Erica Williams-Connell lauds preservation of father’s legacy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Erica Williams-Connell, daughter of the late Eric Williams, left, and Planning and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles, right, pays tribute to retired public servant Patricia Raymond for securing the late prime minister’s speeches during at function at Central Bank Auditorium on September 28. – Jeff K. Mayers

THE story of Dr Eric Williams, TT’s first prime minister, belongs to everyone including his detractors, said his daughter Erica Williams-Connell on Thursday evening.

She was addressing a function at the Central Bank in Port of Spain, titled Preserving the intellectual legacy of Dr Eric Williams through digitisation.

Williams-Connell saluted a public servant – Patricia Raymond – who had safely kept a collection of Williams’ speeches for 20 years until digitisation now under the hand of Nalis librarian Caroline Kangalee.

Williams-Connell quoted Williams’ autobiography Inward Hunger to say that history was not a list of battles, dates and politicians but rather a record of humanity’s development.

“On this auspicious occasion we are indeed making history in the long overdue website launch of 238 of my late father’s speeches.”

She said she had searched in vain for years for her father’s speeches but unknown to her a clerk/typist had quietly safeguarded them.

“This person who wished to remain anonymous but who has been outed had literally kept these documents in safekeeping for more than two decades,” she said, “waiting for the opportunity to deliver them into competent and appreciative hands, those of Caroline Kangalee in 2008, so that we might arrive at this juncture of preservation, politics and history.”

“It matters not if you are an aficionado of Eric Williams, his committed opponent, or just indifferent.

“This treasure trove of documents is our history, for better or worse – all of our history, both the good and the bad.”

These works were part of the nation’s heritage, she said.

“It deserves to be safeguarded, if only so that future generations can choose to utilise it as guideposts or warning signs against the same steps.

“If we don’t pay attention to the past, the future begins to lose its point of reference. That’s one of my favourite quotations.”

Williams-Connell then turned her attention abroad to a country she said that used to be a thriving first world democracy, which she said was now faced with daily attempts to blatantly rewrite history, saying, “TT would do well to avoid such blunders.”

She said in that overseas country the efforts at rewriting history were not inadvertent but deliberate, calculating and immoral.

Returning her attention to TT, she related, “As an aside, during a previous administration, one top official in the Ministry of Information seemed to take a special delight in informing me when asked, that in terms of video material, edited versions of Eric Williams’ administration were being erased so that the tapes could be ‘re-purposed’. “Imagine my incredulity, my utter disbelief. This is a lesson I have never forgotten.”

She lamented that even today rumblings were heard that Williams had not earned special recognition, despite being lauded as the Father of the Nation.

Otherwise she appreciated the event to ensure TT’s youngsters would have the benefit of research and discussion over Williams’ records.

She hailed all who had helped the project including Planning Minister Pennelope Beckles who had taken it over from her predecessor Camille Robinson-Regis, plus permanent secretary Marie Hinds.

“As a late-comer to the benefits of history, indeed as a daughter, I am deeply grateful. Thank you.”