Co-founder of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) and the United National Congress (UNC) John Humphrey lamented that after more than three decades, he has not seen any progress made by Trinidad and Tobago.
“Now 36 years have passed since the NAR was created, and instead of building our country with the unity and the one love that we had achieved back then, our politicians have reverted to insults and bickering. It’s as if the country is still a colony where the coloniser wants to divide us so that they could continue to exploit us.”
Humphrey was speaking at the launch of his biography, John Humphrey – The Ideology of Partnership by Zorina Shah, at House of Chan, Port of Spain, on Saturday.
The former opposition senator and minister proposed that TT change its economic system to show the world that an equitable system could be accomplished.
He said TT, like the US, had a liberal capitalist economy. Referencing a 2019 survey, he said in the US, ten per cent of the population enjoyed 76 per cent of the country’s wealth; 50 per cent shared one per cent of the wealth of the US, many were in debt, and the disparity kept widening.
“I have believed all my political life that our little country can be an example for all of humanity to find the right way to enjoy the great bounty and magnificence of the Almighty’s creation.”
Quoting the Constitution, he said TT affirmed the “equal and inalienable rights with which all members of the human family are endowed by their Creator” and that it would operate so the wealth could “subserve the common good, that there should be adequate means of livelihood for all.”
He said he tried to fulfill those promises when he was in office, but failed.
Humphrey gave several examples from the 1986 NAR manifesto which he helped write.
Through a tri-sector partnership for the ownership of capital proposal, the government promised to divest viable state enterprises so the state, the local private sector, and workers could own capital. But instead of fulfilling that promise, the NAR fired him.
“The promise had applied to the oil refinery and had it been fulfilled, we would not be in the difficulty we are in today. If it is not too late, we could do it today. And if we are sensible, we would negotiate with Venezuela to form a partnership for exploiting their oil and gas in our mutual interest. All we would have to do is persuade the US to lift its sanctions.”
He also said the NAR had promised to adopt the sou-sou lands approach to enable all families to own land. The non-government programme bought and developed many new settlements for low-income households, helping around 4,000 families.
It also promised a national physical development plan to accomplish the distribution of land. The plan was completed but was not passed although it went to Parliament three times.
Humphrey concluded saying the publication of his biography had inspired him to try to use the rest of his life to work with those who agree that the country needs drastic change in politics and economics, instead of being disappointed by his failures.
Also speaking at the event was Mickela Panday, political leader of the Patriotic Front and daughter of former prime minister and Humphrey’s friend, Basdeo Panday.
Reading an address from her father, the elder Panday described Humphrey as a friend, colleague and critic, saying Humphrey had always been committed to the welfare of the poor and working class.
The younger Panday went on to say Humphrey was an architect, artist and national swimmer and listed some of his professional and political accomplishments.
She said he was “a person devoid of hate, malice or ill will, incapable of prejudice, committed to equality for all and to the well-being of all the people of his country,” and described him as an "ideas man" who was always thinking outside the box and coming up with solutions for seemingly unsolvable problems.
“Some of his ideas have been described by his conservative critics as radical and revolutionary, but they have never been about anything other than building a just and equitable society where each and every one of us can achieve the happiness, which my father has always said is the purpose of life.”