Chairman of the Eminent Person’s Panel Michael Mansoor announced the names of the winners during a ceremony at ANSA McAL’s head office, Tatil Building, Maraval Road, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
“In the Arts and Letters category, the winner for this year is Professor Caryl Phillips, he is from St Kitts,” Mansoor announced.
Rhonda Maingot, a distinguished Trinidadian woman, was selected in the Public and Civic contributions category. Science and Technology had two winners, Professor Dave Chadee of Trinidad and Professor Anselm JM Hennis of Barbados.
“All of the 15 nominees that came to us were excellent nominees, excellent choices” Mansoor said as he emphasised there was no dearth of outstanding Caribbean nationals worthy of the award. But the ultimate deciding factor is “selecting individuals who we believe will make major contributions in the areas of expertise in the future” Mansoor added.
Each laureate received TT$500,000, a medal and a citation. It boasts of being the only programme in the Caribbean which “seeks out and rewards” outstanding nominees in the three named categories. Mansoor explained that “to a very significant extent this is not a lifetime achievement award” but one that seeks to identity individuals who have done extremely well in their expertise.”
But most importantly, he said, it aimed to “encourage them to use the award, the financial rewards that have been provided, and perhaps most importantly the prestige that comes along with the award to help them to serve Caribbean communities in the future.”
Phillips is a highly accomplished novelist, playwright, critic and essayist. Born in St Kitts, he is currently a professor of English at Yale University. He has published ten novels between 1985 and 2009, beginning with The Final Passage, and including the Commonwealth prize-winning A Distant Shore (2004), Cambridge, The Nature of Blood and In the Falling Snow.
This award adds to an already exhaustive list of awards, including, the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He was also named the (British) Sunday Times Best Young Writer of the Year in 1992 and featured in the 1993 Granta list of best young British writers. Maingot is the lone woman Laureate but her charitable work in T&T and the Caribbean spans decades.
She has been instrumental in founding a number of charitable religious institutions dedicated to children, the poor, the elderly and since founding the Living Water Community in 1975, Maingot has created more than 20 religious and secular organisations, missions, and service institutions throughout the Caribbean and further abroad.
The panel faced the greatest challenge selecting a laureate in the category of science and technology, leading to a tie for the category. Chadee is an entomologist and parasitologist and an expert in vector-borne diseases whose work has positively affected the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the world.
He worked for two decades with the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Health before joining the UWI, St Augustine, in 2004. Hennis, a professor of medicine and a medical research scientist, has done path-breaking work in the areas of chronic non-communicable diseases and eye-related disease (glaucoma) in the region.
He has also pioneered epidemiological surveys, like the setting up of a national registry in Barbados to record the incidence of stroke, cardiovascular disease and cancer in that country. Collectively, they have produced almost 300 scholarly papers. The awards’ programme director Maria Superville Neilson said: “The award that they will get is to help to spur them on to do great things for the region in the years to come.”
The awards have been in existence since 2005. The 2013 laureates will receive their honours at a ceremony in April.