Eric Williams fought for ‘maximum leadership’


Dr Kirk Meigho –


I WRITE in response to the article by Janelle De Souza, “Eric Williams snubbed British ‘golden handshake,’ fought for the best deal at independence,” on September 25.

This is PNM historiography, which began with Eric Williams’s own skewed and exclusionary view in his History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, and which we must reject for a true people-centred account, rather than seeking the exaggerated glorification of Williams and the PNM. .

Erica Williams admitted that her father did not fight the British for independence.

However, she and Profs Brereton and Samaroo provide a one-sided, PNM-sided view of the independence process.

The main negotiations for independence did not revolve around the British “golden handshake” (a fight which Williams lost, in any case), but rather about what the constitution of the newly independent nation would be like.

Here, Williams indeed did fight to get the “best deal,” but it was the best deal for his own maximum leadership (as the great, late Lloyd Best termed it), not the best deal for the country. It is a poisoned legacy with which we must overturn, up to today.

Let us look in more detail at what Williams did fight for.

In 1962, Williams fought for dissolving the remaining Federation of the West Indies which TT was a part of (and where the West Indian capital was) since 1958. (Notably, Grantley Adams was the prime minister of the West Indies, therefore making him our first prime minister; this is something Williams fought to write out of our history.)

The fight for Chaguaramas was so that it could be the capital of the West Indian Federation. But this was made futile by two developments. On one hand, Williams dismantled the remaining Federation, so the fight for Chaguaramas to be the capital was no longer applicable. On the other hand, the Americans did not concede to Williams’s demand for withdrawal, in any case. The Americans kept their bases in Trinidad until well past independence, eventually leaving in 1968.

Williams fought against a democratic constitution for TT that all major parties could accept. The opposition Democratic Labor Party and even the African National Congress of John Broomes walked out of the Queen’s Hall conference in protest against it, and against Williams’s autocratic, dictatorial behavior (even though the PNM had just lost the 1958 federal and 1959 county council elections, and in 1956 the PNM did not win a majority of seats in the Legislative Council).

In the new constitution that Williams autocratically imposed, he fought to take away the existing power of the legislature to appoint and remove ministers of government. Williams fought for a centralized system of government with the prime minister at the undisputed center of control. Williams fought to ensure the prime minister would appoint the chairman and members of the Boundaries Commission, the Public Service Commission and the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, things which the opposition DLP was vehemently opposed to.

Williams fought against his own fellow citizens whom he called a “recalcitrant minority” when he lost the West Indian federal elections to that “minority” in 1958. Williams fought to introduce voting machines, to join together the previously separate Elections Commission and the Boundaries Commission. , and to gerrymander constituencies in the 1961 elections to ensure a two-thirds PNM parliamentary majority, for the first time.

Williams fought to exclude many fighters from his History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, such as Albert Gomes, Ajodasingh, Norman Tang, Victor Bryan, Roy Joseph, Jack Kelshall, Lennox Pierre, Adrian “Cola” Rienzi, Ashford and Mitra Sinanan, and so many others who fought for the poor and marginalized citizens of TT, but were not part of the PNM. Williams fought to position himself as the only person who should be remembered at independence.

Unfortunately, however, after building and leading the independent state of TT as prime minister for 25 continuous, uninterrupted years – until he died in office, even – Williams left this country in a condition where not even his children stayed here to carry on his legacy. . I am not casting personal aspersions on them, but the fact is certainly noteworthy.

This country has been brainwashed to learn the PNM view of independence, which is very skewed, and depends on the suppression of facts and a full history. It is a false story of glory, in which we are supposed to be thankful to the PNM and Eric Williams every year, when in fact the true story is one of Williams’s bullying and seeking domination of one group over all others, which the PNM attempts to perpetuate to this day.

Sadly, it is our burden that we have to undo many of the very things Williams fought for, particularly the autocratic, centralized constitution, the legacy of corruption (for instance, the infamous Ballah Report commissioned by George Chambers in 1982 – the year after Williams. died – stated that during the oil boom, two out of every three dollars had been stolen or wasted), the partisan infiltration of the public service, and the PNM’s divisive racial politics.

Ironically, it is up to us today to fight for true and meaningful independence. The struggle continues.

Dr Kirk Meighoo is the PRO of the UNC

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