Nursing director laments politicians’ language at Eric Williams memorial

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Director of the UWI School of Nursing, Dr Oscar Noel Ocho, speaks at the ceremony commemorating the 41st anniversary of the death of TT’s first Premier, Dr Eric Williams, at Harris Promenade, San Fernando, Sunday. -Marvin Hamilton

The head of the School of Nursing at the University of the West Indies said the language used by many local politicians fell woefully short of the high standards set by TT’s first premier, Dr Eric Williams.

Dr Oscar Noel Ocho was speaking at a ceremony at Harris Promenade, San Fernando to mark the 41st anniversary of Williams’ death. Williams died on March 29, 1981.

Ocho said Williams was known for his visionary and unprecedented political speech which remains unparalleled and unmatched to this day.

“There is a difference between the use of political language as theater and political language as philosophy.”

He felt that Williams knew the difference, and an objective analysis of statements he made during his political career reflected that.

Ocho lamented that since Williams’ death, too many politicians from many different parties can only say politically expedient things rather than making statements to influence meaningful change.

He observed that two former prime ministers had made statements such as “politics has its own morality” and “it may not be ethical, but it’s not illegal”.

Deplorable and divisive political language is also found among politicians who seek to incite certain segments of the population and tend to try to forge alliances to that end, he said.

Ocho claimed that these politicians were making statements intended to mislead people and lay the groundwork for continued cronyism.

While Williams achieved many accomplishments in her lifetime, Ocho felt that the failure of Caribbean integration was perhaps Williams’ greatest regret. He referenced Williams’ famous “one in ten leaves nothing” statement about the collapse of the West Indies Federation in 1958.

Ocho said the reasons Williams articulated at the time for the federation’s collapse remain relevant today.

“Caricom cannot operate like a well-oiled machine.”

Ocho described the PNM as one of Williams’ most enduring legacies, surviving and surpassing all political rivals in whatever form they took since 1956.

He said the party’s continued resilience is evident after huge election defeats in 1986 (33-3) and 2010 (29-12). The balisier of the PNM was chosen by chance.

“The balisier flower or heliconia thrives in the sun and resists pressure.”

Ocho disagreed with the idea that Williams was a maximum leader. When a new institution begins life, it needs a strong leader to chart the way forward. After Williams’ death, Ocho said the PNM had benefited from having leaders such as Patrick Manning and Dr. Keith Rowley at the helm.

San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello said Williams emerged at a time when people wanted meaningful change in 1956.

“He came at a time when we needed him.”

He lamented that one of Williams’ books, Race and Nationality, is no longer available

Without referring to any specific question, Regrello said, “It concerns us today.”

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