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Sunday 21 April 2019
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Order of the Republic for Daaga, Deosaran, CJ

PRESIDENT’S HOUSE is tipped to tomorrow announce that the nation’s highest award — the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT) — is to be awarded to Black Power movement leader Makandal Daaga and former Independent senator, criminologist Professor Ramesh Deosaran, in addition to Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

Daaga, political leader of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), a member party of the People’s Partnership coalition Government, was born and still lives in Laventille.

For Independence 1962, Daaga formed an organisation called Pegasus, which is often cited, perhaps fittingly, as the first body to give “national awards”: taking the lead in honouring citizens long before any government awards were introduced.

In 1967, Daaga entered the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and became President of the Guild of Undergraduates and was at the heart of student activism.

While at the university, Daaga formed NJAC, in direct response to the perceptions of discrimination against Caribbean students at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia), in Montreal, Canada. NJAC mobilised the country for one whole year before the 56 days of demonstrations from February 26, 1970 to April 21, 1970 and in the process became a prime target for the establishment. He was imprisoned on four different occasions between 1970 and 1973. The Black Power movement, which provoked a state of emergency under Prime Minister Eric Williams on April 21, 1970, is regarded as having nonetheless achieved key reforms in the era of post-colonialism.

Daaga has not been the recipient of a national award before, but his wife, Liseli Daaga, was awarded the Hummingbird Medal Gold last year for community service.

It is unclear if Daaga will attend the National Awards ceremony at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts, San Fernando on Saturday. He has not been spotted at public events recently, missing Government Emancipation Day functions amid reports of his ill-health. However, an NJAC official yesterday stated Daaga was at the party’s office and is in better health.

Deosaran, the current chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and a columnist for Newsday, served as an Independent Senator in the 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Parliaments. He first entered Parliament as an Independent Senator in 1987, during the regime of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR). During his time in Parliament, he chaired key committees and successfully moved several motions on the Senate floor, including one to review the death penalty, and another to allow live broadcasting of parliamentary debates and proceedings — an important reform which has changed the way parliamentary work is received by the public.

In addition to years as a legislator, Deosaran is an internationally renowned scholar in criminology and the social sciences in his own right. For decades, Deosaran has been an active researcher in the areas of crime prevention and management, criminal justice, school violence and juvenile delinquency, poverty, educational administration and equity, community policing and police reform, penal reform, governance and civil society.

As PSC chairman, Desoran has recommended several reforms, including addressing the extent of the powers of the Police Commissioner and the process by which a Police Commissioner is chosen.

The third recipient of the ORTT, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, in another break from tradition, received his award at a ceremony at President’s House, Tobago yesterday afternoon.

Since 1971, all sitting Chief Justices have received the highest award, ex officio. The Chief Justice, head of the National Awards Committee which advises the President on National Awards, stands alongside the President and the Prime Minister when awards are handed out.


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