accord their former slaves,cemented the alignment where Africans remained on one side of the color continuum, and they and their proteges remained in occupancy on the other side. And now that they have largely departed, of course these allies have convinced themselves that they have been bequeathed all of the pre-emancipation privileges that the British had enjoyed.

    Three Cheers for Her Right Royalty Queen Kamla and her ethnic Court. Unfortunately you have to forgive us for rejecting this new dispensation.

    1. “And now that they have largely departed, of course these allies have convinced themselves that they have been bequeathed all of the pre-emancipation privileges that the British had enjoyed”.(Rodwell Paton)

      To refer to the former Indentured laborers of Trinidad as “allies” of the British in the Caribbean context is not only outrageous but plain stupid.This convenient and cavalier reference, in support of a flawed theory of racial conspiracy against Africans,shows a lack of understanding of Indentureship and its hardships.
      To suggest that the British “bequeathed” privileges that they had enjoyed to the Indentured laborers is offensive. This perspective of Rodwell Paton minimizes, ridicules and rejects the valuable contractual contributions made by the Indentured laborers aka “coolies”.
      The financial, educational and political progress made by the ex-indentured in T&T are not attributable to British charity, but to perseverance, hard work, responsibility and family dedication.

  12. Are we for real? We are giving a jailbird ex PM our highest award?

    Best we give the Poollool family or whats left of them the highest award too? Or better yet O’Hal and family should get an award too. I keep staying our present PM is one big joker.

    Perhaps we should give her 20 xxx ministers awards too ….for non performance.

  13. We are giving a jailbird and another who took endless monies from our treasury and did not account for it and to top that earning a significant wage without serving….our highest awards. Are we nuts? Thank God and know he works in strange ways.

  14. Yes Manning was PM’s Eric’s blue eyed boy who used to approve wuk for foreign staff in Trinidad when locals like me were just as qualified. He was Eric’s go for and stooge. He was the one who was in Laventille and told them he has no African in him. Yes I can give him an award for insulting my intelligence. He was made by Eric and became his puppet – remember he came out of the suckup rams and Mr Ma hab errs clans of the prized San Fernando community. So why should I support giving him an awardee. Perhaps if he became an Executive President and country’s dictator I would have been blackmailed into supporting that cause. But God came to our rescue in 2010. We the people must stand for the truth or face the consequences. And we did stand up, as over 60% of the population stained their fingers in 2010 to send off the message. That was what the vote was really about. If this lady had any common sense left she would learn from that. But she is just plain dottish. Yes she gave herself a SC status. But God will have his say to that later on.
    Until we bring back the Statesmen and the Special Correspondent nothing will go right in Trinidad. I wrote a lengthy letter to the Pres six months ago and among other things mentioned the plight of my daughter who was forced/ threatened/ her human rights infringed ( so much for the Commonwealth of countries charter …remember chogum or chew gum where the Head came down and enjoyed the best while we continue to suffer ). And the Pres. feels he must not answer my letter but bully for him. My daughter who was on national scholarship (graduated with distinction) and forced back here is without a job over a year now. Perhaps we should design an award for him and her.

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