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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00003581/00002
 Material Information
Title: Newsletter Eric Williams Memorial Collection
Uniform Title: Newsletter (Eric Williams Memorial Collection)
Alternate Title: Eric Williams Memorial Collection Newsletter
Physical Description: v. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Eric Williams Memorial Collection
Publisher: University of the West Indies.
Place of Publication: St. Augustine
Creation Date: December 2002
Frequency: annual
regular
 Subjects
Subjects / Keywords: Educators -- Periodicals -- Trinidad and Tobago   ( lcsh )
Genre: serial   ( sobekcm )
Spatial Coverage: Trinidad and Tobago
 Notes
Dates or Sequential Designation: Began with 2001?
General Note: Description based on: Dec. 2001; title from caption.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 50429855
lccn - 2002229052
System ID: UF00003581:00002

Full Text



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Newsletter


December 2001


UNESCO Designation Confirms EWMC's Unique Heritage


The validation is official: On November 9,
2000, to celebrate the inclusion of the Eric
Williams Memorial Collection (EWMC) in
UNESCO's Memory ofthe World Register, a plaque
was unveiled at The University of the West Indies
Main Library. A small but select gathering
witnessed the event.
The Register, a "compendium of
documents, manuscripts, oral traditions, audio
visual materials, library and archive holdings of
universal value," is the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's
commitment to preserve the world's historical and
cultural heritage for posterity. "Its establishment
is intended to be an inspiration to nations and
regions to identify, list and preserve their
documentary heritage for the benefit of all
humanity."
UNESCO's Trinidad and
Tobago representative, Dr.
Surendranath Gajraj, alluded to
the importance of this national
archive that is now counted among M
an elite international group of
collections so named. He stated
that the Collection constitutes "the
organized memory of a society and ITHE
the evidence of its specificity
in the course of history." He
also noted the Collection's
availability to all, an important criteria, and the
degree to which "access incites protection, and
preservation ensures access." Hence, by virtue of
its appeal to a broad and general public, the
EWMC itselfreflects Dr. Williams' lifelong work:
it is a living repository for study, history and
education for the masses.
Such international recognition endorses the
EWMC as a legacy of global importance. It
authenticates the critical task of preserving this
substantive part of Trinidad and Tobago's history,
promotes opportunities for private endowment,
and sanctions the Collection's further development
so that an awareness of its historical imprint may
be increased throughout the world.
That imprint clearly resonated with former
US President Bill Clinton, in Trinidad and Tobago
to deliver the keynote address at CLICO's 2001
World Leadership Series in October. Mr. Clinton
commenced his speech by paying tribute to the


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vision of Caribbean unity and self-
empowerment that Dr. Williams
championed for the "Caribbean Nation."
That the former President did so is both a
testament to Williams' scholarship and the
aspirations he held for his country.
As Mr. Clinton stated, "In preparing
for this event, I came across a description of
the Caribbean region written nearly thirty
years ago by Trinidad's 'Man For All
Seasons,' Dr. Eric Williams, who actually
taught in Washington, D.C. at Howard
University for a few years before coming
home to become Prime Minister. Thirty
years ago he wrote of a region dragged down,
held back by conflict, instability, poverty, a
feeling of dependence. But then looking to
the future, he found hope in the
b idealism and intelligence of
t ~ the Caribbean people, in
their pride, their search for
)a way to cooperate more
closely with their
neighbors, including the
SUnited States, while
maintaining their identities
and cultures. He wrote that
in looking to the
future, there should be
no limits to the
achievement or to the dreams of the people
of Trinidad and Tobago. Thirty years later,
the people of this country have come a long
way toward fulfilling the aspirations Dr.
Williams had for the region."
The EWMC is located at The
University of the West Indies in the Republic
of Trinidad and Tobago. It documents the
life and times of the former Prime Minister
and reflects his varied contributions to his
country, the Caribbean and, indeed, the
world. Dr. Williams' scholarship comprises
a number of important writings. His book,
Capitalism and Slavery, indelibly
contributed to the historiography of slavery.
The EWMC possesses the documentary
evidence of Dr. Williams' expectations for
his native land, while it facilitates a more
penetrating analysis of the successes and
failures of his administration.


