The Great Betrayal – Part 1

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 10, 2017


Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeI don’t know where Keith Rowley, Colm Imbert, Stuart Young, Rohan Sinanan, Kazin Hosein, Faris Al-Rawi, Camile Regis-Robinson, Franklin Khan and Fitzgerald Hines were on April 22, 1960, but I was in Woodford Square when Dr. Eric Williams, in the presence of thousands of Trinbagonians, burned “the seven deadly sins of colonialism.” As he dropped each document (including the constitutions of Trinidad and Tobago and the West Indies, the 1941 UK-US Chaguaramas Agreement, and a Democratic Labor Party statement on race) into an open fire near to the bandstand, he declared: “I consign it to the flames…to hell with it.”

After this dramatic performance, Dr. Williams read out a five-point memorial that called for full internal self-government for T&T, an independent Federation of the West Indies, revision of the 1941 base agreement, and a return of Chaguaramas from the United States for the West Indian federal capital and use of Trinbagonians.

After his “hell-burning” performance as the Trinidad Guardian called it, Dr. Williams stepped down from the bandstand and raised the flags of T&T and the West Indies, symbolizing our “freedom in fact, if not in law.” Then “in one of the biggest political demonstrations seen in Trinidad estimated to be a mile or more in length comprising many [60,000] thousands people, copies of the memorial were presented to the Governor-General of the West Indies, the Governor of T&T, and the US Consul-General. The memorial was dispatched to Washington yesterday evening” (Trinidad Guardian, April 23, 1960).

Eric William struggled to revise the UK-US base agreement and to have Chaguaramas returned to Trinidad. He faced opposition at home and abroad. I am concerned with the opposition he received from home. The editor of the Trinidad Guardian (the Guardian was one of the seven deadly sins) described Dr. Williams as “a Hitler” in the making. He noted: “If there are seven deadly sins in the Premier’s estimation which are keeping back this country, there is one sin more deadly and one sinner it is needless to name. He sits in high places where his deeds unfortunately belie his lofty station. Like a certain gentleman named Schicklgruber [Hitler’s father] he works on emblems, rituals and other devices to bewitch and befuddle the masses. Schicklgruber also burnt documents and books in public, though we have no record of his declaring ‘To hell with it.'” (April 23).

Albert Gomes also criticized Dr. Williams fiercely. He accused him of having a “love-hate” relationship with the US and argued that he was “incapable of balanced judgment….Not satisfied with having done his best to create confusion and disarray in Trinidad and Tobago, he is seeking to extend his mischief into the [West Indian] Federation” (Trinidad Guardian, March 29, 1960). He stopped short of calling Dr. Williams a psychopath.

The DLP agreed that Chaguaramas “must be returned to Trinidad” in a legal, “civilized manner, and within the bounds of decent international obligations” (Trinidad Guardian, April 17, 1960). Dr. Rudranath Capildeo, leader of the DLP, believed his party should have been consulted on the issue thereby enabling the country to present a united front.

The DLP had a rather limited vision of what should be done if Chaguaramas was returned to its citizens. Theirs were primarily security concerns. It recognized Chaguaramas’s tourist potentials but suggested that the American authorities should release as much land as possible “without impairing the efficiency of the base.” It believed that Trinidad and West Indian personnel should be integrated with the American personnel “for the maintenance and operation of the base.” In short, it (the DLP) believed that nothing should be done to anger the Americans.

Dr. Capildeo opposed the march. He believed it was an inappropriate way to achieve the return of Chaguaramas. He wrote that the march had been called “by one political party, and because it has done so it expects the other party to follow simply because it says the march is national.” DLP would have nothing to do with it. Still, he hoped no harm came “to the many fine people who are to be found in the ranks of the People’s National Movement.”

Before the march began a Shouter Baptist devotee dressed in white scurried through the crowd with a wreath. She laid “a shrouded statuette, with flowers and a balisier” in front of the speakers’ platform. After the march ended a groundnuts vendor picked up a discarded placard from the pavement, wiped it with her dress and a white handkerchief afterwards (Guardian, April 23). This was her sacred memento of the day.

When the groundnuts vendor and the Shouter Baptist devotee sanctified that national liberation day and blest it with their presence, they never believed a day would come when the land for which they fought so gallantly would be given back to the oppressor class, albeit local, for thirty pieces of silver. They could not have foreseen a new Keith Rowley PNM would resurrect the seventh sin that Dr. Williams “sent to hell in his personal ‘Black Mass'” (Trinidad Guardian, April 23, 1960) to ensure their enslavement once more.

Dr. Williams must be crying in his grave! Dr. Capildeo might be offering him his sympathies.

5 thoughts on “The Great Betrayal – Part 1”

  1. Certainly a remarkable part of history. The theme that echoes through my mind is “Yankee go home”. Sparrow captured the mood of the time with his “Jean and Dinah….” Prostitution at base was a common thing.

    Williams knew way back then that the nation as young as it is must be allowed to define itself and grow post independence. That could not happen after colonialism if another imperialist power remain on TNT soil. The nation needed time to “breathe”.

