Building a Nation Together


The birth of the People's National Movement is often considered to have its origins from January, 1956, with such names like Kamaluddin Mohammed, Gerard Montano, Donald Granado, Donald Pierre, to name a few, being associated with the Movement's inception. This is incorrect.

Dr. Eric Williams never had initial intentions of entering into politics. He was first and foremost an academic: an historian and professor, first with a career at Howard University and subsequently at the Caribbean Commission . We are quite familiar with the name Caribbean Commission through Dr. Eric Williams' association with that body, only knowing that his contract of employment was not renewed. But what was the Caribbean Commission , which is important for us to know something about?

First of all, there was a Royal Commission in 1939, which prepared a report that summarised that there was a demand for better living conditions, which was becoming increasingly insistent among an expanding population at a time when world economic trends seriously endangered even the maintenance of the deplorably low-existing standards. The first and chief manifestation of the new regional approach, following the Royal Commission's report was the establishment in 1940, with the region, of a Comptroller for Development and Welfare . This officer , assisted by a team of expert advisers, was appointed by the Secretary-of-State for the Colonies and was employed and paid by the United Kingdom Government. He was, naturally, in close and constant touch with the Colonial Office and in particular with the West Indian Departments. His headquarters was in Barbados .

The position of the Comptroller and his organisation was unique: there was nothing similar in any other colonial region. The Comptroller had no authority over the territorial governments and does not intervene in their relationship with the Secretary-of-State. The main duty of his organisation is to be at the service of all the governments in the region, to provide them as required with assistance and advice in planning and executing social and economic development, and to advise the Colonial Office on schemes put up by the territories for the expenditure of money allocated to the region under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts . Generally, the Comptroller and his organisation had an important part to play in promoting regional co-operation, especially in the economic field. Closely linked with the organisation was the Regional Economic Committee , on which all the Colonial government in the region, including British Guiana and British Honduras , were represented.

This was a purely British organisation serving the British Colonies in the region. But there are other territories concerned. The United States, for example, had overseas dependencies of their own which presented some of the same problems as British Caribbean Colonies, as well as U. S. interests by was of Americans living (serving) in various Caribbean territories (with land leases) as servicemen, particularly during a world war – World War II. In order to promote co-operation, an Anglo-American Caribbean Commission was set up in 1942, the British Comptroller being one of the Co-Chairman. In 1946, the French and Dutch Governments joined in what was thereafter called the Caribbean Commission . The headquarters was set up at Kent House, Maraval, Trinidad . Two auxiliary bodies were added: the Caribbean Research Council and the West Indian Conference , the latter consisting of delegates from all the territories concerned, together with officials and advisers.

However, there came a time when there was a vacancy for the position as head of the Caribbean Commission – the position of Secretary General. Dr. Williams, being Deputy Chairman of the Caribbean Research Council of the Caribbean Commission , felt that Albert Gomes had a major part to play in his not succeeding to that position in the Caribbean Commission and in his subsequent dismissal, as outlined in a correspondence, dated the 24 th May, 1955, written to Dr. Williams from the General Secretary:

“ Your service contract with the Commission, due to expire on the 21 st of June, 1955, will not be renewed. . . .

“ I have been directed by the Commission to convey to you an expression of its appreciation of the services which you have rendered during your tenure of the post of Deputy Chairman of the Caribbean Research Council .”

And so Dr. Williams felt that he would be out to get back at Gomes. Since Albert Gomes operated in the political arena, Dr. Williams felt that he would have to get at him there, and so decided to launch his entry into politics with his now-famous meeting in Woodford Square on the same day of his dismissal from the Caribbean Commission : the 21 st of June, 1955.

Prior to the termination of his contract with the Caribbean Commission , Dr. Williams met with his friend, Norman Manley, who was in transit in Trinidad on his way to British Guiana . As busy as Manley was, Dr. Williams just had to see him. The case was urgent, in that Dr. Williams had just been told by the authorities of the Caribbean Commission that his contract as Deputy Secretary General of that body would not be renewed. The contract was to terminate on the 21 st of June, 1955. Manley had intervened on two previous occasions to have it renewed. Anyway, the two men met at Piarco Airport and held talks. The next day a reporter said: “ The conversation is believed to have concerned Dr. Williams' future. Its outcome seems to have left unaltered Dr. Williams' declared intention to remain in the region and serve the West Indies . However, Dr. Williams declined last night to say what precise form that service would take .”

