Tributes poured in yesterday following the news of the death of this country's first president Sir Ellis Clarke.
Clarke, 93, passed away at his Maraval home after falling ill on November 24.
"I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Ellis Clarke TC, GCMG, KCMG, CMG, former President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Sir Ellis, a most outstanding and dedicated patriot, served our country with unswerving commitment. He contributed significantly to laying the foundations on which this country would be built — as diplomat, in the law, as last Governor General of independent Trinidad and Tobago, as architect of our Republican Constitution and as first President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
This was the public profile, but otherwise, Sir Ellis gave his support to causes that did not necessarily bear the stamp of officialdom.
As an orator, he was surpassing and, with this extraordinary gift, inspired many by the nuggets of wisdom which he gave to us, without text, and often, with delightful humour.
Sir Ellis represented an era in public affairs and in personal dignity, upholding the best characteristics of what many of us see as the finest of the Trinidad and Tobago quality.
Sir Ellis' late spouse, Lady Ermyntrude, his son, Peter and daughter, Margaret Ann, completed this much respected and well-beloved family.
Other members of my family, the staff of the Office as well as of The President's House, past and present, who were blessed to know and to serve him, join me in conveying to the bereaved family deepest condolences.
As Head of State, I express the nation's gratitude for the service of Ellis Emmanuel Innocent Clarke and its grief at his passing.
In tribute to his life, let us all resolve to heed his example."
—President George Maxwell Richards
"It is with a sense of great sadness that I extend my deepest condolences to the family of the venerated Sir Ellis Clarke, our country's first President and Head of State, on his passing last evening.
Indeed, Trinidad and Tobago is now bereft of one of its long-standing founding heroes and his passing is a tremendous loss to the national community.
Sir Ellis Emmanuel Innocent Clarke proved by his life's achievements the very essence of our country's watchwords—how far we can as individuals and a people, go if we adhere to the strictures of—discipline, production and tolerance.
His life itself was an inspirational testament to patriotism, dedication and nationalism.
That Sir Ellis was an island scholar who overcame the colonial obstacles and broke racial and other barriers that defined that era to successfully pursue his tertiary education in London; then become a lawyer in the 1940s and then ultimately become the first local Governor General was a reflection of the fact that a man's ability, character and willpower is truly all it takes to attain greater heights, despite the odds against him.
His immediate service to this country's public service and legal development via his many roles in the Colonial Government came in many forms—as Solicitor General, Deputy Colonial Secretary, Attorney General and Constitutional Advisor to the Cabinet. He also served in various Post-Colonial diplomatic posts to ensure our fledgling nation was best represented abroad. This again was a testimony to his commitment to nation-building at a time when Trinidad and Tobago needed local intellectuals to steer and develop its philosophy and political, social and economic stability both locally and abroad. But perhaps his greatest contribution to our nation was his viable and crucial drafting of our country's 1962 Constitution, which has founded the framework for Trinidad and Tobago's democracy, for which we are internationally respected and which remains the bulwark for our administration of justice and our rule of law.
Throughout his long, fulfilling life, Sir Ellis not only remained steadfast in his contribution to our nation's legal and social systems via dispute resolution, matters of the law (especially constitutional issues and most recently, his commitment to Constitutional Reform) and diplomatic conflicts.
He also impressed upon the wider world his intellectualism and legal brilliance, having been one of six experts worldwide asked to submit reports to Australia's Republic Advisory Committee in 1993 detailing our country's experience in moving from a Constitutional Monarchy to a Republic.
Until he fell ill last month, Sir Ellis remained the active exemplar of dignity and patriotism and our nation and citizens are truly forever indebted to him for all that he has given to us in every form.
As Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, I wish to extend, on my behalf, that of my family's and of the Government's our heartfelt sympathies over Sir Ellis's passing to his three children, grandchildren and all other family members, as well as his near and dear ones.
May God be with you all during this time of grief and loss and may you all be comforted in the knowledge that, as Mother Theresa once said, 'Death is nothing else but going home to God, the bond of love will be unbroken for all eternity.'
