We have a tendency in this country to articulate ready solutions
to some of the most complex issues any society can face.
It goes without saying that those with the problem-solving-made-easy
approach do not shoulder responsibility for implementation.
They can, therefore, ignore or disregard objections to their
Leaders vested with responsibility cannot be so reckless.
This is particularly true of those responsible for the political
management of a state, especially one as heterogeneous as
Such management challenges have had to be addressed during
this countrys post-independency history by leaders of
different political persuasions from the PNM, NAR and UNC
over the last 45 years.
They have all had to confront their moments of truth.
Some examples: reaching agreement at the London Independence
Conference between Drs Williams and Capildeo, facilitating
T&Ts independence; the industrial relations turmoil
of the mid-sixties; the 1970 social upheaval; the 1986 democratic
transfer of political power; the failed1990 coup attempt;
the 1995 and 2001 general elections which produced 17-17-2
and 18-18 Parliaments, respectively.
That none of these potentially explosive developments overwhelmed
our capacity to manage them reflected favourably on the leaders
who facilitated the outcomes, the professional performances
of the relevant institutions and above all, the inherent tolerance
of our people.
Another one of these testing moments is the Trinity Cross
issue. By its very nature and the deep emotion it engenders,
its disruptive potential should not be underestimated, particularly
when used by demagogues for ethnic mobilisation.
The constitutionality of the Trinity Cross was challenged
by the Maha Sabha and Sat Maharaj and the Islamic Relief Centre
and Inshan Ishmael, on the grounds that its continued existence
and award breached their fundamental rights guaranteed under
the Constitution including, inter alia, its freedom of conscience
and religious belief and observance provisions.
Justice Jamadar held (T)hat the creation and continued
existence of the Trinity Cross, given the historical, religious
and sociological context of T&T, combined with the experiences
as well as the religious beliefs of Hindus and Muslims, amount
to indirect adverse effects discrimination against Hindus
Notwithstanding, the application was dismissed, by virtue
of the savings of existing law provision in the 1976 Constitution,
the Order of the Trinity and the Trinity Cross are deemed
to be existing law and therefore cannot be invalidated.
Predictably, the political opportunists quickly seized upon
the judgment. Panday, the flawed former UNC leader, conveniently
ignored his own failure to act on the recommendation of the
National Awards Committee, chaired by then CJ Michael de la
Bastide, whose report recommended a name change of the nations
highest award from the Trinity Cross to The
Order of Trinidad and Tobago.
Panday, a Hindu, then prime minister and at the zenith of
his political power, had no excuse for his inaction, other
than lack of political will.
The same lack of political will characterised his failure
to deal with the Caroni issue. The principal victims of his
grave dereliction of duty were the very Hindus, Muslims and
sugar workers who constituted the core of his political support.
In abdicating his responsibility to them, without even an
explanation, Panday failed them miserably.
Having lost his office as Opposition Leader, and with his
political career at its nadir, Panday is now calling upon
the Government to do something about the Trinity Cross.
But, he said, can we really expect that
to happen when they failed to act in a similar judgment on
the Maha Sabha licence issue? So I dont expect them
to do anything and they may simply choose to ignore the judgment.
Has Panday fully grasped the profound implications of the
judgment for the UNC?
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in a pale imitation
of her masters voice, also sought to exploit perceived
The judgment comes at a time when we are in the midst
of Indian Arrival Day celebrations, and this would surely
enhance those celebrations, since the majority of Indo-Trinidadians
are Hindus and Muslims
I therefore call on the Government to ensure the change
is made in time for the upcoming independence celebrations,
so we do not witness another award ceremony for the independence
of the country with a discriminatory symbol involved.
Sheer opportunism, since neither she nor her prime minister
did anything about it when they both had the power and authority
so to do.
Justice Jamadar, while ruling the law which provides for the
Trinity Cross is valid, noted it is indirectly discriminatory
against Hindus and Muslims on religious grounds.
In the context of T&T, said the judge, given
its history, it is quite clear that the words Trinity
and Cross can be associated with the Blessed Trinity
and the cross of the Christian religion.
To link the words reinforces that association.
Will the UNC now rethink this provision in its constitution?
The symbol of the party shall be the rising sun over
the Trinity Hills above the letters UNC
How will the UNC, with its preponderance of Hindus and Muslims,
resolve this conundrum of its own creation?
But T&T is a secular state, governed by the rule of law
as Prime Minister Manning re-affirmed in Parliament recently.
Thus, he said, his administration was under obligation to
comply with Justice Jamadars ruling and remove
(the Trinity Cross) anomaly from our national life
Prime Minister Mannings further remarks were a reassuring
indication that his administration accepted Justice Jamadars
ruling as a general principle.
At the same time, Mr Speaker, we must not lose
this excellent opportunity to examine any other similar situation
which has been allowed to persist to the discomfort of any
section of the national family..
Confidence that T&T can successfully treat with such knotty
problems rests basically on two important pillars: the innate
good sense and tolerance of our people who, in our short history,
have demonstrated our determination to strive for unity in
diversity, while ignoring the siren songs of those who seek
to exploit our differences; our good fortune to have at these
critical junctures home-grown and nurtured political and judicial
leadership equal to the challenge.
These are our hope for the future.