A few days later, a newspaper launched an attack on Dr. Williams, purporting to give the facts of his relationship with the Caribbean Commission . Dr. Williams found the report so distorted, and so misleading and unjustified, that he decided to answer the allegations in public. He called a meeting to take place in Woodford Square on the 21 st of June at eight o'clock in the evening- the same day of the expiration of his service contract with the Caribbean Commission.

The meeting was attended by a surprisingly great crowd of people, who had heard Dr. Williams explain the circumstances of his turbulent relationship with the Commission , through the years 1943 to 1945. He spoke of the role of the Commission , and highlighted the opposition to the work he himself was doing in respect of the West Indies . Then he told the cheering crowds: “ I will let down my bucket where I am now, right here in the West Indies, I will stay with the people who paid for my nine years of free education at Queen's Royal College and five years at Oxford .”

At the end of the public lecture on constitution reform in Trinidad and Tobago, at the University of Woodford Square , on the 19 th of July, 1955, Dr. Williams concluded, by saying:-

“ The constitution which I have proposed will encourage the essential pre-requisite for the future – a good party in Trinidad and Tobago . The constitution is a framework, the door which must be opened if the dynamic energies of our people, now confined, are to be released. The key to that door is needed. That key is a good party.

“ About my own intentions, with respect to which there is so much speculation, I can only say this:- Without in any way wishing to be either patronising or disparaging, I see no existing party as that key. I have, therefore, decided, if I do enter the political field, not to accept any of the invitations extended to me to join one of the existing parties, but to enter on the basis of a new party designed to offer the people of Trinidad and Tobago, whatever their race, class, colour or religion, for their acceptance or rejection, the key which they have not yet found and for which they are so desperately searching .”

It was the most rapturous reception Dr. Williams had ever received, and it was the first time that his speech had a political ring. No one could help the feeling that the territory was on the brink of something new, yet none, not even the most ardent supporter of him realised with what speed a new era was hastening in. A sudden change overtook the political scene.

Of this period someone has said: “ There was a man; here was a moment; and there was a cause .” The cause was Colonialism and its attendant evils; and the young lecturer had reacted to this all his life. Lecturing in Woodford Square , that was already, in mid-1955, was being referred to as the “ University of Woodford Square ,”

Dr. Williams had appealed to the masses by his manner of drawing attention to opened the people's eyes to what was happening around them, creating in them his own inward hunger for a solution to the problem.

Another factor which bore Dr. Williams up towards the crest of the wave was unrest in the teaching fraternity. In 1951, the Minister of Education and Social Services, Roy Joseph, stirred up great bitterness among teachers by altering the Education Code. Joseph had further angered the teachers by refusing to make education compulsory, and had also rejected the idea of encouraging state schools and phasing put the denominational ones. The, far from trying to make peace with the teachers after the Teachers' Union had passed a vote of “No Confidence” in him in May, 1951, Joseph came out in open war against this body, and even rejected a conciliatory call to him to address them.

The teachers in turn reacted with fury. They turned this fury not only on Roy Joseph, but on the Government who had made him the Minister for Education and was supporting him – and of course the central figure of the Government was Albert Gomes. Gomes and his POPPG were now bearing the brunt of the raging storm.

Not un-expectedly, the teachers joined those people who saw Williams as a potential saviour and were foremost among those who were pressing him now to come out and lead. Just at that juncture a letter in the press said: “ The time is come for us to declare our maturity and takeover from those at the helm who see none of our national visions and who are unable to plan for the good of a West Indian nationhood. Whither Dr. Williams ?”

John Shelford Donaldson, as head of the People's Education Movement of the Teachers' Economic and Cultural Association allowed Dr. Williams to lecture under the auspices of the Association. He would undertake a series of public lectures, including lecturing at the Public Library.

Apart from being the Political leader of the P. N. M. and launching numerous meetings throughout the country, Dr. William's responsibilities were increased when he was selected, being unemployed, as the editor of the Movement's newspaper – PNM Weekly – which released its first newspaper printing on the 14 th of July, 1956.

