Former People's National Movement (PNM) stalwart John Donaldson was hailed yesterday as a man who was devoted to party and country.
Donaldson, 76, died yesterday morning at the St Clair Medical Centre in Port of Spain after ailing for some time.
His wife, Majorie, told the Express that Donaldson was battling cancer. She said he was hospitalised at St Clair for a week, and after she visited him yesterday morning, an hour later, he passed away.
"He had a long battle with cancer; he got an infection and that took him away—pneumonia—he couldn't fight that," said Mrs Donaldson.
She said funeral arrangements are being made.
Donaldson served as a government minister under the PNM as minister of national security, from 1976 to 1985. He also served as minister of foreign affairs.
He was later appointed ambassador plenipotentiary under the administration of former prime minister Patrick Manning.
Donaldson was a long-standing executive member of the PNM and once held the post of chairman of the party.
PNM political leader and Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley, in a release to the press, stated Donaldson will be remembered as an authoritative figure who served as vice-chairman of the party for many years, up to 2010.
Rowley noted Donaldson had an illustrious career in the Public Service as a diplomat, including serving as Trinidad and Tobago's ambassador to Washington (DC, USA), and as a politician, having served as a senator from 1976 to 1981, and in the House of Representatives, from 1981 to 1986, as Member of Parliament for Port of Spain North.
He served with honour as the minister of labour and minister of national security. From 2002 to 2010, he served as the inspector of missions.
"John Donaldson will be remembered for his simple and unassuming lifestyle, for not only his role in the country's history and as one of our outstanding athletes but, also, for his incisive thought and his dry wit, for his love of family, love of country and love of the PNM. I extend my deepest sympathy to his wife, Marjorie, and his children, John Junior, Joy and Edmond. May his soul rest in peace," stated Rowley.
Those who served with Donaldson during his political life described him as a man who was committed to public service.
Former government minister Overand Padmore, who entered the Parliament and Cabinet at the same time with Donaldson, said: "Another old soldier passes on. Following in the footsteps of his father, John Donaldson Sr (a founding member of the PNM and former government minister), John Donaldson (Jnr) breathed the political values that were the PNM—morality in public affairs, interracial solidarity and a career open to talent.
"He epitomised so much what was positive about the PNM and, like so many others, made personal sacrifices that contributed to the establishment and maintenance of the democratic state of Trinidad and Tobago. He contributed and may he now rest in peace. Deepest condolences to his wife, Madge, and family."
PNM general secretary Ashton Ford told the Express he served with Donaldson in Parliament between 1981 and 1986, under former prime minister George Chambers.
Ford said Donaldson was a hard-working minister of national security. He said he also had the pleasure of working with Donaldson when he (Ford) was secretary of the party and Donaldson was chairman.
Ford added that he worked further with Donaldson when he was appointed as an attache in London (England) and Donaldson was the inspector of missions.
"I consider him to be a dedicated and loyal party member who spent most of his life working for the party; he has been functioning as an active party member since the 60s, following in the footsteps of his father, John Donaldson," said Ford.
He noted that recently, Donaldson was honoured for his long and meritorious service when the PNM commemorated its 57th anniversary.
Former prime minister Basdeo Panday said he was sorry to learn of Donaldson's passing and extended his condolences to his family.
He said both he and Donaldson worked together in politics for a very long time.
Donaldson, said Panday, on their last meeting, had complained about his illness and how it was affecting his ability to walk.
"What can I say about the passing of a colleague, and I regard him as a colleague, the fact that he had a different political view from mine does not make him an enemy. We both did whatever we believed to make the country a better place, and we must respect that whether we belong to different parties or not," said Panday.
"He was intelligent and he was a good debater...as far as I recall, he had held positions in several ministries. Of course, I did not agree with some of the things they were doing, but people tried their best in whatever way they think is in the benefit of the country," he added.
Former House speaker Nizam Mohammed said Donaldson's death was a loss to this country.
"It is with great sadness that I have received this news. We were together in the Parliament at a time when we took an oath to discharge our duties in a very serious way," he said.
"It is a sad loss for the country; he served well, not only in the Parliament but also in the foreign service. He served at a time when Trinidad and Tobago could have boasted of having outstanding foreign service officers; he was one amongst them," said Mohammed.