On behalf of the constituents of Naparima and on my own behalf, I extend condolences to the family and friends of our late Chief Servant Makandal Daaga.
Daaga was a national treasure who significantly changed the social and economic tapestry of our country with his call in the late 1960s and early 1970s for social justice, racial equality and economic transformation.
It will be recalled that the then PNM government while ushering in political independence was either unwilling or unable to ensure that all citizens had opportunities, especially in the private sector, to participate fully in the economic activities taking place around them.
To put it crudely, in the pre-1970s era if you were black or brown you simply had, no matter how highly qualified, to go to the back of the economic line and stay there.
Daaga and NJAC changed all that.
Eric Williams was forced to concede that his post-independence economic prescriptions were not serving the interests of the vast majority of citizens and they were not willing to become accomplices in this unjust enterprise.
He therefore developed “Perspectives for a New Society” which detailed his economic response to Makandal Daaga’s strident activism. In it Williams called for national ownership of the commanding heights of our economy. In the early 1970s therefore, the economy of Trinidad and Tobago was transformed when, for example, the local marketing assets of British Petroleum was purchased by the State and vested in National Petroleum. Tate and Lyle became Caroni 1975 Limited. SHELL became TRINTOC and the Bank of London and Montreal became NCB. Trinidad and Tobago had, and still has, the largest state owned economy in the region with the exception of Cuba.
This meant that, post 1970; any citizen could aspire to almost every managerial position on the basis of qualifications, competence or experience.
Many of our senior managers in the state and private sectors today owe their positions to Daaga.
Always ahead of his times and as a proponent of racial harmony, Daaga sought always to bring together the two major races in our country. It was no surprise therefore that he joined forces with Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the UNC in 2010 in forming the Peoples’ Partnership where he focused his not inconsiderable energy, intellect and vision in attempting to end racial politics in our country. He remained a member until his death.
In his later years he was the quiet voice of wisdom and reason.
He loved his country and served it to the best of his ability.
May his soul rest in peace.