Author: Mark A. Mc Peanne
Copyright © 1981-2006

Dates Events
1901-09-17 Birth of the First Chairman of the PNM Sir Learie Nicolas Constantine, T.C., K.C.M.G, Baron of Nelson and Colne
1911-07-24 Birth of PNM's 1st Lady Vice Chairperson & 1st Female Minister of T&T, H.E. The Hon. Mrs. Isabel Ursula Cadogan-Teshea
1911-09-25 Birth of the Father of the Nation - The Hon. Dr. Eric Eustace Williams
1956-01-15 Inaugural Conference of the PNM in Woodford Square
1956-01-24 Public Launching of the PNM in Woodford Square, Port of Spain
1956-07-14 The Nation newspaper is established
1956-07-30 1st presentation of the first-ever Legislative electoral candidates (24) in Woodford Square.
1956-10-26 1st PNM Government sworn in at Government House, St. Ann's
1956-05-19 Women's League Committee launched
1956-09-24 1st Victory at the General Elections Polls at with 13 successful candidates
1958 PNM Publishing Co. established at #90 Frederick Street, Port of Spain
1959-07-26 National Women's League held its 1st Annual Conference at Brooklyn Hall, Port of Spain
1959-07-13 Introduction of Cabinet Government in Trinidad and Tobago with Dr. Eric Williams becoming the Territorities' First Premier
1961-05-14 Death by car accident along Mc Bean stretch, Couva, of Minister John S. Donaldson
1960-04-22 (Federation) Independence Day March with presentations of Memorial to : H.E. The Governor, The U.S. Consul General,
1961-12-04 2nd Victory at the General Elections Polls with 20 successful candidates
1962-04-26 Deed of conveyance executed in respect to no: 1, Tranquility St. ("Balisier House"), Port of Spain
1962-05-19 No:1, Tranquility St. ("Balisier House") registered as No. 6045 of 1962
1962-08-31 Independence of Trinidad and Tobago celebrated
1963-03-22 Meet-The-People-Tour started. Completed on 30th Jan., 1964
1964-06-14 Meet-the-party-tour started. Suspended on 5th June, 1965. Resumed in Sept., 1967
1964 Membership of H.M's Most Hon. Privy Council conferred on the Rt. Hon. Dr. Eric Williams
1966-11-07 3rd Victory at the General Elections Polls with 24 successful candidates
1970-04-14 Minister of External Affairs, ANR Robinson resigns
1970-04-21 State of Emergency declared on account of Riots pertaining to "Black Power Uprising"
1971-07-01 Death of PNM's First Chairman, H.E. Sir Learie Constantine, T.C., K.C.M.G., Baron of Nelson and Colne
1976-09-24 Inauguration of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
1976-08-31 Ellis Clarke made Interin President of The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
1976-12-29 Ellis Clarke elected by Electoral College as 1st President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
1977-01-29 Ellis Clarke inaugurated as 1st President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago at President's House
1981-01-24 Special Convention commemorating the PNM's 25th Anniversary
1981-03-29 The death of the Father of the Nation, The Hon. Dr. Eric Eustace Williams
1981-03-30 The swearing-in of George Micheal Chambers as Prime Minister at President's House
1981-04-14 Death of PNM's First Lady Vice-Chairperson and First Female Minister and Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago, Her Excellency The Honourable Mrs. Isabel Ursula Cadogan-Teshea
1981-11-09 6th PNM Victory at the General Elections Polls with 26 successful candidates
1983-11-15 Death of Trinidad and Tobago's first Governor General, H.E. Sir Solomon Hochoy
1986-12-15 1st Defeat at the General Elections Poll with 3 successful candidates out of 36. The Appointing of Patrick Mervyn Augustus Manning as Leader of the President's Loyal Opposition.
1990-08-26 Death of PNM's second chairman, Hon. George Armsby Richards (D.O.B 26-10-1903)
1991-12-16 7th PNM Victory at the General Elections Polls with 21 successful candidates
1991-12-22 The swearing in of Patrick Augustus Mervyn Manning as 4th Prime Minister at President's House.
1994-03-13 Death of serving Cabinet Minister Morris Marshall
1994-10-11 Death of serving PNM Vice Chairman
1995-11-06 1st tie at the General Elections Polls with 17 successful candidates, but with the other political party also having 17 seats forming a coalition wit the minority party having 2
1996-12-05 Death of PNM's Third Chairman. Francis "Boysie " Casimir Prevatt (D.O.B 04-03-1912)
1997-12-04 Death of PNM's Second Political leader, P.M. George Michael Chambers (D.O.B 04-10-1928)
2000-12-09 Disputed Elections with UNC's 2 illegal candidates being allowed to contest and win majority to form Government, in addidtion to voter padding
2001-11-11 11th Presentation of the General Election candidates (36) in Woodford Square
2001-12-24 The swearing in of Patrick A. M. Manning as 6th Prime Minister at President's House
2002-10-09 The swearing in of Patrick A.M. Manning as 6th Prime Minister at President's House

