IT MIGHT SEEM like a fine point but the measure to designate the Double Chaconia — and not the ordinary Chaconia — the national flower in some ways sends a big signal. The change hopefully paves the way for consideration of other, more significant revamps not only to the outward symbols of our patriotism but also the very institutions at the heart of our sovereignty.
By nature, national emblems are entrenched things. Children are taught them at school. They are featured in buildings, currency and even government stationary. In the face of this barrage of mind-numbing symbolism, which is often underlined by a genuine sense of national pride, it takes a degree of boldness to change, in any way, something as longstanding as the national flower. More so to correct an error of the past.
By now the arguments for and against the Double Chaconia have been ventilated. Yet, what matters most in this discussion is the willingness of the Cabinet to act to remedy a matter that was set in train long before that Cabinet — and indeed the nation — existed.
Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat is to be congratulated for his maiden bill. However, we note the State has previously tabled substantial reforms of existing legislation, raised fines, and designated certain species as sensitive, among other notable legislative interventions relating to our flora and fauna. Still, it is notable that this is only the first bill presented by Rambharat. Why has this taken so long?
Enforcing existing laws may well be a priority. In a situation where we have more laws than resources, the ministry would be forgiven for seeking to work with what it has. Still, the implications for reform in other areas cannot be ignored.
The Double Chaconia issue goes to the heart of our status as a free state. With this week’s reform we have demonstrated there are no sacred cows; that even emblems embraced in the immediate aftermath of Independence are subject to scrutiny. What else should be changed? There have long been murmurs about the Cocorico, and the prioritisation of the perspective of Christopher Columbus on the coat of arms has been under scrutiny. It remains ironic the Chaconia was named after Spanish Governor of Trinidad, Don Jose Maria Chacon, himself symbol of colonial power and class.
Deeper questions loom. Just as we have been able to tinker with the national flower, when will we overhaul our relationship with the Privy Council? Surely that matter is more fundamental to ideas of national pride and sovereignty. As is constitutional reform and economic diversification. In a fast-paced world dominated by multi-media, it may seem odd to focus on something as arcane as a national flower. But when it comes to social change, every little counts.