Native Nobel Laureate Heralds
Williams' Early Influence
Trinidad and Tobago native Sir Vidia
Naipaul won the 2001 Nobel Prize for
Literature on October 11. One month to that
day, Naipaul spoke at the Miami International
Book Fair. He referred to the early influence
of Dr. Eric Williams on his budding writing
career and explicitly thanked him for the
opportunity to travel throughout the
Caribbean. This experience, he said, added
an important dimension to his development
as a writer as it took him outside the bounds
of fiction. His acknowledgement, some forty
years later, was essentially a reprise of his 1962
Foreword to The Middle Passage:
"In September 1960 I went back to
Trinidad on a three-month scholarship
granted by the Government of
Trinidad and Tobago. While I was in
Trinidad the Premier, Dr. Eric
Williams, suggested that I should write
a non-fiction book about the
Caribbean. I hesitated. The novelist
works towards conclusions of which
he is often unaware; and it is better
that he should. However, I decided to
take the risk. This book therefore owes
its existence to the suggestion of Dr.
Williams and the generosity of the
Government ofTrinidad and Tobago."


Eric Williams: His Scholarship, Work,
and Impact

A conference on February 15-16,
2002, at the New York Public Library's
Schomburg Center for Research in Black
Culture, will explore Eric Williams'
multifaceted personality and the
continued influence of his scholarship and
writings. It will assess his career as leader
of Trinidad and Tobago for a quarter of a
century, and discuss his contributions to
the Caribbean as a whole.
See Page 5...


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Director's Forum
The past year has brought exciting
developments to the Eric Williams Memorial
Collection which continues to profoundly
impact local and overseas visitors, particularly
those from the Caribbean region. Professor
Jacques Addlaide-Merlande, former President
of the Guadeloupe campus of the Universite des
Antilles et de la Guyane, and Honorary
Graduand 2001 of The University of the West
Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, found it a
"touching experience to find this tribute to Eric
Williams, great Caribbean leader." His
comment represents a common theme in
respect of reactions to the exhibit, with at least
one spectator being moved to tears upon
entering the Museum.
Now an integral part of the university's
itinerary for official guests, the EWMC
Museum is open to the general public at
regularly scheduled times. Secondary school
field trips are accommodated on a weekly basis.
Students from Dr. Williams' primary school
alma mater, Tranquillity, also have visited.
These excursions serve to increase awareness
of Dr. Williams' contributions to nation
building, particularly among the generation that
has grown up since his death in 1981. Thus,
the Eric Williams Memorial Collection
promotes both popular education and scholarly
research.
Notable to date is the steady growth in the
size of the Collection, due to our solicitation
of other materials, and the numbers of
researchers who consult its holdings. Such
developments augur well for its future.
Dr. Margaret D. Rouse-Jones
Campus Librarian


Janet Jones Collection:
This eight-volume collection of newspaper clippings chronicles more than 40 years and documents
Trinidad and Tobago personalities, Eric Williams amongst them. The Collection's importance is
underscored by Ms. Jones' role, that of local eyewitness as historian.

Michael Pocock Collection:
A distant maternal relative of Eric Williams, these 78 items reflect their family's connection to
Dr. Jean Louis Valleton de Boissiere of Bergerac, France (1777-1853), Eric Williams' great-grandfather
five times removed. In Trinidad, he was known simply as John Boissiere.
A former owner of the Champs Elysees estate, now the Trinidad Country Club, these documents
(1771-1914) highlight its land transactions. The memorabilia include medical diplomas of Dr. John
Henry Joseph Valleton de Boissiere (1830-1906), half-brother of Eric Williams' great grandfather; an
1852 testimonial, Westminster Hospital, London, U.K.; and a certificate from the Royal College of
Surgeons, 1852.