Born in Port-of-Spain, in 1928, Chambers never hid the fact that his education, which began at Nelson Street Boys RC School, Burke's College and Osmond High School, also included a GCE correspondence course from Wolsey Hall. His grandmother Catherine - with whom he stayed at 12 Jackson Place - and who was of Martiniquan descent, died in her '90s. Chambers' father, George, married Ruby Noel, of the Simonette clan from Icacos where George often vacationed. Ruby died two weeks after he became Prime Minister. He was the first of three boys and two girls.

Prior to entering politics he worked with the firm of Hamel Smith and Company and the now defunct Dominion Oil Company. He wed Juliana Jacobs, with whom he said he had never had a quarrel, in 1956. They produced a daughter, Andrea, and set up house at St Augustine. Also in 1956, Chambers joined the PNM. However, he was first elected to Parliament in 1966 as the representative (MP) for St Ann's East.
He may best be remembered as the man who coined the term 'Fete Over - Back to Work' urging a self-indulgent Trinidad and Tobago oil boom population to buckle down to reality. Nor will his battle cry 'Not A Damn Seat For Them!' be forgotten as the rallying call to the PNM in the post-Williams period of election challengers. George Michael Chambers, may not have been a man who followed complacently in the footsteps of his predecessor, but he came to be known as one who set his own style and a person fiercely loyal to his PNM party, even in the face of a humiliating 33-3 defeat in 1986 which was to be his undoing in political life.

In the days following the death of former Prime Minister Eric Williams, Chambers, by then one of three PNM deputy leaders, was summoned to President's House on March 30, along with the other two PNM deputies, Kamal Mohammed and Errol Mahabir. Reports indicate he was not told why the meeting was being held, but he was later informed that he had been chosen to succeed Williams. 

At PNM's first convention after his appointment he was to demonstrate clearly that despite his low-profile unassuming stance, he meant business. His first act: Halting the controversial $240 million Caroni Racing Complex and the Malabar Housing Project, reshuffling several Ministries and declaring the Priority Bus Route for use by hired vehicles and taxis. He also declared: "What is right, must be kept right and what is wrong, must be set right…" And a month before the 1981 election he vowed to deal with corruption: "…When I say that I mean wherever the axe will fall the man is going to get chopped…" Chambers in his first months of office also advised against competent and capable people remaining on the sidelines. From that first occasion, when he departed from Williams' style even in term of dress, by donning a shirt jac suit, he appeared determined to carve out his own image, rather than emulate the so-called Father of the Nation. Lacking the charisma of the diminutive, but domineering Williams, Chambers developed his own style on basic appeal and a self-assured air which in no way resembled the arrogance and sarcasm which Williams was renown for at times.

A mere seven months after becoming PM, Chambers faced his first major challenge, leading the PNM Balisier Brigade into general elections against an alliance of the ONR and other forces with the battle cry: "They too wicked - not a damn seat for them!" The ONR charge, led by former PNMites Karl Hudson Phillips and Ferdie Ferreira, had poked fun at Chamber's silent stance, labeling him "dumb". But the results indicated that the population was apparently prepared to give "Georgie" a chance rather than heed the ONR's call to 'come home.' The PNM won 26 seats (the most ever), including Caroni East and Princes Town, and made inroads into Basdeo Panday's Couva North seat and Tabaquite.
Chambers retired from public life after the 1986 election, following a prayerful send-off by PNM women and kept a low profile since. In 1994 it was rumored that he was assisting then PM Patrick Manning but this was not confirmed.

George Michael Chambers, died on the 4th November 1997 at age 69.

