(Trinidad Express) Former prime minister Patrick Manning yesterday said he was declining the award of the nation’s highest honour, The Order of The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, announced on Thursday night by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The Prime Minister also announced the Government’s intention to confer another former prime minister, Basdeo Panday, with the award.
The Order is given to an individual who has rendered “distinguished and outstanding service to Trinidad and Tobago”. The national awards are given out annually, on Independence Day, August 31. Persad-Bissessar’s disclosure at a pre-Independence cocktail reception at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, on Thursday night has raised queries about the process of bestowing these awards upon deserving citizens. It has also raised the issue of whether she bypassed the authority of Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who is chair of the National Awards Committee. However, contacted yesterday, the Prime Minister said, “That is not true.” Via a telephone interview, when asked if she had bypassed Archie, Persad-Bissessar said: “That is not true. We are preparing a statement to issue shortly, and, that is not true. We have drafted something. That is not so if you look at the way the law is framed.” On his Facebook page yesterday, Manning said Persad-Bissessar had launched a series of attacks upon his character in order to win Government, and had he been consulted beforehand he would have privately declined. He also said he had learned about it via postings through people who saw it on Facebook. An excerpt from his Facebook post said: “Persad-Bissessar was able to win government on May 24 through a series of sustained and vicious attacks on my character that was led personally by her. These attacks continue. Through this nomination announcement is the Prime Minister retracting those venomous accusations and charges against me?” As regards the “process” in which prospective awardees ought first to be consulted, Manning said: “Subsequently a daily newspaper called one of my sons for a comment on the nomination. I was neither consulted, nor advised prior to this announcement. I consider this approach a gross discourtesy.” Manning proceeded to explain the process as he knew it. He said: “Under PNM administrations, committee considers these distinguished national awards, with the Chief Justice as the chairman and subject to the imprimatur (formal and explicit approval) of the Prime Minister. “Due process for these awards involved informing the potential recipients through the Office of the Prime Minister in a confidential manner. Only recipients who have agreed to accept an award are then announced publicly, and, with dignity. Had I been consulted beforehand I would have been able to privately decline.” He added: “The need for public distancing is unfortunate but necessary in the light of the many and increasingly debauched approaches to these matters used by the United National Congress (UNC) administration in its four years in office.” Additionally, Manning said: “I assure all citizens I hold our institutions, ceremonies and awards in the highest esteem, and, I pray for the day when Persad-Bissessar and her People’s Partnership Government demit office and we can once again “take our pride in our liberty”. Efforts to contact Panday yesterday proved futile. A relative said he was not in the country and they were not sure when he would return home. Efforts to contact his daughter Mikela Panday on her mobile proved futile.