PORT-OF-SPAIN: Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the decision of former prime minister Patrick Manning not to accept the country’s highest national award is “unfortunate”.
Last week, Persad-Bissessar nominated Manning and another former prime minister, Basdeo Panday, for the Order of Trinidad & Tobago in recognition of their contribution to the socio-economic development of the twin-island republic, which celebrates its 52nd anniversary of political independence from Britain on August 31.
“Whatever differences we may share politically the award sought to honour Mr. Manning for his decades of service as a Parliamentarian,” said Persad-Bissessar. “It was meant to be a gesture of magnanimity and a moment to reach beyond the issues that divide us to acknowledge Mr. Manning’s many national contributions.”
In a statement, Manning, 68, said the primary reason for declining the award was based “firmly in my principled stance to not accept any Trinidad and Tobago awards while serving as an MP.
“Kamla Persad-Bissessar was able to win government on May 24, 2010 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?”
Manning said he wasn’t notified of the nomination from Persad-Bissessar.
“I was made aware of this nomination through persons who saw it reported on social media,” he said.
Persad-Bissessar expressed disappointment in Manning’s reaction.
“It is regrettable that in rejecting the nomination, Mr. Manning should seek to politicize the matter. His comments run against the grain of what was a well-intended gesture. The concept of recognizing the long and dedicated service of men and women who committed their lives to the people of Trinidad & Tobago must also been seen differently as we grow and mature as a nation.
“The decision to honour Patrick Manning was based on the changing philosophy that has underlined many of the reforms brought by my government inclusive of the need to honour those who have served regardless of their political affiliation, religious or other beliefs.”
Persad-Bissessar said while the government acknowledges Manning’s right to reject the nomination, “it is my hope that the ideal of reaching beyond the divide of politics to honour those who served the nation has not been lost”.
Manning said he wanted to assure citizens that he holds “our institutions, ceremonies and awards in the highest esteem and I pray for the day when Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the PP (People’s Partnership) government demit office”.
As of press time, Panday has made no comment since he was nominated for the honour by Persad-Bissessar.