News of Valley’s sudden passing brought reactions of shock and sadness yesterday from several of his one-time political allies and adversaries as all of them joined together to pay glowing tribute to the veteran politician who after leaving the political arena in 2007 and returning to the private sector as a consultant was fondly known as, “Citizen Ken.”
Leading the tributes was Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who said, “Mr Valley was an institution in the Parliament from my very first day there. During the time I’ve known him within the Parliament, he conducted himself with decorum, dignity, steady representation for his constituents.” She said Valley had distinguished himself as Government and Opposition Chief Whips when the PNM moved from Government to Opposition and then back to Government during the period 1995 to 2001. “He conducted himself at all times in a manner befitting a good parliamentarian.”
She disclosed that it was only at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair she learnt about Valley’s illness after a request was made by an Opposition MP to a Government member. “In the Cabinet yesterday (Thursday), we discussed possible ways that we may be able to assist Mr Valley,” she said. Persad-Bissessar said she was advised by Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis that some medical assistance was already being given to Valley.
“Since hearing of his passing, I have spoken to my permanent secretary (Reynald Cooper) and I have asked him to contact the family of Mr Valley to see if the State can assist in any regard,” the Prime Minister stated.
She added that while the PNM which Valley served from 1986 to 2007 has lost a committed foot soldier, “all of our indigenous politics is now deprived of an outspoken member who seemed always to be humbly and honestly led by both his conscience and his conscientiousness.” Opposition Leader and People’s National Movement (PNM) political leader Dr Keith Rowley, who started his political career as an Opposition senator with Valley in 1986 following the PNM’s 33-3 defeat to the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) in that year’s general election, said, “Mr Valley’s death is a great personal loss to me as he was always a trusted friend and reliable colleague.”
In extending his condolences to Valley’s family, Rowley said Valley was “a distinguished citizen who exemplifies the qualities of loyalty and dedication. In a statement issued from the Opposition Leader’s Office, Rowley said : “He (Valley) started his public career as a public servant in the Ministry of Finance and eventually became a hard working minister in the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Rowley said Valley “also served in the opposition where he contributed significantly to the rebuilding of the PNM and made significant contributions to the establishment of policies and programmes which were effected by the party in government.” In extending his deepest sympathies to Valley’s family who provided Valley with “unstinting support” during his period of public service and particularly during his recent illness, Rowley declared: “The people of Trinidad and Tobago owe Kenneth Valley a debt of gratitude for the remarkable contribution he made on behalf of all our citizens.”
PNM chairman Franklin Khan praised Valley as “the most decorated soldier of the PNM.” Khan said Valley was the only person he knew who held five portfolios (Trade and Industry Minister, Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Government Chief Whip, Diego Martin Central MP and PNM deputy leader) and performed with distinction in all of them.
In a statement, the PNM identified Caricom free trade agreements, diversification of the economy, this country’s bid for the Free Trade Area of the Americas headquarters and development of trade links with Latin America as some of Valley’s achievements in government.
The party said Valley had been a true PNM stalwart from the moment he started his political career in 1987 as an Opposition senator to his stint as Diego Martin Central MP from 1990 to 2007.
PNM general secretary Ashton Ford said the party will discuss with Valley’s family what role it could play in the arrangements of his funeral and how it could honour his contributions.
Diego Martin/North East MP Colm Imbert, who served with Valley in former prime minister Patrick Manning’s first two administrations (1991-1995 and 2001-2007), said: “One thing I remember about Ken, he always had very strong opinions. Very passionate, very vibrant. He believed very much in what he was doing.”
UNC chairman, Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner said, “We will miss Ken but the life he lived and the legacy he has left as a businessman, as a politician, as a gentleman will never be forgotten.” Stating that Valley had devoted his life to the development of TT and his death “robs us of the wisdom he has acquired over the years which would have augured well for all of us as we seek to make TT a better place.”
Warner also recalled Valley’s “virtual invincibility on the table tennis board” as testimony to the realness of a man “who walked among kings, princes and commoners who was respected by all and loved by many.” Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said Valley taught him invaluable lessons in “parliamentary ring craft and debating techniques” which now serve him well as Government Chief Whip in the House. Moonilal said while Valley was committed to party politics he was always “very collegial” to all his parliamentary colleagues and recalled that Valley would always invite MPs to his establishment in St James, the Caribbean Shoppe, “for a late night beverage after marathon sessions of the Parliament.”
House Speaker Wade Mark hailed Valley as “an undeniable force” in this country’s Parliament. Mark said Valley’s political career reflected a strength of purpose and loyalty to party and service to country which spanned two decades. “May Almighty God bless his soul and may he find peace in the heavenly comfort of the Creator,” Mark said.
Former prime minister Basdeo Panday said he and Valley were “fairly good friends” during their time in politics, even though they represented opposing political parties. “I have know him for quite a long time. He was always a person who was jolly. He was a good orator who spoke well in Parliament,” Panday said. (See Page 5).