Lion of the Legislative Council
Father of Hindu Nationalism in Trinidad and Tobago

By Darius Figueira

J’ouvert Icons

Thomas Paine in his Age of Reason (1795) wrote: “The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime, makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again.”
In a country desperate to create gods and heroes and never having been in a sublime position we are continuously condemned to witness the ridiculous. The churning out of icons is now serious business. But what about those who dared to stand alone and be iconoclasts in the past. One such was Simbhoonath Capildeo. Read Figueira and the debates which took place between Capildeo and Ellis Clarke and A. N. R. Robinson.
“Timothy Seigler in his book “Royal Son of the Soil. The life of Sir Ellis Clarke of Trinidad and Tobago” says:
“The providential collaboration of Williams’s scholarship and charisma and the legal expertise of Clarke, would direct the destiny of Trinidad and Tobago.” He went on to state:
“There was one issue in particular, for instance, on which the Governor and the Government did not see eye to eye, namely the transfer of control of the police to a Minister… Eric Williams posed a motion to the Colonial Secretary for the recognition of his… right to remodel… the Police Service Commission…Attorney General Clarke assisted the Governor… The moderate loyalist Clarke saw the inevitability of such a transfer of power… Police powers, with his help, were eventually transferred to the administration of PNM ministers.”
This was the same Ellis Clarke as Attorney General whom Simbhoonath Capildeo would engage in debate over the Industrial Development Corporation in which he said:
“Mr. Speaker, Sir, it seems necessary in reading this bill to proceed not as we are accustomed to do, that is, to read from left to right, but instead from right to left as in Arabic or in Urdu. The Bill is, however, not drafted in either of these languages but I shall endeavour to read it from right or left.”
In the course of the debate Capildeo teased Clarke into making the following statement: Listen to Clarke
“Mr. Speaker, I do not regard the political sphere as necessarily dusty or dirty. If I may appear, from what the hon. Member says, to descend into politics, let me assure him that I think politics have ascended to a level where we should all mix in it freely without incurring dirt or dust.”
Clarke was to be reminded of this in the debate on the Stamp Duty Bill. As prophetic as ever Simbhoonath Capildeo said:
“I await to hear what sophistry Her Majesty’s learned Attorney General will justify this Amendment to an Amendment, to an Amendment to a Statute.” I ask myself; are the people entrusted with government so incompetent that to give effect to their nefarious attempt to increase taxation, their hands falter and their minds rebel, so that the result is this patchwork we have before us this morning.”
Capildeo continues:
“But, as I said earlier, in order to provide the means whereby our attorney general will now become a Chief Justice in some other place, because it seems to, having the experience, that the key to the promotion of the Attorney General is supreme incompetence.”
Plus ça change plus la meme chose. Today 30th November, 2003 nothing has changed.
In the like manner Capildeo ever prophetic made short shrift of A. N. R. Robinson whom he dismissed with contemptuously living words: On Friday 5th August 1966 Capildeo, the seer declared:
“If we were properly examining this Bill before the House we would recognize that this is the Waterloo of Government; it has capitulated to power in this country and to people in position with a shamelessness that makes a harlot a person of great respect.”
He continued:
“He has completely capitulated to the pressure of big business and the revenge which this country should have derived from the old Bill. The present Bill is nothing, nothing at all, compared to what the old Bill was. This was a Bill designed to do something for the benefit of this country, to raise money by taxation. I mean that this Bill, although it says that it is to provide for the taxation of short-term capital gains and make better provisions for the taxation of company profits, does nothing of the kind.”
And ended his speech as follows:
“but I cannot be a Member of Parliament in a democracy where we are supposed to look with equal eyes upon all, where we are supposed to look at the country as a whole and the interests of the whole, to witness the emasculation of the powers of the Ministry of Finance by pressure groups, and to see what was designed to benefit Trinidad has now become a Bill only designed to benefit the rich, and to continue the destruction of the poor.”
And so continues the destruction of the Poor in rich Trinidad and Tobago.

Front Cover   Introduction    Extract 1    Extract 2    Extract 3
Extract 4

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