Handing-Over of the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Medal

Handing-Over of the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Medal to the National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago
Re – ANSA Mc Cal – April 26, 2016

At the National Awards Ceremony of 2012, the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT) was given (Posthumously) to former labour leader Adrian Cola Rienzi, in the category of Labour.  In 2016 this medal, the country’s highest nation award and symbol of national pride, was offered for sale on EBay.

Patriotic citizen and businessman Mr A. Norman Sabga offered a winning bid and brought the medal back to Trinidad and Tobago, and offered it to National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) for safekeeping and display.

At the ceremony for the handing over of the medal to NALIS at the Office of the President, St Ann’s, His Excellency made the following remarks.

With every issue this Republic faces, there is a gamut of opinion and sentiment consisting of diametrically opposed viewpoints, and this certainly occurred when our highest national award, the Order of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT) was put up for sale on EBay.

I was distraught at the thought of someone peddling this symbol of our national pride, and the truth be told, I do not know what affected me more: that it would be done in the first place or that some people saw nothing wrong with it.  My deepest appreciation to Mr. Norman Sabga, Chief Executive of ANSA Mc Cal Group of Companies, demonstrating genuine Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), who by his actions has recognized that true CSR is more than buying jerseys for football teams.
This simple ceremony is not only acknowledgement of a true act of CSR, but a celebration of what it truly means to have National Pride.

This is not the first time that the Sabga family has engaged in CSR with such telling effect.  Such is the Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence, an initiative of Dr Anthony N. Sabga, ORTT to recognise and reward excellence in the Caribbean region and create an awareness of the significant work done in the region that benefits Caribbean people, and all people worldwide.

CSR at work is transformational.  We don’t have a problem when CSR supports our World Cup football team or when it supports our favourite 20/20 cricket team, we certainly don’t have a problem when CSR supports our favourite chart busting soca or chutney artist, but yes, Mr Detractor, you have a problem in your so called “trinbagoism” when CSR comes to the aid of our symbol of patriotism, nationhood and national pride that is peddled like a trinket.  And you have a problem when a company and its Chief Executive decide not to play dead and rather do something about that obscene conduct.  Some treated the initiative of Chief Executive Norman Sabga with a degree of nonchalance and even mild derision.  Yes, I need to remind you that fete after fete after fete may be a cultural mind-set and subset of our national fabric but it is not a symbol of our patriotism and national pride.

The Trinity Cross and the Order of Trinidad and Tobago are the ultimate symbols of our nationhood.  In short, brevet, with regard to either of these National Awards, if you don’t want it don’t accept it, and if having accepted it, you no longer want it or appreciate it, don’t sell it or condemn it, simply give it back.  I therefore want to join in celebration with those who understand what it means to be a true son of the soil and for whom patriotism is not just another word in the dictionary, and red, white and black are more than just colours on a palate (palette).

The ORTT of Adrian Cola Rienzi has returned home to its proper place.  A few weeks ago I attended the 15th Meeting of Presidents and Governors-General of the Caribbean Region from 29th March to 1st Apr 2016, where ironically one of the topics comprehensively discussed among Heads of State was the relevance of an Honours System in CARICOM Territories.  This session was facilitated by Major David Rankin-Hunt, Norfolk Herald of Arms, who posited that:

“Honours are intended as a means of recognising service of outstanding merit beyond the normal demands of duty.”

Can anything less be said of Adrian Cola Rienzi?  As founder of both the Oilfields Workers Trade Union and the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Union, and a man intimately involved in the establishment of three other trade unions, we must pay homage to the fact that his hard work and his sacrifices have created great beneficence to so many and we take it all for granted.  Unfortunate it is, that he did not live to see the fruits of his labour, or the gratitude expressed in symbolic form by a discerning nation.

Our CARICOM Presidents and Governor Generals agreed that National Honours are the most efficient way for the State to publicly demonstrate its appreciation and gratitude to its citizens for contributing to society.  And this statement is unquestionably true because only four countries in the world do not possess an Honours system.

It is therefore obvious that this system of rewarding people for achievement or service is inherently part of global culture and helps form the bedrock for a just, fair and generous society.  The simple act of awarding a prize, in whatever form, engenders goodwill, pride and satisfaction.  National awards engender feelings of patriotism, not just for the recipients but also amongst their family and friends.  I am of the firm belief that once awarded, these symbols of Nationalism and Patriotic pride should stay within the family, we could probably adopt the convention of the UK and Dutch systems, in the case of honours given while the recipients are still alive, they should be returned upon the recipients’ death.  How many families can attest to an incurred wrong when a great grandmothers’ ring passes down through generations only to be sold off by a distant relative to whom this heirloom has no sentiment?

Adrian Reinzi Cola is a proud part of our history and the symbol of his sacrifice and hard work should rest within the boundaries of Trinidad and Tobago.  I therefore wish to congratulate and commend both Mr. Norman Sabga and National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) for their collaboration in finding a fitting place where the symbol of Adrian Reinzi Cola’s blood, sweat and tears can appropriately reside.