Former United National Congress (UNC) government minister Dr Reeza Mohammed has died.
Mohammed served as Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Marine Resources in the former Basdeo Panday administration from 1995 to 2000.
In a statement on her Facebook page on Saturday, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she was saddened to learn of the passing of the former Member of Parliament for Princes Town.
She described Mohammed as "a true stalwart of the UNC and a committed servant to the people of our nation. I extend my sincerest condolences to the members of his family."
Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, in a separate Facebook post, said, “It is with deep sadness that we advise of the passing of former MP for Princes Town Reeza Mohammed. Our condolences to his family, well-wishers, friends and all who knew him.”
He described Mohammed as a distinguished some of the soil, who made a significant contribution to the development of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Padarath later told Sunday Newsday that Mohammed, who was in his late 70s, did not die from complications associated with covid19 but a heart ailment.
“I am advised it is not covid19-related. Dr Mohammed has been ailing for the past few months.”
He said although Mohammed was no longer an MP and government minister, he remained active in the politics in Princes Town both at the local government and general election levels.
“For the general election, he provided tremendous support both to myself and to MP Rodney Charles (Naparima). However, he health started getting the better of him about a year now and for the past few months I am advised by those who are closest to him that he had some heart ailments and he succumbed to those early this morning.”
Padarath said Mohammed’s funeral will likely take place on Monday.
“I know that he has children abroad so I think that are looking at the possibility of the children returning.”
Panday said he was shocked to learn of Mohammed’s death.
“I am sorry to hear that he has gone,” he told Sunday Newsday. “I wish to express my condolences to his friends and family and hope that they have the strength to endure this period of sadness.”
The former UNC leader described Mohammed as an intuitive, competent member of parliament and minister who, at the time, was wise beyond his years.
“We worked together. He was a very competent, hard-working person. He had lots of ideas – ideas which were far beyond the conditions under which we (UNC government) were working. He was a brilliant person, actually, very forward-looking ideas. But this did not go down well with his (Cabinet) colleagues because they were too far behind him.”
Panday said Mohammed was also charming and loved politics.
Former government minister Winston Dookeran said he was saddened to learn of Mohammed’s passing.
Like Panday, Dookeran remembers him as a bright man.
“I admired his ability to take those ideas and convert them eventually into policy. I see him, therefore, as a great loss to the world of ideas.”
He said he was not privy to Mohammed’s work within recent years “but I expect that he would have continued in his ideas.”
Dookeran recalled he had many conversations with Mohammed, particularly on his ideas for the agricultural development of TT.
He added he was particularly impressed by the fact that Mohammed “was not a person who went along with the normal situation.
“But I think he made his contribution in public life and he also was able to inspire many young people because he thought outside of the norm. This was my recollection of him and my conversations with him.
“So, I extend my deep sympathy to his family. I really didn’t expect such news.”
UNC deputy political leader Jearlean John described Mohammed as a “bright, hard-working, no-nonsense operator.
“Really and truly, he was a servant of the people and did his job without fear or favour. What I remember of this gentleman is that he went about his business and did his job.”
Outside of politics, Mohammed remained vocal as an environmental advocate.
In September 2020, as president of the TT Assembly of Hunting Associations, he called for a widening of the pool of honorary game wardens to include law enforcement officers.
At that time, Mohammed had complained that poaching was one of the association’s major concerns.
He recalled in 2018, the association had sent a plan to the Ministry of Agriculture that proposed appointing members of the Defence Force as game wardens. Mohammed believed that this would have saved the state money.
Mohammed was also a member of the Cabinet-appointed Hunting and Wildlife Committee established by Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat to review the economic value of wildlife hunting in TT.