Hochoy Charles –
The funeral service for former chief secretary Hochoy Charles will be held on Thursday at 11am at the Shaw Park Complex, Tobago, following a viewing of the body from 9am.
Charles, the first chief secretary in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), died on December 31 at the age of 77. Charles, who was also known as the “Heavy Roller”, was also a former government senator and parliamentary secretary.
Tributes have been pouring in from all corners with the Prime Minister, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, PNM Tobago Council leader Ancil Dennis and others hailing his impact.
Speaking with Newsday on Tuesday, former THA minority leader Ashworth Jack, who served as an assistant secretary under Charles’s THA administration, said his passing brings him a sense of loss. He recalled the African proverb that says to when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.
“Hochoy was one of the few walking encyclopedias on Tobago’s struggle for internal self-government and on how the Tobago government works. So for me, he is a big loss. For Tobago, he is a big loss.”
He said there were a number of things that would have been pioneered by Charles that he did not get enough credit for.
“Hochoy was the first chief secretary that had the responsibility of setting up how the new Tobago House of Assembly works, and of course because there were so many changes that had to be made. He took a lot of licks for implementing the changes that had to be made based on Act #40 of 1996.”
He said in terms of some of the impactful development, he said Charles was instrumental in the acquisition of free tertiary education.
“He was the one who looked at Tobago’s needs, looked at the percentage of Tobagonians that had exposure to education and the reason why most families couldn’t afford it. He would have implemented paying for a number of doctors and lawyers and engineers to go and study, and the assembly would have footed the bill. When that started then, the government in Trinidad followed what Tobago was doing and introduced dollar for dollar.
“When we’re boasting of how many doctors we have with Tobago parentage we tend to forget that the person who started that was Mr Charles.”
He said there was a resurgence on Tobago’s infrastructural development and that too was championed by Charles.
“Hochoy’s contribution to Tobago cannot be understated.”
He said Charles was a very stern individual and most people focused on that instead of all his other achievements.
Gerry MacFarlane, who served as a secretary during Charles’s tenure, said Charles was driven.
“The relationship with us was little dicey at times but you can’t get away from the fact that he was passionate, he was sincere, he had a vision for what has to be done in this island of Tobago.”
MacFarlane said he followed Charles’s political career even whilst he was a student.
“Hochoy Charles got the name ‘Heavy Roller’ because he never considered any obstacle that you can’t deal with.”
He said enough tribute cannot be paid to a man he labelled as a visionary. He said not enough is done officially to chronicle the life of people like Charles.
“Like Jacob Delworth (JD) Elder and the kind of anthropological work and cultural work and thoughts that he did for this island. The heritage festival – that was his original idea; Stanley Beard gave it life, but I sit down as an assistant secretary of culture with JD and even Stanley and we were talking about this issue of how we were going to get these villages involved in heritage and so forth.”
He added: “What are we going to do to chronicle the life and have the history recorded of the lives of people who passed and who’s still alive today.
“What are we doing about Pamela Nicholson’s contribution? Are we going to get someone to sit down with sister Pam, so that the children who are coming up will have something to look at and to reflect on and say this is how these people achieved to get where we are today?”
He suggested a Hochoy Charles scholarship fund.
“You can decide, give somebody who is doing a PhD to do a PhD on the history of politics in Tobago governance or anthropology. Take Hochoy Charles for the start – look at all Hochoy Charles’s works and recommendations and things that he was involved in. fund it and say you chronicle the work that he has done whether in a part one or a part two. It’s like a whole library we lost there.”
In an interview with Tobago Channel 5, Deputy Chief Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael said nothing less than a full state send-off is befitting a man of Charles’s status.
“When you think of the THA, and when you think of the foundation the THA has had, we can think of others, yes, but you must definitely think of Mr Hochoy Charles.”
She said when Charles spoke, people often would interpret it as a public chastisement.
However, she said when you understand the thought process behind his statements, you would more receptive.
“Every interaction I have had with him on a personal level, on a one-on-one level, has been kind and loving and soft words and wise counsel…
“I am proud to be part of an organisation that had a man like Hochoy Charles at the helm at one point.”