Cultivating an agri-mentality
October 21, 2017
A night with ‘Mama’
October 21, 2017

He yearned for unity, worked for a better T&T

This is the conclusion of the eulogy for Clive Pantin delivered by his son Bernard at the October 3 funeral Mass at St Theresa’s Church, Woodbrook. Part one appeared in the October 8 issue; part two in the October 15 issue.

I don’t have to recount the role he played during those first 48 hours. But I am convinced that he was placed in that position to be the voice of reason and balance as options were being considered including storming the Red House and ttt.

Dad would have none of it, insisting that it be the very last option. He made his position known firmly and with courage. Very few people remember that he was also Minister of Health for a few months. Minister of Health – yeah right.

At the end of one long day on a Friday, he was not feeling well and asked the driver Sylvester to pass in at POS General for him to have a quick check up.

The Minister was certainly not testing the health system, and if you know dad, he must have definitely been feeling unwell. He instructed Sylvester to drive the car to Ana Street and park it up and go on his way to his own home. No message, nothing.

A couple hours later, mum received a call from a nurse telling her that they may be keeping him for the weekend and that she needed to bring him a change of clothes. That was dad, not wanting to trouble anyone, nor incur unnecessary cost and hoping and expecting that mummy would understand.

Dad loved his mother and our mother so much, and believed in a sense of duty. His role was to provide and she was in charge otherwise. He walked to work and she drove the car. And she took care of all of us in every way she could.

There was a time that those two ladies – my mom and grandmother – worked together in providing daily inexpensive hot lunches to boys in school, in their own version of a non-profit organisation in the 1970s.

With his political loss in 1991, and full of life at age 59, dad changed course with the launch of FEEL, the Foundation for Enhancement and Enrichment of Life, exactly 25 years ago last month.

This gave him an opportunity to touch so many other people in different ways. This also gave him more time with family and he took full advantage to spend as much time as he could at home and with his grandchildren. He followed their progress closely in school and took great pleasure in their successes whether in class or on the sporting field.

While FEEL’s initial efforts focused on sourcing donations and distributing help around the country, it also evolved into a kind of coordinating body among the very small NGOs, empowering groups across Trinidad and Tobago to serve the communities.

FEEL was a manifestation of a public service philosophy, indeed with the potential of a political philosophy based around communities. But he was no politician. Yet, he was so excited about the potential for what we are capable of as a country, if we could find a way to unite our races and remove our divisions.

He also smoked the odd cigarette, well on at least two occasions we recall. The last time we believed was when he met with Basdeo Panday in early 1988 for one last ditch effort to hold the NAR together, as he tried his best to help both sides to see the value of unity. That split hurt him deeply.

Later on when Mr Panday became Prime Minister in 1995, he accepted the request to help in refashioning Common Entrance. He yearned for positive and unifying change in the country.

The first time I noticed that he was really becoming forgetful was in September 2006 as I drove him up to the Centre of Excellence to the launch of the Congress of the People. As we discussed who might be there and what it all meant, he kept forgetting some of the things I was mentioning. But his excitement was palpable.

My concerns for him were masked by his genuine excitement and hope that this could be the start of the next phase of a united approach of governance in Trinidad and Tobago. As he walked around among the thousands who gathered that day, I watched him from a distance and admired his spirit and conviction that if we all worked together, we could make this country a better place. That is all he wanted for Trinidad and Tobago.

We return to that speech he made in 1980 and the final paragraphs. Once again, I quote: “It is my contention that every community needs an action committee, a pressure group. The districts are in urgent need of vibrant dynamic leadership.

It is no use grumbling, accusing and walking away. We can all criticise for 24 hours per day about our public utilities, but if we don’t act, our criticisms, while valid, have no power.”

He went on: “One of the happier moments I have enjoyed recently occurred last Sunday on our weekly tour. There were eight gangs of WASA and T&TEC workmen working, and I mean really working. Their supervisors were there and from residents of two separate streets I heard real compliments.

Could this, I asked myself optimistically, be the start of a new era. Yes, I replied with equal optimism, provided each and every one of us is prepared to be concerned. And I would suggest that the answer my friends, is not written in the wind, but in our minds, I think the country has had enough of aspiring to achieve. It is time to we started perspiring.”

If he knew that this church was packed today, like it was in 1978, but that among those in attendance were the leaders of the largest ethnic groups and political parties, he would do the same thing again that he did then. He would ask for volunteers for a Trinidad and Tobago Action Committee.

He would hope and expect that each of you would be among them. And he would convene the first meeting of that committee immediately. Everyone would get a chance to share their opinions and contribute and you would get to work in facing the daunting challenges of this country.

Everyone would work for a better Trinidad and Tobago.