Even another trade union should have tried to purchase the medal, the country’s highest honour, awarded posthumously to Rienzi in 2012, Carmona said expressing disappointment during an event commemorating Rienzi’s fellow labour movement pioneer Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, who also led the OWTU, in Fyzabad.
“I have to admit that I felt disappointed that no trade union was standing in that queue to retrieve this trade union legacy, to buy the medal of the first president of the OWTU,” Carmona said.
The President had expressed outrage with it emerged that Rienzi’s medal had been put up for sale by a relative at a starting bid of US$25,000 on the auction website. The highest offer made for the medal was “US$31,000 before it was bought by one of Trinidad’s leading conglomerates, the Ansa McAL Group for the original bid price of US$25,000 and returned to the Office of the President in April.
The medal has since been placed with the National Library.
Carmona thanked the Ansa McAL Group for restoring the medal to the country.
“It will be remiss of me if I do not express my heartfelt gratitude to a multi-millionaire, the chairman of Ansa McAL Group, Norman Sabga, who rallied the forces to ensure that the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago medal given posthumously to Adrian Cola Rienzi, the first president of the Oilfields Trade Union, did not suffer the ignominious legacy of being peddled like a trinket on the world market,” the President said.
He hailed the legacy of Rienzi, also known as Krishna Deonarine, as a leader, along with Butler, who unified the two major races in Trinidad in their struggle against their colonial masters. Carmona then urged the population to once again unite in the face of today’s trying times.
“Race did not divide us then and therefore it must not divide us now,” the President said during the inaugural street drama presentation of the life and times of Butler, of the 1930s, at Charlie King Junction.
Recalling the historical background of Africans and East Indians, one which had emerged from the bonds of slavery while the other had endured the hardships of indentured labour, Carmona said the two races had become integrated to such an extent that Rienzi had been elected as OWTU’s first president general.
“Now these two dominant ethnic groups became integrated in Trinidad and this culminated in the election of Krishna Deonarine as the first president of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union, yes, Krishna Deonarine was the first president of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union and, yes, you were wondering who is this Krishna Deonarine, well he was Adrian Cola Rienzi, labour leader, barrister, trade unionist, politician and real game changer,” Carmona explained to small but lively audience.
And even as he chided them for not seeking to acquire the Rienzi medal, Carmona did thank the OWTU for “coming on board” with the Office of the President to stage the inaugural street drama saying the oil town of Fyzabad had been overlooked for its contribution to the country’s development.
“Fyzabad, this once nondescript oil town has long been denied its true relevance as the genesis of social revolution in Trinidad and Tobago, and this has been the result of indifference, apathy, and sometimes plain simple ignorance on the role this oil town has played in the social transformation of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.