To the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, I say we have lost a national hero but we should be assured that while great people must die, death can never kill their names.
The Government will give this great son of the soil and the veritable Grandfather of our Nation a State funeral, as is befitting his status and accomplishments as one of Trinidad and Tobago's greatest legal and academic minds and a contributor to nation building. Additionally, the National Flag will be flown at half mast, to indicate that we are a nation in mourning, until the day when Sir Ellis is laid to final rest.
Again, let me reiterate that we are indeed a nation is mourning and Sir Ellis's great legacy shall always endure. May his soul rest in peace. I thank you."
—Prime Minister Kamla
"The Judiciary joins his family, close friends and the national community in mourning the passing of Sir Ellis Clarke. We are saddened by this loss, which comes at the end of a long and fruitful life, most of it lived in distinguished and unparalleled service to Trinidad and Tobago. His name is associated with almost every major milestone in this country's quest for nationhood: from the authoring of the Constitution that would shape our system of governance, and entrench the rule of law and our rights as a free people, to the creation of the many institutions which laid the foundation upon which modern and independent Trinidad and Tobago now rests. Through it all, Sir Ellis was the consummate statesman, an exemplary leader, and an always willing and dedicated, yet humble icon. His passing will deprive the country of his incisive sagacity that he so generously shared to the very end, but the nation in general, and his family in particular, can take consolation from the fact that through his life Trinidad and Tobago and its citizens are in a better place than they might otherwise have been. The Judiciary extends its deepest condolences to the Clarke family."
Chief Justice Ivor Archie
"My family and I join the rest of the national community in mourning the passing of Sir Ellis Emmanuel Innocent Clarke, a truly illustrious son of the soil.
Indeed he was a diplomat, a public servant, devoted father and husband, a devout Roman Catholic and a patriot in every sense of the word.
His exemplary conduct while in office and later in private life is recognised by the numerous accolades he has been awarded including the country's highest honor the Trinity Cross.
He also received Venezuela's most prestigious civilian award the El Gran Cordon, testimony that his good deeds were not lost on the international arena.
As a prominent member of the legal fraternity, he held an abiding interest in the legal fraternity, the justice system and was one of my mentors.
Sir Ellis's political and legal career spanned an important period in our nation's pre and post independence development. He brought a quiet sense of dignity and purpose to the Office of President, and vindicated a nation's national self confidence that prompted the change to a Republican Constitution.
He served with a rare sense of humility and diplomacy and defined the Office of President of our then fledgling Republic. He injected a sense of social equilibrium into the cut and thrust of our tribal politics and crossed all barriers.
A consummate diplomat, Sir Ellis, demonstrated great political dexterity that allowed him to influence and shape the politics without appearing to be partisan. His contribution has been overshadowed by the towering presence and legacy of Dr Eric Williams, but it was of equal if not, greater importance.
He was a respected and a renowned Queen's Counsel who provide much guidance to me in my legal adventures.
As the grandfather and chief architect of our Constitution, he took a keen interest in my cases and accepted changes prompted by judicial decisions with equanimity and intellectual pride.
This Constitution was the cradle for the development and evolution of post independent Trinidad and Tobago.
On a more personal note, Sir Ellis took time to personally congratulate me on my appointment as AG and quietly offered me much guidance and tutoring. I consulted him on many tough decisions and he was always willing to give me the benefit of his experience and wisdom.
On several occasions he would refuse compensation when I sought his advice such was the nature of the man and the commitment he had to his country.
A quintessential Trinidadian Sir Ellis's achievements of course are too numerous to restate here and he epitomised the truism that
he walked with kings and queens but never lost the common touch.
At this time in the life of our country where there is need for more positive role models we should look at Sir Ellis's legacy as a road map to what we can achieve in our collective efforts to make Trinidad and Tobago a better place for each and every citizen.
To his grieving family we offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences and they should take solace in the fact that he was a man in whom Trinidad and Tobago was very well proud of.
Sir Ellis is part of our national treasure and his legacy must be protected and preserved for the generations to come."
