GOVERNMENT intends to change the Trinity Cross, the country’s highest honour. Government has made its decision in light of a ruling by Justice Peter Jamadar that the nation’s highest award amounts to discrimination against Hindus and Muslims.
Cabinet yesterday adjudicated on the issue. However, when asked about the matter at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference, Trade Minister Ken Valley would only confirm that the issue was discussed. “Yes it was discussed. But you know I can’t (say what decision was taken). I still have a Prime Minister. At the appropriate time the Prime Minister will address the issue.”
Sources however confirmed Government would change the name but had not yet decided what the name Trinity Cross would be replaced with. There was also some doubt as to whether the name change could happen in time for this year’s National Awards on August 31, Independence Day.
There was speculation that some sort of statement would be made at today’s sitting of the House of Representatives.
It would prempt a petition which Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is to present asking Government to consider the recommendations of the De la Bastide report, which includes the renaming of the Trinity Cross to the Order of Trinidad and Tobago.
Government’s decision would satisfy those who have been clamouring for change of the award for some time. In the forefront of this movement for change were the Maha Sabha and the Islamic Relief Centre who jointly took the issue to court contending that the Trinity Cross bore a Christian symbol. Jamadar said while the Trinity Cross was discriminatory, the court could not invalidate it.
Changing the Trinity Cross would involve bringing a new bill to the Parliament. But as a political analyst said yesterday, Government can be assured of Opposition support. He stated that it would be a very good political move because the Opposition could not vote against it, having called for the change.
According to reliable sources Manning has undergone a sea change with respect to the Trinity Cross.
Yesterday in a letter to the Editor, Wilhelmina McDowell Benjamin, who was instrumental in designing the cross, said “Christianity or religion never entered my mind” when she did the design. “If it did I never would have made a cross like that. Therefore discrimination was in no way a consideration. I thought anyone would feel proud to wear a medal like that,” she said.
Benjamin, who was a former Librarian with the Central Library Services at the time the Trinity Cross was designed in the early 1960s stated that she researched the matter thoroughly “mindful of the words ‘ every creed and race find an equal place’.
“When it came to the ‘cross’, I checked the definition and discovered there were very many meanings. One meaning stood out, that of ‘an ornament in some form of a cross worn for as a distinction by knights of various orders and by persons honoured for exceptional merit or bravery’. This was the definition in my mind when I did the design,” Mc Dowell Benjamin said.