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A supreme national and an unequalled statesman

Friday, January 14, 2011
Tribute in Parliament to the late Sir Ellis Clarke by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Mr Speaker, there is undoubtedly no one who better symbolises the aspirations and achievements, the optimism and objective of Trinidad and Tobago through its modern national passages as Sir Ellis Clarke. It is for this reason, Mr Speaker —and with your kind permission—that I rise to pay tribute to Sir Ellis, who has passed away after a lifetime of devoted and incomparable national service. Mr Speaker, it is insufficient and almost unfulfilling to simply express condolences and to say that Trinidad and Tobago has lost one of its noblest, brightest and statesmanlike sons. Sir Ellis fits comfortably those depictions, but, in a substantive way, he represented much more than a competent and illustrious national who rose to the highest offices and who served his people with honour and excellence wrapped in a personality of effortless simplicity. Sir Ellis was that and much more.

In a practical manner, he embodied and spearheaded the critical political transitions of his beloved Trinidad and Tobago, as it smoothly segued from colonialism to independence to republicanism.  He was the backbone, visionary and personification of a tiny twin-island state as it charted an ambitious course away from the shelter of a colonial empire, to nationhood and then to its own identity and attributes as it acquired republican status and fitted among the countries of the United Nations. Mr Speaker, through it all, Sir Ellis was an unequalled statesman and a repository of the ideals and traits that defined the purpose and goal of this young, aspirant society. To those qualities, he added the values of graciousness, good humour and humility. Sir Ellis’ extensive and exalted role in the development and progress of his country is unique and without question.

Indeed, for his vast contributions, there is no one in the annals of the modern history of Trinidad and Tobago who is more deserved of being acknowledged as a national patriarchal figure. Our country was indeed blessed to have had the loyal and devoted public service of Sir Ellis, when he could have easily swapped his extensive knowledge and experience for wider gains in the private sector or the international community. Mr Speaker, Sir Ellis Clarke was an incredibly rare human commodity, who emerged and faithfully served at the most essential crossroads in Trinidad and Tobago modern history.
In another place, I have indicated the unparallelled manner in which the legacy of this supreme and consummate national will be honoured and preserved. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago will endow the Sir Ellis Clarke Chair in Commonwealth Parliamentary and Constitutional Studies.

This chair will be a major centre of learning available to and serving not only Trinidad and Tobago but the entire Commonwealth, as well as students of constitutional studies all over the world. It will be of immense value as governments everywhere seek to reform and adapt their constitutions to meet national needs.The pioneering work of our own Sir Ellis will be brought to bear on future generations. This endowment will honour not only his work in a major field of government endeavour but his legacy will continue to benefit students, researchers, scholars and Members of Parliament from all over the world in a field of study that was literally his passion and which is embodied in the essence of the House of Representatives and the seat of Parliament.

Indeed, this is a way for his legacy to endure and continue to instruct for generations to come.
Today, Sir, I simply wish to   herald and acknowledge a man who diligently and honourably served his nation and made it a better place for generations to come. On behalf of the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago, I pay the highest possible tribute to one of our society’s greatest nation-builders and the epitome of the quintessential national spirit. May he rest in peace.


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