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«Commemorating Dr Eric E Williams at 100 Online news and commentary in 2011 about the ‘Father of the Nation’ of Trinidad & Tobago Compiled for ...»

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Commemorating Dr Eric E Williams at 100

Online news and commentary in 2011 about

the ‘Father of the Nation’ of Trinidad & Tobago

Compiled for online sharing by

Peter B. Jordens


Curaçao: October 2011


Introduction 1

1 Convert Old Public Library into Museum Guardian March 26 3

2 Rowley: TT’s First PM ‘Father of the Nation’ Newsday March 26 4 3 Family Wants Special Honour for Williams Express March 27 5 4 Dr Williams Interfaith Service Today Newsday March 27 6 5 Book of Remembrance for Dr Eric Williams Newsday March 28 7 6 Dr Eric Williams Remembrance Day Guardian March 28 8 7 Government to Honour Williams Next Year Express March 28 10 8 Bipartisan Homage to Eric Williams at 100 Express March 29 11 9 Learn from Williams’ Teachings Guardian April 3 12 10 Honouring Eric Williams’ legacy Guardian April 4 13 11 Erica: Stop the Partisan Politics over ‘Doc’ Express April 6 15 12 Erica Wants More Recognition for Father Guardian April 6 16 13 T&T’s First PM Gets Stamp Issue Guardian April 6 17 14 Dr Eric Williams: The Time Has Come Guardian April 6 18 15 Williams’ Stamp on History Express April 19 20 16 Tobago Marks Birth, Death of Eric Williams Guardian May 18 22 17 Dr Williams’ Integrity beyond Reproach Newsday June 20 23 18 Eric Williams and the Challenge of Caribbean Leadership Newsday July 3 25 19 Eric Williams a Man of Many Talents Newsday July 10 31 20 Leaders Must Fix Region’s Woes Newsday July 17 34 Selected photographs 36 21 Eric Williams: Local Legend Guardian August 28 38 22 Events to Commemorate the Centenary of Eric Williams’ Birth Repeating Islands September 2 40 23 New Documentary Series Reveals the Many Sides of Dr Eric Williams Express September 12 42 24 Inward Hunger: The Story of Eric Williams Newsday September 19

–  –  –

This booklet presents 41 articles that appeared online in 2011, containing news and commentary by several authors on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth and the 30th anniversary of the death of Dr Eric Eustace Williams (1911-1981), noted Trinbagonian and Caribbean visionary, leader, statesman, prime minister, scholar, and teacher.

The articles, reproduced here in chronological order, appeared in three Trinidad & Tobago newspapers ―the Guardian (14), the Express (10), and Newsday (9)― and in other Caribbean newspapers, newssites or newsblogs (8). The authors are reporters, commentators, and scholars. The booklet includes five photographs, also found online, that concern the commemoration of the two Williams anniversaries in 2011.

This booklet does not include items from websites/webpages that are permanently and entirely dedicated to Dr Eric Williams, such as the website of the Eric Williams Memorial Collection Research Library, Archives, and Museum (which issued several press releases in 2011) or the Eric Williams page on Facebook. I wish to encourage the reader to peruse these and other online spaces as well.

The purpose of this compilation is (1) to provide some insight into the manner in which Trinidad & Tobago in particular has commemorated Dr Eric Williams in 2011 and (2) to join Trinidad & Tobago in honouring Dr Williams and reflecting upon his complex legacy as the 50th anniversary of that nation’s Independence (August 31, 2012) approaches.

2011 is not the first time that the meaning of Dr Eric Williams’s life and work has been the subject of reflection. Appendix 2 provides a (probably incomplete) list of the many conferences, journals, and books that have been dedicated to his life and work in previous years. The titles alone of these events and publications confirm that people still struggle to define and come to terms with the legacy of this controversial, contradictory, eccentric, and enigmatic Caribbean icon.

The present compilation of articles confirms that ‘the Doctor’ was a multi-faceted and puzzling figure.

