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Eric Eustace Williams, Founder of the People’s National Movement and First Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Tuesday 29th March 2011 Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port-of-Spain. Fr. Clyde M. Harvey, Parish Priest, Holy Rosary/St. Martin’s de Porres, Port-of-Spain.
Beloved fellow-citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, Imam Ali, Bro. Noble Khan, Shri Ravi Ji and Bishop Duncan. Political Leader, newly-elected Executive and members of the People National Movement. Welcome to this Cathedral Church of the Immaculate Conception. That we should gather here to honour the memory of Dr. Eric Williams is a matter of much significance. The relationship between the Catholic Church and Dr. Williams, the Church and the PNM, has always had its tensions. The Catholic Church can never allow absolute allegiance to any human institution, for some of us not even to itself. Yet any worthwhile spiritual relationship always involves tension, if it is truly spiritual. The relationship between the Party and the Church will continue to evolve – with tensions. This memorial service is being held in this Catholic Church. Memory is very important to our tradition. It is the basis of our worship. The Eucharist is the centre of that worship because Jesus said – “Do this in memory of me”. So we remember and give thanks. We remember 30 years ago. It was approximately thirty years after the death of Jesus that his disciples began to formally record what we now know as the Gospels. The essence of Jesus’ life was to be remembered, if the future was not to be unfaithful to his life and message. The second reading from Romans 14 reminded us that “the life and death of each of us has its influence on others…Each of us must stand before the judgement seat of God. It is to God that each of us must give an account of himself.” God and God alone is the supreme judge of our lives. Yet we human beings in our remembering, especially after 30 years, can dare to seek to distill essential truth from a life, what we can hope will inspire us forever. As your party seeks to go forward, that must be one of the tasks of the new generation of leadership. What of Williams’ legacy should last? What can and should be forgotten? What is essential for the ongoing enrichment of the party and the nation? A memorial in a church around religious leaders has its own challenges. For me, as homilist, what can our traditions, my Catholic tradition, say to you at this moment of your existence? Most great religions stand on what can be considered a “three-legged
as a religious leader. the Umma and the Koran.”(The Case for Party Politics in Trinidad and Tobago). a growing religious group in our society. to party and to principles. not only to the claims for political power. by returning to your roots – to founder. Williams as one of the acknowledged founders of party politics in the Caribbean stated in 1955 that the PNM would be “a democratic party of men (and women) of honesty and incorruptibility. It is in this context that I wish. This movement itself stood on three legs – the Founder. Hindus refer to the Tri-Murti. to place one principle which you ignore to your own peril and to the peril of the nation. You are summoned therefore to become worthy of the task and privilege of governance.stool”. it is certainly true that for Dr. Eric Williams the PNM was more than just a party. by highlighting their foibles and weaknesses. The PNM is not indispensable to Trinidad and Tobago. the three-fold schema of religious life and the interplay of these elements give to it impetus and energy. Note that he saw the party as committed to the development 2 . the Church and the Gospel. While I do not wish to place the PNM on the level of a religion. to prove yourself once more worthy of the mantle in your own right. it is the Prophet. it was a movement of people meant to respond. The temptation has always been there in our region and. even in recent times. but a privilege – the privilege to govern and serve Trinidad and Tobago. interpreted in different ways. No person or party should claim a divine right to rule. The people are often fickle and self-serving in their political proclamations. it is the Buddha. That would be an insult to the population who know your own inadequacies only too well and may then be saddled. the latter principally as outlined in The People’s Charter. no matter how glorious the claims of the past may be. classes and creeds. the Sangha and the Dharma. All of those legs must be important to you as you seek to heal your wounds and renew your energy and purpose. NO DIVINE RIGHT TO RULE TnT. “the voice of the people is the voice of God”. but also to the creation of a new identity beyond the colonial deprivation. not with the best. While these religions ascribe differing scales of importance to the three elements. if or when you should return to power. but with the less inadequate. Any and every party must earn what is not a right. I would suggest that we must not accept too glibly the oft-repeated mantra. How do we earn that right. appealing to the intelligence rather than to the emotions of the electorate whose political education it places in the forefront of its activities. Never presume the right to govern. For Muslims. always seek to earn it. it is Christ. the Party and the Principles. not simply by the default of others. that privilege today? Not simply by showing up the inadequacies of the other. For Christians. I have heard echoes of it in Trinidad and Tobago. social and political reform aimed at the development of the community as a whole. with a coherent and sensible programme of economic. For Buddhists. No party is indispensable to Trinidad and Tobago. of all races. colours.
