Persad-Bissessar made the disclosure in her role as Prime Minister and chair of the Commonwealth, deeply aware of Sir Ellis’ work in the area of constitutional reform. She said the result of talks earlier yesterday with UWI, St Augustine, principal, Prof Clem Sankat, was that the Government would endow the ‘Sir Ellis Clarke Chair in Commonwealth Parliamentary and Constitutional Studies’.
Persad-Bissessar said, “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.” She said the chair would be of great value to governments reforming their constitutions to meet national needs.
“The pioneering work of our own Sir Ellis will be brought to bear on future generations,” said Persad-Bissessar. “This endowment will honour not only his work in a major field of Government endeavour but his legacy will continue to benefit students, researchers and scholars from all over the world in a field of study that was literally his passion.”
In their tributes Persad-Bissessar and President George Maxwell Richards said the best way the citizenry could honour Sir Ellis is for each of us to adopt his ideals so as to make Trinidad and Tobago a better place. “The loss of our former President, Sir Ellis, at this important juncture in the history of Trinidad and Tobago is indeed a wake-up call for us all,” said Persad-Bissessar.
She said he was a patriot who defied the odds to ensure the country grew and whose death now came at a time of transition in the nation. “Now it falls to us to ensure that we continue with the patriotism and nation-building to which Sir Ellis dedicated his life,” said Persad-Bissessar. Saying Sir Ellis cleared the way for our democracy, she said his spirit would live on in the commitment of each citizen especially MPs and Members of Government to serve with selflessness and dedication as he had done.
“Let us therefore commit, as a tribute to the life and achievements of this great man, to re-doubling our efforts and reaffirming our obligation to continue his sacred life’s mission of ensuring that Trinidad and Tobago remains a place of unity, equality, justice and lasting peace.” She said only through such an unwavering commitment could the country truly honour Sir Ellis’ memory. Persad-Bissessar said Sir Ellis’ most enduring contribution to this country was his drafting of Trinidad and Tobago’s first Constitution in 1962, which is the bulwark of our rule of law and our system of justice.
“The introduction of constitutional, fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the State to its citizens is part of his intellectual legacy that we will always cherish.”
Persad-Bissessar hailed Sir Ellis’ role as a top diplomat who had ensured this new nation became known for its unity, diversity and harmony. Addressing Sir Ellis’family, she said he had charted a way forward for the country in critical times, for the survival of independence and democracy. President Richards, in his tribute, also said Sir Ellis is best honoured by citizens practising his values. Richards asked what did all the tributes paid to Sir Ellis as a true patriot actually mean to the population?
“What we have heard concerning our first President should remind us that Trinidad and Tobago did not just happen out of nothing,” said Richards. “We have a past which we should heed, rehearsing the lessons that can help to bring us back to our respectable moorings, moorings that were created by the diligence and foresight of men such as Ellis Clarke and the risks they took (envisioning) a post-Independent Trinidad and Tobago.”
Richards said a most fitting tribute to Sir Ellis “would be a determination, on the part of each one who is able, to do what is necessary to recall or become familiar with the ideas and ideals that inspired him (and of our founding fathers) to seek and secure independent statehood and to resolutely propagate these ideas and ideals.”
Saying Sir Ellis led no charmed existence, Richards said, “Ellis found himself early, and buoyed by his religion and his faith in God, did what he had to do, in circumstances which were not always ideal or even comfortable, demonstrating courage which Ernest Hemingway described as ‘grace under pressure’.”
Chief Justice Ivor Archie recalled meeting Sir Ellis just months before his death, when the two sat down for what Archie thought would be a 45-minute talk but which lasted five hours. Archie recalled telling Sir Ellis to write his memoirs, to which Sir Ellis replied “no”, quipping that he might offend too many people.
However, Archie still urged that a book be written about the life and times of Sir Ellis. Archie concluded, “His true legacy lies in the impact on the many lives he touched.”