    The American post World War II saw many bases set up across the world, today many remain intact long after the last world war.

    Williams had a strong love for the Baptist, Panday and Kamla did also. The PNM saw them as a cult post Williams era and never gave them anything. The tribalist thread however kept them loyal to the PNM. The UNC gave them a holiday, schools, plus a senator ship which is quite a remarkable achievement in them become a legitimate national group. Along with that thousands of dollars to celebrate Shouter Baptist Day. That did not morph into strong voter support for the UNC. The PNM gave them a few dollars this year perhaps moving to defund their efforts.

    The Baptist will continue to support along ethnocentric lines even anointing Keith to be Prime Minister prior to the last election. There is none so blind as he who has eyes but cannot see.

  2. May the God of our ancestors continue to guide you Dr C in your quest on educating the people of their treasured past. Dr William’s legacy is unsurpassed as a leader and educator, your postings have revealed the vision Eric Williams had for the twin island, the post prime ministers with the exception of Patrick Manning, lack the vision needed to transform the twin islands, while Eric Williams kept Trinidad and Tobago within a non-align governmental structure, the present and the former prime ministers are sitting round the table with the descendants of the colonial masters, while the children of the former slaves embark on self-destruction because of true political and spiritual leadership. I, personally being post independence leading up to the uprising in 1970, was mis-educated towards Dr Williams’ ideals seeing all the leaders then, were anti Eric Williams. Dr Rowley is playing a dangerous political game with the people he has aligned his self with, and only time will tell as things continue to unravel.I hope Dr Rowley has and continue to read capitalism and Slavery.

  3. We are fortunate to have scholars like Dr. Cudjoe around to remind us of our true history. In another ten years or so, there will be very few, if ANY, echoing such interests because there is a turning tide in our land to re-write our history as it occurred. Our media which likes to dub itself as the ‘fourth estate’ is hardly a likely source of such education. The University of the West Indies, which we like to assume represents our educational, national and political aspirations is hardly a source that we might be able to call upon to maintain this history as we know it also.

    Dr. Williams was a purist as a historian. He represented the ideals of West Indian nationalism, pan African nationalism and local nationalism to elevate the aspirations of the descendants of those who were brought to this region and those who came voluntarily to make this region their home. Of course there were detractors who have and continue to use every means available to them to nullify his intellectual works and the efforts of his blood, sweat and tears to make this country and the Caribbean a place that have it own unique identity and aspirations. He spent his life in pursuing this effort. Yet, we hear very often on local radio, people like Ralph Maraj making statements that tend to belittle the works of such a great man. It is up to us, the citizenry to defend our own history because there are many, whose interests differ from ours to ensure that our history is taught differently to include them as the true mastery of what really took place in our beloved country. One does not have to look further than the blogs that are readily available to twist Dr. Cudjoe’s essay to mean something other than what it was meant to sustain.

    There is a common saying that “you cannot know where you are going, without knowing where you came from”. Most politicians after Dr. Williams tried to change our course of development from the paths which our white colonialist masters created for us. White colonialism focussed on black labour to enrich their European sovereignty first and the local white plantation masters second. Part of this behavior resounds in the idea that our allegiance still bounds us to the laws of our masters. Case in point is the boundless faith some of our politicians still have in such laws that we appear to be forever bound to the Privy Council in London. Many of our local leaders (not of European descent) still feel that we are better off having our fate in the hands of our masters than allow descendants of slaves hold that power. In that respect we need look no further than the renowned utterances of the current Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar, whose expressed fears is that without an Indian jurist on the CCJ, it cannot be considered a fair and constitutional court of justice.

    I notice that Dr. Cudjoe has marked his essay as “Part I”. This assumes that he wishes to continue with this subject. I will reserve my further remarks on the subject to his final paragraph on this matter. Meanwhile, I will submit my comments as a rhetorical commendation to Dr. Cudjoe’s essay.

    Good job Dr. Cudjoe!

  4. Dr Williams is dead and gone and the cultist pnm will one day be eradicated also.Williams was the father of racism feeding the masses with a diet of hatred and created principles of ‘black nazism’.The psychopathic leaders of the pnm will all be gone one day back to hell where they came from.The hatred that runs deep in the blood of the pnm will become poison which they would consume.The first deadly sin is the pnm it is a great evil which has wreaked havoc on our nation.

  5. If Eric Williams was a black nationalist, explain to me why I keep coming across material about him trying to hinder/stop the black power movement?

    Why did he turn the nation from agriculture in favor of seducing foreign multi-nationals to setup shop in T&T (the plant down Carenage side etc.)?

    Why do I hear stories about him announcing secondary schools for all before they were even finished on political platforms. Trends that continue today?

    If you ask me, the man sounded like a typical propagandist, sociopath that seems to be common among many male leaders to this day. The people of the nation have and continue to be foolish and blindly follow anyone who says what they like or has what they want.

    When I hear some PNM diehards talk about him I’m surprised he has not been elevated to god status like Kim Il-Sung.

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