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A President’s Legacy

I think the Express editorial captured something that got lost in all the praises of his most visible characteristics:

For the late Noor Hassanali to be remembered simply as a kind of placid president is to do an injustice to the memory of the man. It is true that he exuded a certain tranquillity but this is a man whose term of office straddled some of the most traumatic moments in the country’s post-Independence history.

Among them were the first-ever defeat of the People’s National Movement (PNM), the party that had guided the country since its attainment of sovereign independence, the subsequent coming into power of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) in 1986, its sudden sundering and the consequential return of the PNM and the unprecedented 17-17-2 results of the 1995 general elections.

Newsday managed to capture something that people forgot as well – the fact that the State has not been nearly as good to Noor and Zalay as they had been to the country

His presidency is remembered as a model of thriftiness, as his household bred their own tilapia in ponds and grew their own vegetables on the grounds of President’s House. Further, in accordance with his religious beliefs, no alcohol was served at President’s House, a move which surely helped the taxpayer. He is also believed to have spent his own money to repair President’s House.

President Hassanali and Mrs Hassanali served Trinidad and Tobago well. Sadly, however, it can’t always be said that Trinidad and Tobago served the Hassanalis well.

In a story, “All Presidents not equal”, Sunday Newsday on January 29, 2006, reported the hardships being faced by the Hassanalis who had to pay the cost of security, vehicle, and driver, which had otherwise been provided free by the Government for at least one other former Head of State.

One other dark cloud impacting on the Hassanalis was the incident in September 1989 when two gunmen fired three shots at the car in which Mrs Hassanali was travelling. Fortunately she was not injured, although to date no-one was ever convicted for the offence.

All in all we say President Hassanali had a good innings both in his professional and public life and served Trinidad and Tobago well.

One day the full story may be told. I look forward to the biographer who really writes a definitive work on the person I believe to be our greatest President ever.


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