While neither of the former prime ministers who were nominated this year accepted the highest national award, the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT), Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar believes they are both “very deserving” of the honour.
This was the response by the Prime Minister yesterday when questioned by members of the media during a cocktail reception for the 52nd anniversary of Independence, hosted by the T&T Police Service at the Police administration building on Edward Street, Port of Spain.
Former prime ministers Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday were announced by Persad-Bissessar as having been nominated for the award on August 21. Less than 24 hours later, Manning publicly declined the nomination for the award while, up to yesterday, Panday had not formally responded.
“This is not the first time and I suspect it may not be the last time where this has happened and the highest order wasn’t given out. It would have been nice to have one, to have it given out, but that’s how it is,” said Persad-Bissessar.
“I feel they (Panday and Manning) are very deserving of the highest award. They have served between them almost 80 years. Both of them have served with distinction for about 40 years each and I still believe they are very deserving of the award for this outstanding service to Trinidad and Tobago.
“I am sad that they did not accept, but it is their right to accept or not to accept. We live in a democracy and it is their right to say yay or nay to the nomination. But, I repeat, they are very deserving, in my opinion, of the awards,” the PM added.
When asked about observing protocol for the granting of the ORTT, the Prime Minister explained that any recommendations had to be delivered to the sitting President, Anthony Carmona, and, from there, the President would make contact with persons who were nominated to attain their consent or otherwise.
The Prime Minister then wished the media and the public a happy independence, noting that all she wanted for the country was, as we celebrate our 52nd anniversary, “to continue to live as we do in a very peaceful and united way, with respect, discipline and tolerance for each other”.