2001
SPerspectives American Historical Association newsletter (March);
SEric Williams Schomburg Conference, February 2002:
SAssociation of Caribbean Historians newsletter (May/December);
SH-Net, H-Caribbean, H-Atlantic, H-Latin America websites -
academic discussion lists (May/August/November/December);
SNew York University's African Diaspora list (May);
SJapan Black Studies Association newsletter (September);
SUniversity of Houston Slavery website academic discussion list
(September);
SCercle d'Etudes Africaines Americaines (France) list/newsletter,
(October/December);
SConference Alerts internet conference database (October);
STrinidiary online news (November);
SEverybodyj magazine, New York (November/December);
SChronicle of Higher Education website, USA;
SH-Atlantic and H-Caribbean websites (July);
SUNESCO Memory ofthe Worldwebsite (July);
SFlorida International University's (FIU)
3rd Annual Eric E. Williams Memorial Lecture (October):
SCaribbean Contact newspaper, Miami
(September/October/November);
FIU's African New World Studies website (October);
SFIU's Book Report newsletter, university list (October);
SRadio, Miami (October): 105 FM; WVCG; WSRF;


SCarib Today newspaper, Miami (October);
SH-Latin American, H-Caribbean websites (October);
SMiami New Times newspaper (October 17, 25);
SMiami Herald newspaper (October 26);
SFt. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel newspaper (October 26);
SBarbados Nation newspaper (December 16).
2000
SAssociation of Caribbean Historians newsletter (May);
* Black Meetings 6d Tourism magazine, USA (September);
SAssociated Press (September);
* FIU's 2nd Annual Eric E. Williams Memorial Lecture/EWMC Museum
exhibit (October):
SFIU's Book Report newsletter, university list, Beacon newspaper (October);
SMiami Herald newspaper (October 17);
SFt. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel newspaper (October 22);
STrinidad & Tobago print media;
SCaribbean Contact newspaper, Miami (October);
Foundation for Democracy in Africa website, St.Thomas University,
Florida (November);
SRadio, Trinidad and Tobago: Power 102 FM (December);
SAssociation of Caribbean Historians newsletter (December).
1999
SAssociation of Caribbean Historians newsletter (December).


New Acquisitions
"You carry the future of Trinidad and Tobago in your school bags."
Eric Williams, 1962

Ivan John never forgot his meeting with the Prime
Minister. On a student dare, the boy skipped school to see
him in person. As Dr. Williams alighted from his car during
a Port of Spain 'Meet the Manufacturers Tour' Ivan rushed
to him. Dr. Williams engaged him in conversation about
his educational plans. Ivan, soon to sit the Common
Entrance Examination for high school entry, confidently
proclaimed that Fatima College (one of Trinidad and
Tobago's most renowned secondary schools) was his first
choice of high school, though he was not worried he had
two chances to pass.
Williams told the youth words he would remember
all his life: "No! It must be first time, first choice."
Ivan graduated from both Columbia and Cornell
Universities with degrees in law and medicine. When asked
to submit a photograph for the yearbook that best
represented his inspiration to achieve, he chose this one.


