Honouring Sir Ellis

Many participated in the State funeral for him either directly at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), where it was held, or indirectly as they viewed it on giant screens set up on Frederick Street, between NAPA and the Memorial Park; or at Woodford Square; San Fernando’s Harris Promenade or at James Park in Tobago. Others viewed it on television sets at their homes, clubs or commercial centres or listened to broadcasts on their radios.

They watched on in grim silence, some shedding tears, as Sir Ellis’s body arrived by gun carriage and his casket draped in the Trinidad and Tobago national flag was borne on the shoulders of his escort into NAPA, where special and public invitees stood in respect as the Lydian Singers performed hymns and other sacred songs. At the end of it all there was a gun salute.

Chief celebrant at the NAPA service was Edward Gilbert, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port-of-Spain, who delivered the homily, while the Anglican Bishop, Calvin Bess and representatives of the Hindu and Muslim faiths read passages from the Holy Bible, the Gita and Koran respectively. It was a reminder at the emotion charged State funeral that Sir Ellis had fought hard and long for the Constitutional rights of Trinidadians and Tobagonians of all faiths.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who delivered one of the eulogies, the others were by President George Maxwell Richards and Chief Justice Ivor Archie. They saluted Sir Ellis as a man who had brought dignity to every public office he had held. But an even greater salute was delivered by the Prime Minister to the memory of the man who helped create the country’s Constitution. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar informed funeral service attendees, the wider nation and an extended television and radio audience across the Caribbean that the University of the West Indies had agreed to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago endowing a Chair in Constitutional Studies in honour of Sir Ellis.

This is a signal honour to the former Constitutional Adviser to Government at the historic talks at Malborough House, London, which led to Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence. It would assist present and future UWI students interested whether specifically or otherwise, in Constitutional Studies to be exposed to the thoughts, papers, pronouncements and articles of the man who in a larger sense helped to shape the destiny of the English speaking region.

It was Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who speaking immediately before Persad-Bissessar revealed Government’s establishment of the Chair, would salute Sir Ellis’ “critical role in our transition to nationhood.” President Richards, whose eulogy followed on that of the Prime Minister’s, stated: “His (Sir Ellis Clarke’s) contribution to the birth of our nation is a fact that cannot be erased.”

Meanwhile, yesterday’s State funeral was the second in the Caricom Community of Nations (Caricom) within recent months. Late Prime Minister of Barbados, David Thompson, received a State funeral in Barbados in November, following on his death from pancreatic cancer.

It was Independent Trinidad and Tobago’s second State funeral, with the first being that of Dr Eric Williams, the nation’s first Prime Minister, in 1981. It was Dr Williams who, recognising the contribution potential of Sir Ellis, would bring him on board quite early. Sir Ellis died at home on December 30, after suffering earlier from a massive stroke.


"Honouring Sir Ellis"

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