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Letter: Trinidad and Tobago national awards
Published on August 23, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

There is still much talk for and against the shifting of the National Awards Ceremony from Independence Day – August 31, to Republic Day – September 24. For me, the announcement was a welcome one and long overdue. I struggle to appreciate the arguments being offered against the shift.

Both Independence Day and Republic Day are special days for nation’s celebrations but for my arguments I will deal more specifically with the genesis of our National Awards.
Simply put, Independence Day celebrates the day a country wins or attains its freedom from rule of another country, while Republic Day or Republicanism, celebrates the idea of being a citizen in country under which the people hold popular sovereignty.

Therefore, a country recognising and awarding its citizens for outstanding and meritorious service on Republic Day is more appropriate and meaningful than Independence Day.

What I found most disappointing though, is that some of the people who postulate themselves as our erudite are playing smart with foolishness in their attempt to negate this shift.

National Awards were introduced following our 1962 independence. However, the first National Awards were given out seven years later in1969. Prior to independence, Trinidad and Tobago being part of the British Empire received Commonwealth Awards which was conferred by Her Majesty the Queen of England. Attaining Independence status, the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago the day felt these awards were no longer appropriate and moved on to design medals that were more reflective of Trinidad and Tobago.

And being a newly independent nation it was also acceptable to hand out these National Awards on Independence Day. Similarly, handing out these awards on Independence Day is no longer appropriate now that we are a Republic – the day we became master of our own destiny. Handing out National Awards on Republic Day is truly symbolic and more meaningful in building and strengthening nationhood.

I recall debates some years ago concerning our highest national award when it was called the Trinity Cross. One argument then, in the eyes of some, was that the cross represented the symbol of early world colonisation, a status we had just discarded. I don’t think it was for this reason but rather a collection of other reasons, Trinidad and Tobago’s highest National Award – the Trinity Cross was replaced with the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT). Not, and I repeat, not the Order of the Independence of Trinidad and Tobago.

A special committee appointed by Cabinet recommended the change which was accepted by government following loud echoes against the name and symbol of the cross being on our highest national award. Something more reflective of the varied culture and religion of this rainbow country was being demanded.

I congratulate President Anthony Carmona for his wisdom in this matter and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and all the others who were consulted and were prudent in agreement.

Let us now celebrate Republic Day with pride, dignity and the handing out of National Awards.

Thank you.

Dr Robert Williams
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