Saturday, August 26, 2006

Our best President (Noor Hassanali, 1918-2006)

Sometimes it's hard to separate one's own preconceived notions from one's ideas about what "people think". So it's always re-assuring to see at least some of them ring true. I have always said that he was the most popular president Trinidad and Tobago has ever had, and he was one of the very few truly national figures, someone who was universally admired. The news coverage of his death seems to bear that out. From the message boards at ttonline

Possibly the best Pres. T&T ever had.

Possibly? He was the best president we ever had. May he rest in peace.
There's a lot of coverage of his death in the local papers. The international press mentions race (first Indo-Trinidadian President), religion (first Muslim head of state in the Americas) and the coup. Factually true, but that misses his main achievements. He was elected President by an NAR government. He revoked Manning's appointment as Leader of the Opposition and replacing him with Panday, he was re-elected President by the PNM government. Despite being President in a turbulent time and with two different governments, he was never criticised (by any side), he never came into conflict with either administration.

It's worth remembering that he was the first Indo-Trinidadian President specifically because it was uncontroversial. In 1987 there were a lot of people who were apprehensive about what they saw as an "Indian power-grab" in the form of the NAR government. I'm sure that some people saw the appointment of an Indian President as yet another step in that direction. But if people had reservations, they quickly forgot them. He was a national figure, above politics and above race. He was, I believe, the perfect person for the Presidency. Outside of sports we have never had a national identity, so it's fitting that such an avid sportsman would be the one truly national figure in the world of politics.

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