Trinidad conglomerate puts in bid as country’s highest award goes up for sale on eBay

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, – Trinidad and Tobago’s highest national award is up for sale on eBay and local conglomerate, the Ansa McAl Group, has put in a US$25,000 bid to ensure it is returned to the twin-island republic “in preservation of its bestowed honor and dignity.”

The sale of the 18-carat Order of the Republic of T&T (ORTT) medal, posthumously awarded to trade unionist Adrian Cola Rienzi in 2012, has also disgusted Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona who confirmed that the award had been received by Rienzi’s son, Robert Waugh, who lives in Canada.

Rienzi, born Krishna Deonarine in 1905, founded the Oilfields Workers Trade Union and the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Union.

In a March 4 post on the e-commerce website, the Canadian seller, crawfordcsm, posted several photos of the medal; the original award document, signed by the then President, George Maxwell Richards, and stamped with the presidential seal; the programme from the National Awards ceremony on August 31, 2012; and the Daily Express newspaper report of the award being conferred on Rienzi.

“Unquestionably genuine, from the estate, and very rare!” the seller, which also has other official medals, antiques and vintage items for sale, declares in the description of the item.
The bidding which started at US$25,000 ends on Friday at 9:55 p.m. Up to this morning, one opening bid had been recorded. It was submitted by a bidder going by the name of a***t, yesterday.

In a statement issued yesterday, Ansa’s chairman Norman Sabga said the group decided to place a bid “to ensure that this historic piece of T&T is duly returned to our nation in preservation of its bestowed honour and dignity”, adding that it understood “the significance and patriotic pride to have such an honour bestowed upon any citizen”.

“It will be a shame and dishonour to the country’s highest award and to the legacy of its awardee Adrian Cola Rienzi if the honour inherent in the ORTT medal is not returned to our beloved country,” the release stated.

“It is our sincere hope that ANSA McAL secures the prized bid for the medal to secure its rightful return to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. It is our intention to respectfully seek the support of the Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago to facilitate our donation of the ORTT medal to the National Museum.”

According to a report in the Trinidad Guardian, the seller has indicated that he bought the medal legally from Rienzi’s estate.

“No disrespect is intended from the sale of this item,” the newspaper said the seller wrote in response to queries sent via eBay. “In fact, I am hoping it is purchased by someone in Trinidad and Tobago and sent ‘home’, possibly to be put on display for all to see, rather than sitting out of sight, and forgotten, in a desk or safety deposit box in a bank.”

But President Carmona said in statement that he was distraught at the prospect of someone “peddling the symbol of our national honour and pride.”

“The Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is not a rag doll that is disposable. This ultimate symbol of our nation’s pride and honour is sacrosanct. The intended sale of the ORTT medal offends one’s sense of patriotism and exposes a raw nerve,” he said.

Carmona further suggested that it may be time to amend the law to absolutely prohibit the sale or disposal of the ORTT medal, or at least demand that all persons honoured, or their representatives, sign a contract giving the Office of the President the first option to buy the medal in the event of intended disposal or sale.

“The ORTT must become and should be a proud heirloom in the family,” he said. “My humble admonition and entreaty to whoever is responsible for the intended sale of the ORTT medal: ‘You cannot do this to us’.”

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