Truly great leadership must always struggle with the best. political education and genuine participation. Williams in one of his more interesting statements makes a distinction between the political and “theoretical” leadership of the party.e. While both types of leadership were combined in his own person. he is deeply human. Yet his call to leadership is sealed in an epic struggle with the Divine at the river side. To encourage the best and to learn from the struggle. Genuine political education would be in the forefront of its activities. of all the parties on the political landscape. Many would agree that. One might object that he did not live that in practice. In those days the quality was certainly there. the power of their insight may be realized long after they are gone. Williams certainly saw in the early days that he was not the only primary source of the political education of PNM members. very healthy in its expression. Once elections are over. The past few days have provided some evidence to consider. only the PNM has the foundations and the history to take up such ideals for the sake of a purpose beyond itself. Isaac and Jacob. I want to suggest that we are not at all healthy in our democratic foundations. Both in collective leadership and individual leadership one must be open to and even seek the struggle with the best. Unless we return to them. Yet in truly great persons. our task is not to belittle our adversary. he was not alone. Jacob is part of the line of patriarchs. not a curse. i. even in Opposition. After that. We may have come a long way from such lofty ideals.of the community as a whole. the sign that he has struggled and survived. hubris and political impotence. can begin again and even flourish under the guise of party discipline and political necessity. I want to suggest that there is no genuine leadership without struggle. Jacob is able to boast of his hip injury.32-25-30) is part of the saga of the Jewish Patriarchs. Nonetheless. the struggle of Jacob at Jabbok river. His leadership knew a deeper wisdom because of the experience of the struggle with the best adversary he could find. If authentic and truly great leadership is to arise. That says more of our own smallness than of the true quality of our adversary. Abraham. straying on the path of political expediency and delusions of infallibility. Opposition is a blessing. He draws comparison with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in the founding of the United States. The Genesis story which you heard tonight(Gen. The story is highly symbolic. Dr. the disempowerment of the people. not only a bewildering crisis but a glorious opportunity. Can you hope for 3 . he clearly states that “they need not necessarily be one and the same person”(Perspectives for our Party 1958). Like all of the line. Another such source was for him the speeches of PNM parliamentarians in and out of the House. this nation will implode on our own ignorance. To be able to boast that one is who one is because of the wounds of that struggle. It should appeal to the intelligence rather than the emotions of the electorate. Our democracy may seem healthy. In that sense.
not covering over its wounds with deceptive plasters. 1.. the Lydian singers will render a truly local version of Michael Jackson’s Heal the World. What are the responsibilities that go with the privilege of ruling/serving the nation? 6. Consider deeply how TnT might be healed. Thanks again for the privilege of Tuesday evening! Some of the questions which may be seen as flowing from the homily --and give the party leadership reason for raising them for discussion. What of Williams' legacy should last if we are to be true to his vision? 2. What of the legacy is essential for the ongoing enrichment of party and nation? 3.. Seek to draw all back to that persistent dream and enduring mission whereby what we do here in TnT may indeed help to heal the world. reconciliation and wholeness. How can the PNM ensure that the best ideas are both available to and used by the party in our rejuvenation and resurrection? Best wishes always! Clyde M. not only by yourselves. What would you consider to be the pillars on which the PNM stands? 4.such creative quality and inspiring communication today and in the next generation? Can this be part of the earning of the privilege of governance and service once again? In a few moments.) Parish Priest 4 .. God bless Trinidad and Tobago. then you will have truly earned once more the privilege to guide this nation and the region and to take again a place on the world stage. What is the alternative to maximum leadership if we are to remain an effective and efficient party? 8. Harvey(Fr. but by a genuinely new dispensation which summons the whole nation to healing. Do you believe that the PNM has a divine "right" to rule? 5. Events on the world and local scene have brought Trinidad and Tobago to a point of great stress. what must the party do to earn the privilege of leadership? 7. If you do that. You do yourselves and the nation a great disservice if you simply blame the other for this stress without admitting and understanding your own contribution to that stress and seeking to understand it in its comprehensive global context. God bless you all. Given the events of the last year. Heal the world! Begin by truly healing the PNM.
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