Reggie Dumas dies at 88

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Reginald Dumas –

There has been an outpouring of tributes and condolences on the death of Reginald Dumas, retired diplomat, head of the public service and Newsday columnist.

Dumas, 88, died on the night of March 7 at the Scarborough General Hospital, Tobago, days after major surgery for a gastro-intestinal condition.

The announcement came in a Facebook post by his daughter, Sonja Dumas.

“My father transitioned tonight. He fought an extended challenge of gastrointestinal failure over the past few weeks…

“For many, he was a great diplomat, a great orator and great political analyst. He fought tirelessly for good governance. His generosity touched countless people, as did his wit (which was often acerbic).”

She said she intended to follow in the footsteps of her father who leaves behind a legacy of integrity and honesty.

Dumas attended Queen’s Royal College, Port of Spain, Cambridge University and the Institut Universaire de Haute Etudes Internationales, Geneva.

He spent over 30 years in the Public Service, both locally and internationally, before retiring in 1991.

Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne described Dumas to Newsday as one of the country’s most outstanding diplomats.

“(He was) a man of high standards of integrity and class. Always well-spoken and not prone to confusion and disrespect. He was an exemplar, a reliable political analyst and, during his career, was a great permanent secretary and ambassador of TT. His contributions must be cherished and his legacy must be respected. I extend condolences to his family and loved ones and join with the national community in paying tribute to the life and service of the great Reginald Dumas.”

Among his postings were as High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, High Commissioner to Canada and High Commissioner to India. He also served as the Ambassador to Washington and to the Organisation of American States.

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar told Newsday Dumas was known for his fortitude, depth of knowledge, public analyses, and forthright character.

“TT was fortunate to have Mr Dumas as a senior public officer and national commentator. His candour was valued especially during divisive national issues. Mr Dumas has left a good legacy. The UNC extends its deepest condolences to his loved ones. May he rest in peace.”

Most recently, Dumas was a frequent columnist for the Newsday. Newsday editorial consultant Judy Raymond commented, “The embodiment of integrity, Reggie Dumas was an invaluable resource for the media for many years, and not just for Newsday, where we were very happy to have the benefit of his balanced and informed views in his column.

“He was a fount of knowledge of the way things should be done and the ways in which they were not being done correctly. He was generous with his time and never failed to share his knowledge and experience with patience and good humour. I can’t think of anyone who can replace him.”

Martin Daly, SC, a former independent senator and a fellow newspaper columnist, said Dumas was one of those extremely rare people whose personality was not warped either by the powerful functions he performed in pu​blic life or his laser-like intellect.

In a WhatsApp message he wrote: “He was an essentially humble, no-nonsense man who could see straight through guile and pretence. We became close as fellow public commentators and had many conversations over several years. We probed each other’s perspectives, very occasionally put out a joint media release and regularly kept in touch.

“We had what turned out to be our last conversation while he was hospitalised with the challenges that have now taken him from us. I thank his family for the graciousness with which they spoke with his friends even while caring for him in very trying circumstances. Our loss of Reggie cannot be measured by words.”

Criminologist Prof Ramesh Deosaran, a fellow Newsday columnist, described Dumas as a man of courage and wisdom. He said, “One by one, the fewer and fewer voices of independent thought and integrity are leaving us.”

He said Dumas’s voice and views of Dumas always brought clarity and objectivity into national discourse, be it on the constitution, education or Tobago-Trinidad controversial relations.

“We spoke often, sharing advice on many national issues, an experience I will always cherish. We sometimes disagreed on the telephone but those were the most intellectually exciting moments. Our lengthy discussions on an executive president and proportional representation were very simulating. When he called, he would say ‘Ramesh, what you think about this?’

“I would really miss that voice and him – his candour and intellectual honesty in a place where politics is widely accepted as having its own morality. If only his example could be followed. Slowly speaking and quite humbly, he would say, ‘Let’s look at the other side.’ And I got educated that way.

“He also educated the country, through the media. Though not inside the noisy political arena, he had shrewd insights into our politics and sometimes put the arrogant and politically mischievous in their proper place.”

From his Tobago setting, he was never afraid of them, whether in Trinidad or Tobago. “He proved to be a man of courage and wisdom. Reggie left us at 88, but his memory will last forever with us. My deepest sympathy to his family.”

In a WhatsApp comment, UNC deputy political leader and Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said Dumas was “a renowned and respected diplomat, public servant and social commentator.”

Dumas, he continued, was also a powerhouse of knowledge on the workings of the Westminster type of public service and the structure of governance in the Caribbean.

“He was very happy to share his knowledge and wisdom when called upon. He has left a defining legacy and will be missed.”

UNC Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial-Ramdial described Dumas’ life as one dedicated to serving the country. She said even if she might have disagreed with his perspectives, she considered them as she knew they were grounded in years of experience. Lutchmedial-Ramdial said she would always regard Dumas’ work which laid the foundation for people to legally challenge authorities. It’s a move he defended up to the Privy Council.

“Interpretation summonses based on that judgement have become an invaluable tool for those who wish to invoke the supervisory jurisdiction of the court as “guardians of the constitution” as described by Justice of Appeal Jamadar in order to hold decision makers to account and has paved the way for the development of local jurisprudence.”(With reporting by Kinnesha George and Clint Chan Tack)