controversial: Karl Hudson-Phillip

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No reason to ‘fraid Karl’

 I join the many who wish to pay tribute to Karl-Hudson Phillips who passed on yesterday. Karl and I were not personal friends, but he featured often in my commentaries on politics in Trinidad and Tobago. Many of the commentaries were critical, but Karl accepted them with grace. 

He was never abusive. He was a controversial figure within the PNM and in the country at large mainly because of his activities during the 1970 Black Power revolution and in certain highly political court cases that he had handled in his capacity as attorney general.  He was also one of the earliest of the few who dared to challenge Dr Williams over the latter’s management of the PNM. 

Many have heard the expression,  “Ah fraid Karl”, with which Hudson- Phillips became associated because of the role he played in the controversy surrounding the draconian Public Order Bill which was introduced by the government to deal with those whom we might now CALL “terrorists”. Williams claimed Karl was the architect of the bill and that he, Williams, had not seen it before it was made public. Williams denied responsibility and withdrew the bill. Karl fell on his own sword. Williams was being politically dishonest.

 He was also a central figure in the faked “resignation” of Williams as political leader of the PNM in 1973.

The style of his campaign for the chairmanship of the PNM in the party elections of 1973 was viewed by many, both inside and outside the party, with serious misgivings.  

In July 1973, he  provoked party stalwarts by calling for a total shakeup and rejuvenation of the party of which he was then vice-chairman. Francis Prevatt, an old crony of Williams, was his rival.  

The latter complained the various auxiliaries of the party, such as the Youth League and the Women’s League, were no longer in the vanguard of the movement for progressive reform. Instead, the party was being “killed softly” by those whose only claim to position and influence was that they had been foundation members.

There was also a tendency to be nostalgic about the past and complacent about the future.  

Hudson-Phillips felt that there was a cloud “settling upon the party, a cloud ... of complacency and self-righteousness”, blame for which was put on foundation members who monopolised party positions without doing any work and who were not prepared to recognise those who did, whether or not they were foundation members.  

Hudson- Phillips called upon the PNM to once more assume the role it had occupied in the 1950s and early 1960s. Clearly, he did not succeed in this undertaking.

Karl withdrew from the PNM and went on to create the ONR and the NAR. He is however a central figure in the life of the PNM and deserves to be so regarded. There is really no need for PNM party members to “fraid Karl.” 

Selwyn Ryan 

via e-mail

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