By Gail Alexander Trinidad Guardian

Born in San Fernando in 1946, Mr. Manning attained his primary and secondary education in South Trinidad, followed by his B.Sc. Degree (Special Honours) in Geology at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.

Mr. Manning entered politics in 1971, at age 24, as the People’s National Movement candidate for the Constituency of San Fernando East, emerging victorious in the General Elections of that year. He won this seat in every General Election since, totaling 10 contests to date.

Serving under Prime Ministers Dr. Eric Williams, then Mr. George Chambers, the young Representative Manning was appointed a Parliamentary Secretary in Ministries ranging from Works and Transport to Industry and Commerce, and Petroleum and Mines. He became a full-fledged Minister in 1981 holding the Industry and Commerce, and Information portfolios, then Energy and Natural Resources.

When the PNM lost the General Election in 1986 after 25 years, Mr. Manning was one of three PNM candidates who retained their seats. He became the Leader of the Opposition and within 2 months was elected to the post of Political Leader of the PNM.

In 1991 Mr. Manning was elected Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

He lost the General Election of 1995, returning to the position of Leader of the Opposition for the following six years. In 2001, when a deadlock arose in the House of Representatives, Mr. Manning was appointed Prime Minister by President Arthur N.R. Robinson. A General Election was then held on October 7, 2002 and Mr. Manning again emerged victorious.

In December 2003, Prime Minister Manning was awarded the Guyana Institute for Democracy "Democracy Prize" for his outstanding work in upholding the principles of democracy in the Caribbean region.

He is well-respected in the international community for his vision as a new-style Caribbean leader bent on having Trinidad and Tobago not only grow to developed country status on or before the year 2020, but simultaneously contribute to the development of fellow Regional States. In December 2004, he was awarded the Caribbean - Central American Action's "Star of the Caribbean Award", for his unwavering support of Caribbean neighbours in their time of distress.

In 2007, Prime Minister Manning called a General Election on November 4. He prevailed again as Prime Minister for the fourth time. Under his leadership, Trinidad and Tobago hosted the Fifth Summit of the Americas on 17 to 19 April 2009 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government on 27 to 29 November 2009. Also in 2007, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by Medgar Evans University. He later stated in Parliament that the award was accepted on behalf of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

In 2010, Prime Minister Manning called a snap General Election and the People’s National Movement was unsuccessful. He remains the Member of Parliament for San Fernando East.

Mr. Manning is married to Hazel Manning and they have two sons - Brian and David.

Dr. Eric Eustace Williams Born on September 25, 1911, Eric Williams was the son of Elisa and Henry Williams, a minor Post Office official in Trinidad. He was educated at Queen's Royal College and won the Island Scholarship to Oxford University. At Oxford, he placed first in the First Class of the History Honours School and received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1938. His doctoral thesis, The Economic Aspect of the West Indian Slave Trade and Slavery, was considered an important contribution to research on the subject and was published in 1944 in Williams' Capitalism and Slavery. Much of Williams' educational pursuits at Queen's Royal College and Oxford University is documented in his book, Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister.

In 1939, Williams migrated to the United States to teach at Howard University. He became an assistant professor of social and political sciences and organized several courses, especially a humanities course for which he developed a three-volume work called Documents Illustrating the Development of Civilization (1947). While at Howard, Williams began to work as a consultant to the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, a body set up after the war to study the future of the region. In 1948, he left Howard to head the Research Branch of the Caribbean Commission. Later, in 1955, he resigned from the Commission in protest against its crypto-colonialist policies.

Williams returned to Trinidad and Tobago and became more involved in politics. His first major political speech was titled "My Relations with the Caribbean Commission" (1955). A year later, Williams formed the People's National Movement (PNM), a political party of which he became the leader. In September of 1956, the PNM won the national elections and he became the chief minister of the country from 1956 to 1959, premier from 1959 to 1962, and prime minister from 1962 to 1981.

During his term as prime minister, Williams led Trinidad and Tobago into the Federation of the West Indies and to independence within the Commonwealth in 1962. Williams died in office on March 29, 1981. Often called the "Father of the Nation," Williams remains one of the most significant leaders in the history of modern Trinidad and Tobago.

Reference:Eric E Williams Speaks: Essays on Colonialism and Independence-
Edited by Selwyn R Cudjoe. Copyright©1993 by Calaloux Publications.
Distributed by the University of Massachusetts Press.