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Research Reports



The Scholar Activist by Prof TonyMartin


It was a time of segregated U. S. education. Black professors could
not teach at white universities; many white educational institutions did
not admit African American students. Having recently arrived from
Oxford, Eric E. Williams was assistant professor of Social and Political
Science at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
In that milieu, Howard had a near captive market for the best and
brightest academics in African America and prided itself on being the
"Capstone of Negro Education." It boasted such famous professors as
Rayford Logan, E. Franklin Frazier, Alain Locke, Ira de A. Reid and
William Leo Hansberry.
Williams plunged immediately into a steady round of publications
in the Journal of Negro History and the Journal of Negro Education. His
first book, The Negro in the Caribbean, appeared in 1942. He won several
research fellowships and lectured widely around the country. His contacts
were diverse, ranging from members of the U.S. and British governments'
Anglo-American Caribbean Commission (AACC) to the activist and
U.S.-based West Indies National Council. He spoke for A. Philip
Randolph's March on Washington Movement, the major civil rights
mobilisation of the World War II years. So it was that very shortly, Eric
Williams shone within the star-studded environment of Howard.
In 1943, he chaired the Programme Committee for Howard's
Division of Social Sciences, and was the main organiser of "The Economic
Future of the Caribbean" conference that was held in Howard's Douglass
Hall. It attracted the same eclectic participant mix that characterized
Williams' academic and activist work. It would, years later, be seen as a
harbinger of his American-style approach to party politics: that of
coalescing seemingly disparate elements.
British colonialists were well represented at the conference. Sir
John Huggins, governor of Jamaica and resident member of the AACC,
(newly formed in 1942) was a principal speaker. A wartime government-
to-government entity, the AACC unified the Caribbean behind the Allied
war effort with Williams soon to become its highest-ranking Caribbean
official. His notorious ejection from the Caribbean Commission in 1955,
the AACC's successor, became the catalyst for entry into his country's
politics.
The AACC's U.S. secretary S. Burns Weston also spoke, as did
diplomats from Haiti and Cuba, two of the Caribbean's only three
independent nations at that time. Howard professors Frazier and Logan
presented papers, while Wellesley's Leland H. Jenks sent one, in absentia.
By this time, Williams was secretary of the Caribbean Research Council's
Agricultural Committee, an AACC subsidiary.
Present as well were A. Augustin Petioni, a Harlem doctor and
president of the West Indies National Council, and Jamaican W. Adolphe
Roberts, founder of the influential Jamaica Progressive League. Both spoke
and were prominent in the activist English-speaking (U.S.-based)
Caribbean community. Petioni, a founder of the Trinidad Cooperative
Bank known popularly as "Penny Bank"(a premier example of Afro-
Trinbagonian entrepreneurship) was a former crusader in Marcus Garvey's
Universal Negro Improvement Association. He was a signatory to the
latter's seminal Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World in
1920. Lastly, Williams recruited Dom Basil Matthews, a prominent US-
Caribbean community member, a pioneer Ph.D. from Trinidad and
Tobago and a Benedictine monk. He would later help fuel Williams'
political aspirations, losing to him in a series of celebrated public debates
early in Williams' burgeoning political career.


While Puerto Rican lawyer and pro-Independence nationalist, Gilberto
Concepci6n, and Cuba's commercial attache, Felipe Pazos, represented the
Spanish Caribbean, there was no advocate for the French and Dutch islands.
The Haitian ambassador, however, spoke from the floor.
The conference focused on the British and American AACC
members who emphasized the beneficial welfare aspects of their work.
Others identified the reasons for the Caribbean's economic and social
problems: colonialism, monoculture, dearth of democracy and extant racism.
The confederation of various groupings was seen as a means to effect
economies of scale and undertake political self-determination. Calls
resounded for economic unions, for federations of the Caribbean's Spanish-
speaking territories, the Greater Caribbean, the northern British territories
(headquartered in Jamaica), and their southern counterparts (based in
Trinidad and Tobago).
Eric Williams' paper on "The Economic Development of the
Caribbean up to the Present," was already, even in 1943, vintage Williams.
It revolved primarily around "King Sugar" and bemoaned the small markets
and metropolitan-biased trading relationships that bedeviled regional
agriculture. He seemed to disapprove of foreign capital while at the same
time praising the AACC's work. Williams proposed federation as a means
to rationalize insular economies and to encourage inter-island cooperation.
The conference proceedings were published in 1944 as The Economic
Future of the Caribbean. Co-editors were Eric Williams and E. Franklin
Frazier, Chair of the Social Sciences Division at Howard.

Tony Martin is Professor ofAfricana Studies at Wellesley College, USA.


