Director of the School of Nursing at UWI Dr Oscar Noel Ocho speaks at the ceremony to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the death of TT’s first prime minister Dr Eric Williams at Harris Promenade, San Fernando on Sunday. – Marvin Hamilton
Director of the School Of Nursing at the University of the West Indies says the language used by many local politicians has fallen woefully short of the high standards set by TT’s first prime minister Dr Eric Williams.
Dr Oscar Noel Ocho was speaking during a ceremony at Harris Promenade, San Fernando to mark the 41st anniversary of Williams’ death. Williams died on March 29, 1981.
Ocho said Williams was known for visionary, unparalleled political discourse which remains unmatched and unsurpassed to date.
“There is a difference between the use of political language as theatre, and political language as philosophy.”
He opined that Williams knew the difference, and an objective analysis of statements he made during his political career reflected that.
Ocho lamented that since Williams died, too many politicians from many different parties are only able to say things which are politically expedient rather than make statements to influence meaningful change.
He observed that two former prime ministers made statements such as “politics has a morality of its own” and “it may not be ethical, but it’s not illegal.”
Deplorable and divisive political language is also found amongst politicians who seek to incite certain segments of the population and have a penchant of trying to forge alliances for that purpose, he said.
Ocho claimed such politicians make statements designed to mislead people and lay a foundation for continued cronyism.
While Williams had many achievements in his lifetime, Ocho opined the failure to integrate the Caribbean may have been Williams’ greatest regret. He referred to Williams’ famous “one from ten leaves nought” statement on the collapse of the West Indies Federation in 1958.
Ocho said the reasons articulated by Williams then about the federation’s collapse remain relevant today.
“Caricom can’t function as a well-oiled machine.”
Ocho described the PNM as one of Williams’ most enduring legacies, outlasting and outperforming all of its political rivals in whatever form they assumed since 1956.
He said the continued resilience of the party is clear after huge electoral defeats in 1986 (33-3) and in 2010 (29-12). The PNM’s balisier symbol was selected by chance.
“The balisier flower or heliconia thrives in the sun and is resilient under pressure.”
Ocho disagreed with the view that Williams was a maximum leader. When any new insitution begins its life, it needed a strong leader to chart the way forward. After Williams died, Ocho said the PNM benefitted from having leaders such as Patrick Manning and Dr Keith Rowley at the helm.
San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello said Williams emerged at a time when people wanted meaningful change in 1956.
“He came at a time when we needed him.”
He lamented that one of Williams’ books, Race and Nationality, is no longer available
Without referring to any specific matter, Regrello said, “That is relevant to us today.”