Yes, we fought for best deal

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NO, Trinidad and Tobago did not ‘fight’ for Independence, but I’ll tell you what we did do – we fought for the best deal!

Let me acquaint readers with some facts-historical facts, not those of the ‘alternative’ genre–and I urge you to peruse Colin Palmer’s Eric Williams and the Making of the Modern Caribbean for further details on the multiple British attempts to ‘pacify’ him, even extending to purchasing his books and strewing them around the conference table when they were about to encounter him.

Starting from 1950, upon the independence of their colonies, the British customarily offered a ‘Golden Handshake’. The money was to be used to buy British goods. The only post-colonial leader to refuse, Williams ‘invoked the spectre of colonial exploitation and its relationship to the construction of the British economy’ (Colin Palmer), claimed the quantum insufficient and the attached strings an insult, stating in a 1962 London School of Economics speech, as well as in a later one to West Indian students: ‘The West Indies are in the position of an orange. The British have sucked it dry and their sole concern today is that they should not slip and get damaged on the peel…The offer is quite unacceptable and we would prefer not to have it… [it] amounted to aid to Britain rather than to Trinidad [and Tobago]…I do not propose to accept any concept of the Commonwealth which means common wealth for Britain and common poverty for us.’

Williams’ letter to that effect dropped like a bomb in 10 Downing Street. This singularly unprecedented battle lasted a full year, and he eventually was forced to capitulate, but not without first becoming a giant thorn in the British backside!

That, then, was the ‘fight’!

Erica Williams Connell