He inspired and energised many people around him, but also instilled fear. Although he was capable of compassion, he developed a reputation for aloofness, insensitivity, arrogance, and rudeness. He was, then, a clear example of the fact that human beings are essentially contradictory creatures ― a fact that compels us to always approach each other respectfully and fairly. Unfortunately, it seems that Dr Williams was misunderstood by many, as he was both adored and despised, both deified and vilified.

A brilliant scholar who helped transform Caribbean historiography in the 20th century, Dr Williams also had vision and an inborn drive for authority, and he ended up serving and leading Trinidad & Tobago for an unequalled 25 consecutive years, from 1956 till his death in office in 1981. His life presents a fascinating case study of themes relevant to the Trinbagonian and Caribbean context, such as charismatic (male) leadership, the family, the decolonization of scholarship, inter-ethnic relations, nationalism, regionalism, independence, governance, and development policy. The peoples of the Caribbean at large are well-advised to continue studying both the well-known and the lesser-know facts of his life and his being.

As a non-Trinbagonian who came to learn about Dr Eric Williams only after his death, I hesitate to venture a full assessment of the Doctor. However, it seems safe to agree with the following three persons that, whatever one may think of him, “he is, unquestionably, the greatest Trinidadian of the 20th century ― the person who has had the • greatest influence on the affairs of the country” (Jeff Hackett, Trinidad Express, March 26, 1998);

“Truly he was a rare individual not only of Trinidad & Tobago but also of the Caribbean and the • entire world” (Franklin W Knight, Jamaica Observer, September 28, 2011);

he “was the architect and builder of the state of Trinidad and Tobago”, and “on balance... his • performance was worthy of History’s applause” (Selwyn Ryan, Trinidad Express, September 24, 2011).

Peter B. Jordens Curaçao, October 2011

–  –  –

Gail Alexander, Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Saturday, March 26, 2011 http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2011/03/26/convert-old-public-library-museum Government has been urged to convert the former public library building at Knox Street, Port of Spain, into a museum to house the Eric Williams Memorial Collection. The recommendation came yesterday from Opposition Leader Keith Rowley, during the House of Representatives session. Rowley was piloting an Opposition motion calling for the Government to take tangible steps to mark the centenary of Williams’ birth. PNM founder and late former Prime Minister Williams would have been 100 years old on September 25. The motion also called for Parliament to direct the Education Minister to declare 2011 “Dr Eric Williams Year” and ensure that Williams’ work and life history feature prominently as part of the national school curriculum at all levels of the education system in 201l and beyond. “I don’t think it falls to me to convince anybody in this House or country that the 100th anniversary of Dr Williams is worthy of the highest celebration,” Rowley said.

Calling on politicians to demonstrate that they could come together to celebrate things, Rowley added:

“We’ve been known to come together to mourn, we can come together to celebrate and if there is one event in T&T history that warrants a celebration, it is the centenary of Eric Eustace Williams.” Rowley suggested that the Eric Williams Memorial Collection at UWI be given staff and support by the Government so Williams’ work could be in perpetuity available to all.

Calling for the proposed museum to be housed at the former public library at Knox Street, Rowley said: “That building across the street where Dr Williams conducted those famous lectures — while architecturally superb, it is being left to rot unattended. It should be made available to UWI to house the Eric Williams collection. It could not be a more fitting place — right next to Woodford Square. It would marry the library with Williams’ history and we’d have an academic shrine in the centre of Port of Spain for persons who want to walk into the life of Eric Williams.” The building next to City Hall had housed the Port of Spain Public Library until the NALIS Complex was built. NALIS officials said yesterday that the building was empty. Rowley also called for the Government to appoint a joint select commit-tee comprising Government, Opposition and Independent members to work out an “appropriate response” to mark Williams’ centenary.

Detailing Williams’ life, Rowley noted that Williams had been fired in 1955 from the Caribbean Commission for bucking the status quo. He said Williams later made a speech in Woodford Square, declaring his entry into the political arena, and in 1956, the PNM was born. Rowley noted the number of international personalities who had paid tribute to Williams when he died. He detailed Williams’ work in the region, and his pioneering work in education. He also cited Williams’ work in cricket, saying what was taking in place in cricket today “... is a Mickey Mouse thing.” Rowley’s reference to Williams as the “Father of the Nation” prompted People’s Partnership MP, Errol McLeod, to ask: “Is the MP saying it is true Dr Williams may have said we can have one mother, but three, four fathers...?”