Visitors of Note
2001
January Kamari Maxine Clarke, Yale University, USA
March James Giblin, University of Iowa, USA
Silvia Prati, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
April Roderick McDonald, Rider University, USA
Antonio Gaztambide, Universidad de Puerto Rico
Paul Thompson, University of Essex, U.K.
Rosemaryn Hoejne, Royal Institute of Linguistics
and Anthropology, Netherlands
Franklin Knight, Johns Hopkins University, USA
Milla Riggio, Trinity College, USA
Conferees, Association of Caribbean Historians
May Harold Clarke, Jr., Florida Memorial College, USA
August Rotary Club International
September Conferees, C. L. R. James Conference
November Conferees, International Library Association

2000
August Laurence Clarke, World Bank, USA
October Ellie Mannette, West Virginia University, USA
December Juan Lievano, Ambassador of Colombia
Muxe Nkondo, University of Veida for Science
and Technology, South Africa


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Highlights


Accomplishments


UWIPro-Vice Chancellor Hilary M. Beckles

2001
October
Hilary M. Beckles, Pro-Vice Chancellor of The
University of the West Indies and a leading Caribbean
historian, delivered the Third Annual Eric E. Williams
Memorial Lecture at FIU, Miami, to a packed
audience. The series is part of the African New World
Studies Distinguished Africana Lecture Series. Beckles'
lectured on The Global Politics of Reparations: Before
andAfter Durban was also attended by thirty University
of Miami Caribbean Literature students. They received
credit for their written reviews of this lecture.


An Oral History Project of interviews with Dr.
Williams' numerous colleagues and opponents
continues as a record for posterity of their experiences
with him. Although resources are limited, several
suitable individuals have agreed to participate. The
calibre of the interviewer is crucial to maintain the
integrity of the project, and interviewers must proceed
with oral history principles in mind. Otherwise, the
result negates the fundamentals of such an endeavour.
Funding, too, is critical and we gratefully
recognize the grants already made to this programme
from companies in Trinidad and Tobago and Florida
International University, Miami. Their generosity has
allowed us to complete some 75 oral histories. This
undertaking takes on renewed urgency given the
advanced age of Dr. Williams' contemporaries.

August
The University of Florida's newly-redesigned Eric
Williams website (http://palmm.fcla.edu/eew/)
debuted this month. Future content will include out-
of-print speeches and other materials.


Production of a full-colour brochure on the
EWMC is now available through The University of
the West Indies or at: ewc.suilan@juno.com.


May
To date, the following Trinidad and Tobago
schools have visited the EWMC:
Tranquillity; International School; Arima
Senior Comprehensive; Fyzabad Anglican
Secondary; St. Joseph's Convent (San Fernando);
St. Martin's Girls High School; North Gate College;
CIC; Siparia Senior Comprehensive; Presentation
College (Chaguanas and Arima campuses); lere
High School; Southeast Government Secondary;
Mayaro Composite; North Eastern College;
Marabella Senior Comprehensive; Toco Composite;
Sangre Grande; CGSS; Pleasantville Senior
Comprehensive; Corinth Teachers College; Cowen
Hamilton Secondary.
The Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has
earmarked a contribution to facilitate
transportation for schools located in rural areas.

March
The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago
invited the 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics,
Cambridge University Professor Amartya Sen, to
deliver the 15th Eric Williams Memorial Lecture.
His speech Identity and Justice endorsed Eric
Williams' vision of Caribbean unity, a vision that
celebrates and includes the individual's ethnic
heritage while it promotes national unity. Professor
Sen spoke of the fundamental richness of the
Caribbean's diversity, acclaiming it an asset rather
than a deficit. He encouraged the region to
continue its quest to discover its shared identity.

January
Saluted by The University of the West Indies
at its 2001 Building the Legacy Annual Fundraiser
in New York City, Eric Williams was hailed as a
"Caribbean luminary who has left his indelible
mark on the....region and the world."


2000
November
Eric Williams was inducted into the Queen's
Royal College Inaugural Hall of Honour,
posthumously conferred with its medal so
designating. This venerable 142-year-old high
school is Trinidad and Tobago's oldest and most
respected, having produced most of the nation's
great leaders, in all fields of endeavour.

