Ex-public service head, diplomat laid to rest – ‘Set up scholarship in Dumas’s name’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Joy Dumas, widow, and Sonja Dumas, daughter of Reginald Dumas,
are greeted by Bishop Claude Berkley and Canon
Richard Jacob at Dumas’s funeral at the All Saints Anglican
Church, Port of Spain on Friday. PHOTO BY FAITH AYOUNG

The daughter of former head of the public service Reginald Dumas is calling for a scholarship in leadership and diplomacy to be established in her father’s name.

Sonja Dumas made the call while speaking at her father’s funeral on Friday at the All Saints Anglican Church, Queen’s Park West, Port of Spain. Dumas, who was also a former diplomat and Newsday columnist, died at the Scarborough General Hospital, Tobago, on March 7.

Dumas, 88, died days after major surgery for a gastrointestinal condition.

Speaking at his funeral, Sonja Dumas said he always insisted on the value of education. She said he never sought personal praise in spite of his accomplishments, even telling her years ago he did not want a eulogy at his funeral.

“He avoided national awards for various reasons, and when I reflect on that at this time, perhaps it was because he is a national award, a person whose wisdom is a gift to the people and whose counsel is a prize.” Sonja Dumas said, given his personal beliefs and values, his memory might be best honoured through a scholarship.

“One thing that he has always instilled in me, as his mother, my grandmother, instilled in him, was the value of education.”

Imparted correctly,  she said, knowledge is both an empowering and liberating.

“So as some people have suggested in the past two weeks, perhaps a Reggie Dumas scholarship in leadership, diplomacy and/or governance could be established at one of our tertiary-level institutions.” She said he would love that “enduring legacy of learning and stewardship.”

She also revealed plans to collaborate with an institution to curate his work and share it with the world.

“A few months ago we visited with representatives of a national institution in Port of Spain which was eager to acquire his body of work. I will revisit these talks and I hope to embark on the monumental task of curating his work with a view to sharing it with wider local, regional and international communities so that it will be available to this generation and to generations to come.”

Sonja described Dumas as her “steadfast champion” and “biggest hero,” adding, though, that he was many things to many people. She said since his death, many people had contacted the family to offer condolences.

“So very many people have remembered him in some very many glowing ways as they recounted his life, his accomplishments and most of all his impact on them personally and on the wider society.”

Describing her father’s life as “a beacon for many,” she said if anything, they were the ones who needed consoling.

“The Dumas family grieves now and people offer us consoling words, but we in turn also feel the need to console them, because of the great loss that they have also felt with his passing. That for me is a clear indication that it is not just we, the family, who are mourning, but many sectors of our society.”

She spoke about a recent tribute to Dumas which gave some insight into his willingness to impart knowledge and educate anyone willing to learn.

“One person recently joked that Reggie was considered Google by some, since anyone could go to him and get relevant information which he was always ready to share.”

Former chairman of the Joint Consultative Council Winston Riley, in a tribute read by his son Ronald Riley, said Dumas was someone who never lost his common touch or forgot his humble upbringing.

“His life story overturns the popular negative narrative of males raised by single mothers, sons who grew up without fathers, and forces us as a people to re-evaluate. Reggie’s life stands out as a shining example of what our males can aspire to be, because he did it with steadfast determination, focus and fearless civic action.

“He never forgot his mother’s lessons that shaped his values of integrity, ethics, love of country, community and fellow man.”He praised Dumas’ fight for transparency and accountability and his commitment to good governance, justice and equity.

“I will always remember his impactful contributions to the fight for procurement legislation started by the JCC. Under my chairmanship, Reggie took action and proceeded to form a local chapter of Transparency International to strengthen the cause of civil society for transparency, accountability and the value for money in the use of public funds.”

Transparency activist Afra Raymond told Newsday at the funeral the work done by Dumas during his lifetime needed to be continued.

“Reginald played an important role in the movement for transparency and good governance in our republic by founding the TT Transparency Institute, which has an important role to play. The institute now needs to step up and continue the good work of Mr Dumas and his other colleagues if the country is to attain a level of development and good governance.”

Delivering the homily, Anglican bishop Claude Berkley described Dumas as a mentor, adviser, analyst, problem solver, citizen, commentator, husband and father. He said Dumas embodied the representation of a man.

“Many times in the holy scripture we read these words, ‘What is man?’ If we were engaging in some kind of other banter, perhaps outside of church, we will probably say, ‘What is man? Reggie is man!’”

A memorial service was also held for Dumas in Tobago last week, with a public viewing of the body at Lambeau on March 14, followed by a celebration of his life at Buccoo.