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Dear Editor: Of Emancipation, recognition and George Chambers; time to honour our second PM

“[…] Through his ability to listen to diverse opinions and his recognition of the merit of the arguments for the recognition of emancipation, Prime Minister George Chambers propelled Trinidad and Tobago to the globally significant position of becoming the first country in the world to declare Emancipation Day as a public holiday.

“[…] Under Chambers’s tenure, the Princess Margaret Highway gave way to the Uriah Butler Highway, in recognition of Butler’s outstanding and significant contributions to the labour movement and workers’ rights…”

The following letter to the editor which calls for recognition for Trinidad and Tobago’s second prime minister, George Chambers, was submitted to Wired868 by former Arima mayor Ashton Ford:

Photo: Late ex-Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister George Chambers.
(via Caribbean National Weekly)

On 1st August, Trinidad and Tobago will celebrate Emancipation Day. It was a historic moment when the declaration was made by then Prime Minister George Chambers in 1985.

But the records at NALIS and elsewhere do not give Chambers the credit due to him for his decision to change Discovery Day, to recognise the importance of emancipation.

It is simply stated that the government declared 1st August as a public holiday to commemorate Emancipation—this is utterly inadequate, when compared with the rightful recognition given to Basdeo Panday for his decision as prime minister to declare the Shouter Baptist holiday.

Chambers deserves credit for listening and responding to the clarion calls from several quarters, including many of those who now comprise the Emancipation Support Committee, for the importance of having a public holiday for the occasion.

Photo: Emancipation Day celebrations.
(Copyright Destination TT)

Through his ability to listen to diverse opinions and his recognition of the merit of the arguments for the recognition of emancipation, Prime Minister Chambers propelled Trinidad and Tobago to the globally significant position of becoming the first country in the world to declare Emancipation Day as a public holiday.

It is indeed a great honour to recall that the country’s second prime minister also left his mark in several other major changes in Trinidad and Tobago.

Chambers named the Eric Williams Medical Science Complex and the Eric Williams Financial Complex in recognition of his predecessor, the ‘father of the nation’, Dr Eric Williams, who served as our first and only chief minister and first prime minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Under Chambers’s tenure, the Princess Margaret Highway gave way to the Uriah Butler Highway, in recognition of Butler’s outstanding and significant contributions to the labour movement and workers’ rights. This was a logical consequence to the recognition bestowed on the labour leader by Dr Williams, who declared 19th June as the official Labour Day holiday.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago boxer Claude Noel (right) faces American Howard Davis Jr during the 1980s.
Noel is a former WBA World Lightweight champion.

Under Chambers’s leadership, deserving recognition was bestowed on Audrey Jeffers for her dedication and service in laying the foundation in social work and community development, by the naming of the highway in the north/ west region after her.

Another labour leader, Cola Rienzie, along with former Mayor of San Fernando Gertrude Kirton were also honoured with the joint naming of a major road in San Fernando after them, for their achievements in their respective fields.

Tobago was not left out, with the recognition of Tobagonian boxer, Claude Noel, for winning his WBA world title in the lightweight category.

That Chambers set Trinidad and Tobago on the international stage as the first country to declare Emancipation Day a holiday is significant. Arguably, just as significant was his determination to embed our history as a nation into the everyday world around us—by renaming/naming highways and buildings after deserving daughters and sons of Trinidad and Tobago in recognition of what they did for our nation. 

Perhaps it is time that he had a similar honour bestowed on him.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s second prime minister, George Chambers.
(via Wolsey Halloxford)

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