Language is a system of interdependent terms in
which the value of each term results solely from the simultaneous
presence of the others.
Course in General Linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure
The Trinity Cross is no longer this countrys highest
national award. Amen. Finally the long arm of the law has
plunged a secular wedge between Church and State to birth
a true possibility for every one to find an equal place in
this nauseatingly Christianised society.
The past two weeks will go down in history as one of T&Ts
defining moments in its democratic evolution towards equality
and respect for all.
On May 26, Justice Peter Jamadars 80-page judgment
stated the creation and continued existence of the Trinity
Cross, given the historical, religious and sociological context
amount to indirect adverse effects of discrimination
against Hindus and Muslims.
Jamadars assertion on the need for consensual
decision-making regarding the award of the nations highest
honour underscores the requisite that everybody in this multi-everything
society must be a part of the process of national meritorious
Likewise, both its symbolic and corporeal representationas
a text semantically encoded with histories, experiences and
significancemust be inclusive rather than exclusive,
secular rather than religious.
Therein lies the value of the name.
Of course, jumpy Attorney General John Jeremie was quick
to declare victory, just as in the Barbados/T&T fishing
dispute, in which nobody won but he nonetheless
Prime Minister Patrick Mannings consequent announcement
on June 2 that his administration has an obligation
to comply with this ruling was less of an heroic act
than merely fulfilling an obligation:
n The Maha Sabha gave the PM 21 days to correct the problem
or face further legal action.
n Gopio hosted its own national awards in 2004
to counter the Trinity Cross discrimination.
n In the same year, the Inter-Religious Organisation called
for the award to be replaced with a non-Christian symbol.
n In 1998, a committee chaired by Chief Justice (and Trinity
Cross recipient) Michael de la Bastide urged its renaming
since it found the Trinity Cross was perceived as a
n In 1995, Dharmacharya of T&T Pundit Krishna Maharaj
refused to accept the award because it was discriminatory.
n Former PNM senator Dr Wahid Ali, 18 years earlier, was
the first national to refuse the Trinity Cross.
Strangely, Manning made an election promise to address the
issue of the Trinity Cross. A year later, when affronted by
Gopio, he called its award ceremony a pappyshow
and categorically stated his Government had no intention of
changing the name of the Trinity Cross.
And he has often brazenly declared that his personal (read:
religious) beliefs guide him. That is why he refused
to acquiesce to the national gender policy to afford women
But Manning is an honourable man. Finally coerced by the
legal judgment, public pressure and, perhaps, by his own embarrassing
vacillation, Manning gave in, and in statesmanlike style.
I wonder how Jeremie must be feeling now.
Trinity vs Trinidad
It was Ferdinand de Saussure, the most esteemed man on words
before Noam Chomsky, who said reality is textual.
Man has viscerally and necessarily ascribed everything a
name, even the most fantastic of his intangible beliefs, such
as Godwho has a name, a sex (usually), a location and
a purpose. Every word is a sign infused with meaning, history
and raison detre.
And words are not isolated entities; they must relate to
some other word or sign, otherwise they wouldnt exist:
hence the problem with Trinity Cross.
Some Christians supreme belief in themselves has now
showed itself. The Trinity Cross is not something with which
we should interfere. I wonder why? Maybe, to them, the symbol
means more than the award.
Others are ignorant of and apathetic towards the issue.
Perhaps if more Crawfords and Naipauls and Minshalls were
bestowed with such honour, rather than the detached CJsindependence
award favouritescitizens would take it more seriously.
Im sure now they do.
And then the loutish Trinis are cackling about: well, they
might as well change the name of the whole damn country, too.
But the difference is patent. the Trinity Cross, as the
nations highest award, is vested with a meaning and
purpose entirely different to the countrys name. As
premier symbol of national merit, honour and gratitude, it
must indispensably in its very nature be all-encompassingnational.
That is why the issue is not an Indian one, or a Hindu one,
but a national one.
Unfortunately, throughout our political history a statistical
majority has allowed successive governments to determine what
each thinks is best for all. But it is invariably good only
for a few.
This issue, therefore, represents an historical change in
what we see as national. It is a momentous step
forward in understanding our pluralistic selves and, indeed,
what it means to be a nation.
This is secular, multi-cultural society. Our constancy is
in peril, but our democracy is thriving.