The EWMC's first annual newsletter was
mailed to every US African Studies Department or
Diaspora Programme. It was also forwarded to
scholars and corporations in Trinidad and Tobago
and the Caribbean, the UK, Europe, Japan,
Australia, Taiwan, Africa and to the Japan Black
Studies Association. Future newsletters will be sent
to members of the Association of Caribbean
Historians, the Collegium for African American
Research (Europe), and the Cercle d'Etudes
Africaines Americaines (France).


From Columbus to Castro: The History of the
Caribbean, 1492-1969 -Japanese Edition (2000)


October
The FIU's Second Annual Eric E.
Williams Memorial Lecture on October
16 featured Kenneth Kaunda, former
President of Zambia, one of the great
architects ofAfrican Independence. He
presented Orphans ofAfrica: The Ignored
Casualties ofAIDS. In tandem with the
lecture, selected portions of the Eric
Williams Memorial Collection
Museum were on display at FIU's
Green Library. Both events attracted
numerous enthusiastic students.






FIUBookstore display, October 2001


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Highlights


On The Horizon


Eric Williams: His Scholarship, Work,
and Impact

An exploration of Eric E. Williams'
multifaceted personality, the continued influence
of his scholarship, and the accomplishments and
setbacks gleaned from his quarter-century
leadership of Trinidad and Tobago, will be the
focus of "Eric Williams: His Scholarship, Work,
and Impact." This conference, February 15-16,
2002, will be held at the NewYork Public Library's
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
The sessions will provide an insight into
Williams' legacy in history, politics and education
that far exceeds his well-deserved recognition for
the world-renowned Capitalism and Slavery. That
this conference, almost 21 years after his death,
will analyse Williams' contributions in their
totality, and their impact in a universal context,
serves to further illuminate his vision and
erudition.
Notable among the presenters will be Jiang
Shixue, from the Institute of Latin American
Studies, Beijing, China, with his paper on
"Williams and the Chinese Optic." Other scholars
hail from some of the most prestigious academic
institutions in the United States, Canada, the
Caribbean and elsewhere: Wellesley, Howard,
Columbia, Princeton, Duke, University of North
Carolina Chapel Hill, State University of New
York Binghamton, Rice and The University of
the West Indies.
Co-sponsored by the Schomburg Center
and Princeton University, the Conference will be
coupled with a two-week exhibition of portions
of the Eric Williams Memorial Collection
Museum. The Schomburg Center is the premier
international site for the study of Black History
and Culture.


Williams and the Making ofthe Modern
Caribbean is the tentative title of a soon-to-be-
published intellectual biography of Eric Williams.
Written by Colin Palmer, Dodge Professor of
History, Princeton University, he deems Williams
"one of the central figures in the shaping of the
20th-century Caribbean, from both an intellectual
and political perspective". The book draws on
material recently released by the Eric Williams
Memorial Collection, as well as the Public Records
Office, London, England.


March 29, 2001, marked the 20th
anniversary of the death of Dr. Williams,
affectionately called The Father of The
Nation. While local media recognized the
occasion appropriately, the Eric Williams
Memorial Committee hosted an Ecumenical
Service that was attended by members of
the Diplomatic Corps. Comprised of a
group of citizens, this Committee is headed
by Reginald Vidale and has long
commemorated the date.


Eric Williams Memorial Service, 1981
(Photo: Trinidad Guardian)


Nothing is lost
The cheery smile
The charming voice
In memory's clear recall
Are ever fesh, ever near
Envisioned in mind's eye
He has not gone at all.

What dies?
A body tired and worn
Not what he was
Or said or did.
These thoughts and acts,
Your heritage,
Belong to life.
They are not hid.

Bypassing time, not left
By wayside
Lost, unclaimed,
But safe within your
heart remain
To bless and heal and hold
A bright, unfalteringflame.