–  –  –

Andre Bagoo, Trinidad and Tobago Newsday Saturday, March 26, 2011 http://www.newsday.co.tt/politics/0,137813.html Dr Eric Williams cannot “legislate from the grave,” Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley argued yesterday as he sought to justify his call for a special recognition of Williams in the face of the expressed wish of the former PNM leader who once famously said he did not want to be honoured after his death.

Speaking during an Opposition motion calling for 2011 to be declared the year of Williams, Rowley called on the Government to establish a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee (JSC) to meet to determine in what way the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Dr Eric Williams should be observed.

“Dr Williams himself had cautioned that he did not want any accolades and recognition,” Rowley confessed. “But he cannot legislate from the grave.” The comment provoked jokes from some on the Government benches who wondered whether Williams’ influence is, in fact, one not limited by the grave.

Rowley spoke for almost two hours in a contribution which saw him link Williams to education reform, discuss his academic legacy, link Williams to the rise (but not demise) of West Indies cricket, attribute key pieces of legislation to the former prime minister and called for the old Heritage Library location at Woodford Square, Port of Spain to be turned into a memorial venue for Williams.

Rowley noted that Williams’ legacy includes his academic classic Capitalism and Slavery, a pioneering work which argued that slavery was abolished in the British Empire because it was economically expedient to do so and not necessarily for humanitarian reasons alone. “After rigorous challenges it had stood the test of time and continues to be one of the seminal works,” Rowley said.

With his former political leader and Prime Minister Patrick Manning looking on, Rowley said that Williams should be honoured as the “father of the nation”. This comment prompted Labour Minister Errol McLeod to ask whether former Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who once referred to himself in similar fatherly terms, would also be honoured.

“The one hundredth anniversary of Williams is worth being celebrated,” Rowley said. “I am just a voice crying in the wilderness but I hope that today it would not be a wilderness.” During his contribution Manning and Point Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon paid little attention, chatting animatedly as the PNM political leader spoke.

–  –  –

Anna Ramdass, Trinidad Express Sunday, March 27, 2011 http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Family_wants_special_honour_for_Williams-118752289.html The family of former Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams said yesterday that special honour should be given to the man who led the country into independence and created political history.

A short ceremony was held at the rotunda of the Red House [seat of Parliament] yesterday, where Reginald Vidale, chairman of the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Committee, presented House Speaker Wade Mark with a portrait of Williams and a book of remembrance for members of the public to sign.

Mark praised Williams, describing him as an “intellectual giant” who made an indelible contribution to the political revolution and economic development of the country.

Mark also noted Government’s intention to establish a national heroes’ day to recognise and pay tribute to those like Williams who made enormous contributions to the country. He suggested a national heroes’ park be established to honour these heroes and heroines.

Williams’s nieces —Eunice, Patricia, Claire and Margaret Gittens— were present for the ceremony.

Speaking to the Express briefly after the event, Eunice Gittens said she had mixed feelings with respect to a national heroes’ day. “I hope when they do this, they ensure that some have to be recognised above the rest for their contribution. I’m not sure there’s anyone else. I’m not saying this because he’s family, (but) who has got the international acclaim as Eric Williams?” she asked.

Gittens said while heroes must be recognised, Williams should not be grouped — but be honoured and recognised for his service to the country.

Vidale suggested that Memorial Park or the park behind Archbishop’s House be converted to a heroes’ park. He said he has been advocating for years for Williams to be honoured, and further suggested that the first Saturday in the month of April become an annual Dr Eric Williams remembrance day. He said it would not be a holiday but a day of recognition. Vidale said in India every child knew about Mahatma Gandhi and so too in this country children must learn about the great role Williams played in shaping democracy.

Opposition MPs Nileung Hypolite and Alicia Hospedales and party General Secretary Ashton Forde were present at the event.

–  –  –

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