Reginald Vidale. – Marvin Hamilton
TRINIDAD and Tobago is in a mess and its first prime minister Dr Eric Williams would be deeply saddened by this. Chairman of the Dr Eric Williams TC Memorial Committee, Reginald Vidale made these statements during a ceremony on Harris Promenade, San Fernando on Sunday, to commemorate the 41st anniversary of Williams’ death.
Williams died on March 29, 1981.
While happy to have the ceremony at a monument built on Harris Promenade in Williams’ honour in 2016, Vidale was unhappy that requests to have it at the heliport in Chaguaramas (where Williams was cremated in 1981) were denied in 2021 and earlier this year with no reasons being given in either event. He claimed no other country would have shown such disrespect, disloyalty and dishonour to a former leader.
Williams thanked San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello for accepting the committee’s requests to stage the ceremony in San Fernando in June.
Vidale also said growing violence in schools and students being expelled as a result would hurt Williams to his core.
“My country undoubtedly is in a total mess, the likes of which must have Dr Williams turning in his grave.”
Vidale lamented increasing reports of domestic violence and “schoolchildren engaging in violent confrontation with lethal weapons.”
He said students showed no respect for teachers, parents. senior citizens
“Schoolchildren seem to be at war with the society.”Vidale added
He asked what was being done to stem this tide of violence.
“The horses have bolted from the stable a long, long time ago and cannot be located, far less to get them back in the stable.”
Vidale remembered a speech Williams delivered to schoolchildren in August 1962 at the Queens Park Oval in Port of Spain about honesty, ethical conduct and carrying the nation’s future in their schoolbags.
“If those children were following what Dr Williams said then, the school violence and the problems with the children in this country will not be as how it is today.”
He said, “Every one is running like headless fowls, trying to recover the damage that is irreparable by looking towards finding solutions which are not easily attainable.”
Students are suffering today because throughout the years, Vidale continued, because no one saw fit to remind them about what Williams expected of them.
He praised Trinity College East and Lakshmi Girls’ High School for working with the committee to keep Williams’ legacy alive.
“After 41 years, Dr Williams is forgotten by his own countrymen.”
Referring to the expulsion of a student from the Williamsville Secondary School after an incident there last week, Vidale said, ” Dr Williams would not be happy to know that children are being suspended and expelled from schools. It is not what he would have wanted.”
He appealed to the authorities to “fix the situation now and save our nation’s children before it is much too late.”
Vidale, 75, hinted this could be his last address as committee chairman. He said people have asked him to stay and he would consider their requests.
But he added, “There comes a time when you have to go.”