Helen Oscar Winfield
(EWMC Museum)


The Majority Press will republish The Economic Future of the Caribbean in 2002 with a new
Introduction by Professor Anthony Martin, Wellesley College and a Preface by Erica Williams Connell.
Probably the least well-known of Williams' contributions, the book remains a useful source for Caribbean
economic and political history.
Originally published in 1944 by Howard University Press and edited by Eric
Williams and E. Franklin Frazier, it comprises papers from the conference of the same name that
Williams organised and which took place at Howard University, Washington, D.C. in 1943.
Although the notion of Pan-Caribbeanism clearly predated Williams, his consciousness of that
idea, at the academic level at least, was unmatched. This is evidenced by the conference's comprehensive
list of participants who addressed that all-inclusive vision, and by his first book, The Negro in the
Caribbean (1942). Williams' research for it required extensive travel, and he was easily able to assess
the region's archives in their original Spanish and French, without translation.


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History Revisited


Back in Time...

"The most important thing about power is to know when not to use it."
Eric Williams, circa 1957-8


Autocratic in manner, but democratic
in practice, Eric Williams studiously avoided
falling into the trap set for his government
in 1971. The scenario: a heated election
contest in which two opposition parties had
joined to fight the party Williams founded -
the People's National Movement (PNM).
Their alliance proved tenuous when one
unilaterally declared an election boycott
virtually on the eve of Nomination Day.
The resulting "No Vote campaign"
ensured that the PNM won all 36 seats, with
eight being unopposed. This created an
unhealthy monopoly in the House of
Representatives.
Williams, far from taking advantage of
the situation, well understood what this
boded for the country. Intent on
safeguarding against executive excess, he
deliberately put measures in place to ensure
that the absolute power of his own, and
future governments, would not be
unfettered.
He established various Advisory
Committees comprising different interest
groups in the country. In this way, the
Cabinet benefited from a wide range of views
on matters of national importance: political,
economic, cultural or social. Committees
were given access to Cabinet notes and
documentation, and legislation that was
normally introduced in the House of
Representatives was first debated in the
Senate. This body encompassed Opposition,
Independent and PNM members and,
therefore, allowed a variety of opinions to
flourish.
Simultaneously, Williams initiated
constitution reform through an Advisory
Committee chaired by the Chief Justice. It
was a time when his government could have
grossly abused its Parliamentary superiority,
when Williams could have engineered an
increase in his constitutional authority. But
he chose to do exactly the opposite. He
divested himself of several significant powers
he had held under the 1962 Independence
Constitution, resulting in greater
constitutional latitude for the soon-to-be
Republic's President. In addition, the role of
the Leader of the Opposition was expanded


and emphasised.
Under the Republican Constitution of
1976, the President now possessed
unequivocal constitutional clout that he was
able to exercise in his own deliberatejudgment.
This was in stark contrast to what had
previously existed.
In addition, and even more noteworthy
was the recognition of the consultative
functions of the Leader of the Opposition
with respect to national appointments.
Where a certain cosmetic consultation
between the Prime Minister and the Leader
of the Opposition had been perceived as the
order of the day, the latter's Office was now
enhanced. This underscored the inclusion,
rather than the exclusion, of this essential
bulwark of the democratic process.
In some ten instances under the new
Constitution (ranging from the
appointments of the Chief Justice and the
Auditor General to all of the Service
Commissions) Williams endorsed the
prevailing view: to restructure the Prime
Minister's powers and to limit the extent of
his patronage under the Westminster form
of government.
One pertinent and current example
was in the appointment of the Elections and
Boundaries Commission. Under the 1962
Independence Constitution, the Head of
State acted in accordance with the advice of
the Prime Minister, as Head of Government.
The 1976 Republican Constitution allowed
appointments by the Head of State at his own
discretion after he had consulted with both
the Prime Minister and Leader of the
Opposition.
Thus, in relinquishing to the President
many of his powers of appointment to
positions of national sensitivity and
importance, and in curtailing the Prime
Minister's ability (under the Independence
Constitution) to effect such appointments,
Williams displayed his true colours that of
the committed democrat.


Research: Raquel Sukhu


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