Sunday, February 18, 2018

Naming protocols

If Anil Roberts, who is currently besotted by pre-termination throes, had come to me about the name change of the Caribbean Premier League’s (CPL) Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel, I would have told him: “No big thing. Let it be. The country’s sovereignty isn’t threatened or harmed in any way. There are far more threatening issues, for example, Government-repudiating corruption in LifeSport, your brainchild to move young Afro-Trinis away from and out of criminal behaviour.’’

But he didn’t, and look what trouble he now has with Gary Griffith and the Prime Minister. Cabinet took the decision last week to prevail on the CPL executive to delete “Trinidad and Tobago’’ from the name in deference to a sovereignty-based protocol and, according to Minister Roberts, had not reversed its position on the matter since they had not met since. So, somebody—Minister Griffith, most likely—had exceeded their authority in the reversal that the press were reporting. Apparently, the Cabinet only takes decisions in their weekly meetings. Apparently, the Prime Minister does not take decisions independently of her ministers or in contradiction of their wishes. Apparently, she is not the Cabinet…

The naming controversy took me back to how I fill out immigration forms whenever I travel abroad.

Two of the slots on the forms are “nationality’’ and “country of birth’’. For ‘‘nationality’’, I write “Tobago’’, or “Trinidad’’, or “Tobagonian’’, or “Trinidadian’’, or “Citizen of Trinidad and Tobago’’ if the available space allows me—whether in the boxes provided or in those boxes plus empty space beyond them. For “country of birth’’, I write either “Tobago’’ or “Trinidad’’. I simply do not know what the protocol is—despite checking with various immigration officers—but my practice has never been challenged.

Examination of my passport suggests that the practice is wrong though. The outside of the front cover, page 2, and the inside of the back cover give (what I take to be) the name of my country as “Republic of Trinidad and Tobago’’. The inside of the front and back covers and every page give the name of the country as “Trinidad and Tobago’’. Page 2 in particular gives both my nationality and place of birth as “Trinidad and Tobago’’.

So, clearly, if I am supposed to reproduce the information from my passport on the immigration forms, I do not strictly adhere to what is being asked of me. From the perspective of the passport, I am not a Tobagonian, nor is my place or country of birth Tobago. But I have never been challenged; and no one has raised the issue of probable violation of the sovereignty of the country. Indeed, the boxes provided for nationality and country of birth are insufficient for my country’s long name. On the departure record, for example, the number of boxes for both are eight and nine respectively.

But let’s examine Roberts’ argument to see if we can make sense out of it. He is reported to have written a letter to the CPL in which he cried: “This was not a decision. It is simply that the protocol surrounding the use of our beloved country’s name would not allow this private team to be branded Trinidad and Tobago. There will be no negotiation, neither any compromise. Trinidad and Tobago’s name cannot and will not be used in this privately run venture that has absolutely no involvement with the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB), the only recognised cricket sporting body in the world with the right to use our country’s name.”

He does not cite any law that might have been broken, only a protocol, and he has invoked the protocol in the second season of the CPL T20 competition. But he is strident: no negotiation; no compromise; Trinidad and Tobago’s name cannot and will not be used in this privately run venture! And yet the Prime Minister clearly no longer agrees with him since CPL’s CEO Damien O’Donohoe has praised her for “her help in restoring the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel name to the franchise.”

So where is this protocol that says a privately run venture cannot use “Trinidad and Tobago’’ in its name? And if it is an established protocol, how can it be invoked in one breath and so quickly de-invoked in another?

Further, isn’t the TTCB a privately run organisation? If so, why does Roberts’ sense of the protocol not rule out “Trinidad and Tobago’’ from its name?

And what about NGOs like the: Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society, Trindad and Tobago Red Cross Society, Trinidad and Tobago Nursery Association, Trinidad and Tobago Innovative Parenting Support, Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society, Trinidad and Tobago Association for Retarded Children?

Does the protocol apply to them as well?