He was the fearless mediator between the Jamaat al Muslimeen insurgents and the TT army in the 1990 attempted coup, a dark period in the country’s history.
Twenty-eight years later, Dean Knolly Clarke’s skill as a go-between during that incident, has informed the decision to select him as the new president of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO).
Clarke, 83, who was elected overwhelmingly at a meeting of IRO members last Saturday, at Trinidad Muslim League, St Joseph, replaced Episkopus Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke.
The spiritual baptist leader was elected on just over a year ago, on June 29, 2017.
Clarke’s appointment was confirmed by IRO secretary Neil Rollins.
Clarke said in a Sunday Newsday interview, he was selected as president to put the IRO on a growth path.
“Based on my ability and training, it was felt that I would be able to be the kind of president that would deal with issues in a democratic way and move the IRO forward,” he said, alluding to the view by members that he was best suited to lead the organisation given his role as mediator in the attempted coup.
Clarke will now serve a one-year term.
The outspoken, Anglican cleric clergyman admitted he took the post reluctantly, partly due to age but mostly because of his ministry and teaching commitments, including his position as local director of the Anglican Theological College, Codrington College, Barbados.
He also has written a book on ethics and moral values which is being edited by one of his sons. It is expected to be out by November.
A long-serving IRO member, Clarke said he met with IRO executive members on Friday at the Anglican Bishop’s Residence, Port of Spain.
A further meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow to discuss plans for a retreat and to gauge feedback on issues engaging national attention.
“I don’t want the IRO to be Knolly Clarke IRO. I have no blueprint for how to run the IRO. I must listen to what the people have to say.
“ If I have meh blueprint and the people (members) say that is stupidness, I look foolish. I see myself as a facilitator, an enabler.”
He said the group also has been invited to be a part of an upcoming conference on crime to be hosted on July 18 by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s.
Clarke said his first priority would be to promote unity within the organisation.
“The first thing is that we have to be a united people. We are brothers and sisters and we do that not just by talking about it or putting it on paper but by living it and how we behave in our relationships with one-another.”
He said no member was a law unto him or herself.
“Nobody is a big chief. God is the only chief and we are his creatures and loving creatures we must be.”
Clarke said through the IRO, God also has given them the responsibility to take care of TT.
“And so the question is, ‘How are we responding to Trinidad, not just by talking but acting?’ That is my hope, for us to be put into a structure that not just talks the talk but walks the walk and give ourselves unstintingly to be servants to God and to the people.”
As such, Clarke contends the role of IRO president must be approached with humility.
“You can’t do that if you are a law unto yourself. All our religions talk about humility and if we are a humble people, people are going to listen to us. We cannot play we know everything.”
Clarke said one of the IRO’s functions must be to mobilise communities throughout the country.
“So you can have many little IROs, working together for the well-being of Trinidad, not because we will get oil or get help from this or that place, or we will diversify the economy, but people are important.”
He added: “All of the institutions we want to develop, people have to work the institutions. That is my vision and I am hoping that my colleagues will work with me towards that vision.”
Clarke said family life must also be placed on the front-burner.
Referring to an Ashanti proverb, The ruin of a nation begins in the home, he said strategies must be devised to restore family life in communities.
“A dysfunctional home creates dysfunctional communities and it expresses itself in the nation. And, if your family is not working properly, there will be a deficit of compassion,” Clarke said, borrowing an expression from former United States president Barack Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope.
About Dean Knolly Clarke
Born in Tunapuna in 1935
Special adviser to the Caribbean Conference of Churches
Clarke officiates in the Christ Church parish, Cascade
In 2007, Clarke received Hummingbird Medal (Gold) at Independence Day awards.
Clarke coordinates lectures in the Ethics and Moral Values programme at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies, Valsayn