ICONS HONOURED: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, centre, has the attention of two of the most celebrated personalities in Trinidad and Tobago—masman Peter Minshall, left, and calypsonian the Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco)—during the Siparia Women’s Association Children‘s Carnival at Bhupsingh Park, Penal, yesterday. Persad-Bissessar, who leaves today on a State visit to China, announced that Sparrow would be awarded the Order of Trinidad and Tobago, the nation’s highest honour, and Minshall is to receive the deed to the State property he has been occupying at Federation Park, Port of Spain. –Photo: TREVOR WATSON

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PM: T&T’s highest national award and medical help for Sparrow; Federation Park house for Minshall

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

Calypsonian the Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco) will be awarded the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the nation’s highest honour.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar made the announcement yesterday while attending the annual Siparia Women’s Association’s Kiddies Carnival competition at Bhupsingh Park, Penal Junction. 

Persad-Bissessar leaves today for an official visit to China.

Her delegation will comprise Min­ister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran; Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment Vasant Barath; and Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs Kevin Ramnarine. The visit ends on February 28. 

Persad-Bissessar said the Government had also agreed to cover all medical expenses incurred by Sparrow during his recent ill­ness, which had left him bedridden in a New York hospital in the US for several months last year.

“I am very pleased to announce today, in your very distinguished presence, that I have advised His Excellency the President Mr Justice Anthony Carmona to confer on you, Dr Slinger Francisco, the Mighty Sparrow, the prestigious Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the highest national recognition and honour which can be awar­ded to any citizen,” she said to Sparrow, who attended the event.

Persad-Bissessar said the award was a fitting tribute for the contributions Sparrow has made to this country and to the world.

“I am very pleased that I am also able to announce to you personally that my Government has further agreed to cover all the medical expenses incurred by your recent illness from which you successfully recovered,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said in the immortal words of his calypsoes and the unique style of his showmanship, Sparrow has entertained “our senses and challenged our sensibilities”. She said Sparrow’s words have inspired, reflected, caused serious introspection and, at times, have just provided sheer lyrical musical delight.

Persad-Bissessar said she was not aware of the extent of Sparrow’s medical bills. “We do not have a final figure but we will do so once he presents his bills. I think he truly deserves to be taken care of in this regard,” she said.

Sparrow returned home last month, the first time since falling seriously ill in New York last September.

In his distinctive voice, Sparrow said yesterday he accepted the award with great pride and pleasure. “Thank you for your love and kindness, and I hope I can be around long enough to give you more and more,” he said.

Sparrow then belted out verses to some of his most popular songs, including “Congo Man”, “Education” and “Dan is the Man (in the van)”. 

Masman Peter Minshall, who also attended the event in Penal, was rewarded with the deed to the State property he has been occupying in Fede­ra­tion Park, Port of Spain. 

Persad-Bissessar said, “He is one of the greatest masmen of our time, and I am pleased to announce that my Government has agreed to grant Peter Minshall, whose work has been hailed internationally, the deed to State property at Federation Park which he has been occupying for several years. This is in keeping with grants being given to other noteworthy citizens.”

Minshall responded, “From my heart, I want to thank the people of Trinidad and Tobago for putting a roof over my head.”

Reigning Junior Calypso Monarch Aaron Duncan and Chutney Soca king KI (Kris Persad) performed for the children at the event. 

Primary schools and early childhood care and education (ECCE) centres in the Siparia constituency participated in the Kiddies Carnival competition. The children showcased their talents by parading in colourful costumes, similar to those seen on the streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

Persad-Bissessar also noted that Mandela Day, a day to pay tribute to the international icon and freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela, would be held in April. Mandela Day will not be a public holiday.  

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