Proud honour for country pumpkin
By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, September 2 2012
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Calypsonian Brother Valentino is congratulated by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar after he was awarded the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) at the 50th...
Professor Emeritus of Government at the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies, John Gaffar La Guerre, yesterday regarded his national award as a victory for people from rural communities.
The 77-year-old academic, who was born in Guaico, Tamana, east Trinidad, was among 14 nationals bestowed with the country’s second highest award, the Chaconia Medal (Gold), for his contribution to higher education during Friday night’s 50th anniversary Independence Awards ceremony at Queen’s Hall in St Ann’s.
Yesterday, he said his award was an endorsement of the efforts of country folk towards the development of the country.
“I came from the country and I think it is an endorsement of the country,” La Guerre said of his award.
“I am a country pumpkin and I am happy to see that country pumpkins like me are being recognised.”
On a personal note, La Guerre said he felt happy that his work and contribution at the university had finally been officially recognised by the State.
Regarding his role as a lecturer, he said, “The basic academic role is to educate policy-makers and students who later become the policy-makers, into an understanding of how the society works and about how things could be changed and the direction in which possible change could take place. I do hope that that kind of goal and objective will be espoused by future generations.”
La Guerre, also chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC), told Sunday Newsday that he still delivers lectures to students at the university when called upon.
“The older heads everywhere do have something to pass on to the younger generation and for most of my life I have been involved in shaping minds and in trying to encourage people to aspire higher,” he said.
La Guerre’s wife, Professor Ann-Marie Bissessar, a member of the Integrity Commission, said her husband’s award was long overdue. Meanwhile, on a high yesterday after receiving the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) in the sphere of community service, activist Wendell Eversley, who had been at the forefront of calls for a Commission of Enquiry into the July 27, 1990 attempted coup (currently ongoing) in which members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen stormed the Red House in Port-of-Spain, thanked former President Arthur NR Robinson for recommending that he be recognised by the Independence Awards committee in this year’s ceremony.
Robinson, a former political leader of the National Alliance For Reconstruction, was Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago at the time of the attempted insurrection.
Yesterday, Eversley, who said his award was also a tribute to those who lost their loved ones in the incident, lamented that Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr’s had indicated he will not be able to testify before the coup enquiry this week.
Bakr told the commission on Monday that he will be unable to give testimony because of his current criminal prosecution for sedition and incitement.
Eversley, who was inside the Red House Chamber at the time of the attack 22 years ago, said he was peeved by Bakr’s statement, which he regarded as an “outright refusal” to account for the lives that were lost in the now infamous incident.
“I am upset that Bakr is still refusing to go before the commission of enquiry, because I still have a strong feeling and a strong belief that Mr Bakr did not get up one morning to try to overthrow the government by himself,” he said.
Meanwhile, veteran calypsonian Brother Valentino (Anthony Emrold Phillip) said he was both honoured and overwhelmed by his award.
“No amount of money can buy that feeling,” Valentino, who has served the artform for 50 years, told Sunday Newsday.
The Sangre Grande-based entertainer, who received the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) for his contribution to culture, said he had only learnt about the accolade days before the ceremony.