Last week's column featured the pre-independence Queen's Hall Conference and that held later at Marlborough House in London.
The opposition DLP came away from the two conferences convinced that the country was not yet ready to accept the DLP as having the legitimacy required to govern Trinidad and Tobago let alone the legal authority to do so.
As Dr Rudranath Capildeo moaned, "whatever purpose the Queen's Hall Constitution exercise may have served, it revealed one unpalatable fact, viz, that the loudest well-to-do critics of the PNM did not want the DLP to form the Government".
Given the prevailing mood, his fear was that the PNM would take Trinidad to Independence led by a dominant one-party as had happened in many parties in the former colonised world and then tearing up the Independence constitution as Ghana and Tanzania were doing. Fortunately, Williams hesitated on the brink.
Why did he decide to do so?
In Seukeran's view, there were heroes other than Williams and Capildeo who were responsible for what happened.
Capildeo argued that he, like Williams, was driven to compromise because of fear of the consequences for Trinidad, both internally and in terms of its reputation abroad, if racial war should break out.
To quote Capildeo: "At the start of the...Conference, the decision confronting the leaders of the DLP was whether they should plunge the country into chaos with civil commotion and strife, or try to explore whatever reasonable avenues may be presented to us as the Conference developed...It is easy to let slip the dogs of war; it is impossible to return to the positions before they were unleashed."
Capildeo was however less than frank in his depiction of the role that he and Williams played at Marlborough House, if the recollections of Lionel Seukeran are to be believed.
Capildeo, who was suffering from an injury that he sustained in a car crash some three weeks earlier, was moody and intemperate and often had to be restrained and bullied by others on his team.
As Seukeran recalled, "I was well aware of his idiosyncrasies. He was volatile by nature, incapable of compromise, resentful of counsel, unaccustomed to diplomacy, possessed of an over-sized ego, and steeped in demagoguery. I pondered this phenomenon of a man. Brushing aside his tantrums and moods, and realising the sacred trust reposed in us by the minority groups at home to win for them every advantage, we examined every aspect of the draft."
Seukeran noted that Capildeo at one point proposed incorporating the extremist views of the Indian National Association in the constitution. He claimed that he told Capildeo that he had heard people say that he was "mad", and that he now believed it to be true. Others in the DLP delegation told him, (ie, Capildeo) that they would not be party to any such proposal and forced him to take a more conciliatory line.
It would seem that Williams learned about this development and was thus encouraged to moderate his own positions.
According to Seukeran, Williams thanked him for "saving the day".
Seukeran boasts that it was the negotiating capacity of the DLP team, and in particular that of Tajmool Hosein and Seukeran himself, that was responsible for the democratic safeguards eventually inserted in the constitution—not Williams and his team, who were strict majoritarians who kept insisting on practices that obtained in the United Kingdom without appreciating that Britain was a homogeneous society in which conventions had force of "lore", if not law.
Seukeran was understandably anxious to record the role that he played in creating the Independence Constitution.
As he wrote, "When future historians chronicle our achievements, it will be noted that the negotiations we spearheaded at Marlborough House constitute our greatest gift to the nation. The freedoms we have written into the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago constitute our greatest legacy to posterity. We were uncompromising over the Freedom of the Press and the Independence of the Judiciary. We made sure that Trinidad and Tobago acknowledged the supremacy of God, hence a prayer by the Speaker before each session of Parliament; we made sure that there would be no discrimination by reason of race, colour, origin, religion or sex; we wrote into the Constitution the individual's right to life, liberty, security of person and enjoyment of property; we secured the individual's right to show affiliation to the political party of his choice and to express himself freely and openly."
"...Observers were surprised and pleased about the outcome of the deliberations. Maudling, the secretary of state, confessed that he was pleasantly surprised by the developments after a day that had begun so unpromisingly.
"We have been very worried," he admitted. "There were so many fears and suspicions, and the trouble with fears and suspicions is that they build on one another."
The Times was also pleased with the settlement, and in fact hailed it as a "model of textbook perfection: The constitution was "as sound and watertight a unitary constitution, safeguarding human rights, as yet has been put on paper".
It was not overwritten, like Jamaica's nor underwritten, like Ghana's or Tanzania's, both of which were too easy to change. According to the view of the Times analyst, the fault of Jamaica's Constitution was that it depended too much on a competent and co-operative opposition to function well. The weakness of underwritten constitutions like Tanzania's was that they "presuppose the perpetual existence of a reliable governing body which will never be tempted to abuse freedom". Trinidad's avoided these extremes.
"It ensures freedom of action of government within the framework of British democratic traditions. It contained a full guarantee of individual rights and at the same time permitted the executive to govern freely without possibly being hamstrung by a malintentioned opposition. It left the business of governing to the government, and not to both government and opposition, as the Jamaican Constitution did."
Trinidadians were immensely relieved that what had begun on so ominous a note had at last been brought to a happy conclusion. Generally speaking, the majority of the population was pleased with the settlement. They were also proud that their respective heroes had been able to rise to such levels of statesmanship. If there were persons who had reservations about Independence, they were quite mute in the months of July and August 1962, when the umbilical cord that had bound Trinidad and Tobago to the British Empire for 165 years was finally cut.