—Attorney General Anand Ramlogan
"It is with a sense of great sadness that we awoke to the news that on this, the last day of the year, Sir Ellis Clarke has passed away. A man of great intellectual strength, Sir Ellis has served this nation with quiet dignity and acknowledged distinction whether it was in the Public Service or at the preparations of our independence in 1962.
In this small nation which has produced many distinguished and acclaimed sons and daughters, Sir Ellis Clarke stands out as a giant among those contributions have served and continue to serve us in our struggle to build a nation out of scattered hopes and lofty aspirations.
With the death of Dr Eric Williams, Dr Rudranath Capildeo, Dr Patrick Solomon and their contemporaries, the current loss of the venerable Sir Ellis Clarke can be viewed as the end of an era, one of which we can all be proud, since it represented our birth as an independent nation and their lives work sustain us as we go forward into these challenging times with boundless faith in our destiny.
To the family of Sir Ellis Clarke we offer our sincerest condolence as we also express our thanks for sharing him and allowing all of us to claim him as our son".
Dr Keith Rowley
"We have lost one of the legal greats of all time, whether measured by greatness in the Caribbean or the Commonwealth. I think it is difficult to overestimate the breadth of his legal vision. One of the amazing things about him is that although he was not a lawyer in full-time practice, he was as up to date in legal developments as anybody who was in full time practice. I saw this demonstrated many times over the years, both in public lectures and in casual conversations. And while there are others who may be his competitor in terms of his legal brilliance, I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who was as elegant of smooth. I had a reasonable amount of contact with him over the years. I would say we had a productive relationship and I always found him to be extremely stimulating and absolutely
up to date on everything in the law. I think he had tremendous people skills and he balanced his life very well. I have fond memories of him in the back of Invaders on jouvert morning. Not really great fanfare, (but there) just to chip and enjoy himself. I think he had an excellent balance of many qualities. Humility when necessary, brilliance when necessary and always the essence of charm. A very significant thing to be remembered about him was his charm and good manners".
—President of the Law Association Martin Daly
"Sir Ellis will be sorely missed by this nation he was a great asset to this nation. He was an extremely brilliant man, very erudite in the law and other matters and particularly constitutional matters. He served this nation in several capacities with distinction. This country will miss him. I have known him for a very, very long time being involved in the political world of which he was a part and the one thing that I admired about him was that Sir Ellis knew how to live and he knew the purpose of life. He believed that God put him upon this earth not to be sad but to be happy and he knew how to enjoy life and he enjoyed life right until the very end. That is what I admired about him most. I express my most deepest condolences to his family and I wish that the soul of Sir Ellis will rest in peace."
—Former Prime Minister
"On behalf of the Tobago House of Assembly and the people of Tobago, I extend sincerest condolences to the family, friends and numerous admirers of the former President, Sir Ellis Clarke who died on Thursday evening. Sir Ellis Clarke will be remembered as one of the two main contributors to the evolution of Trinidad and Tobago as a nation. He played a pivotal role in every major constitutional change in the country over the past six (6) decades and his advice, when sought, was willingly given to every administration, over the years.
Sir Ellis Clarke personified the best of Trinidad and Tobago. A brilliant academic who won an island scholarship in Mathematics but went on to become a brilliant lawyer; he chose to spend most of his working life in the public service rather than in a lucrative private practice, and this country has benefited significantly from that decision. We, in Tobago, will remember him with fondness and appreciation, for his commitment to the improvement of Tobago's status in the relationship with Trinidad. It was Sir Ellis who admonished decision makers and the people of this country that they must ensure that the islands of Trinidad and Tobago walk 'side by side, not one behind the other'. This statement which is as relevant now as when he made it thirty (30) years ago, has become the mantra of Tobagonians of every political persuasion, as the quest for Tobago's autonomy continues.Today, we mourn the passing of a great man but we must be consoled by the fact that he had a long and productive life and was able to contribute, even into the final months of his life. The legacy of Sir Ellis Clarke is secure. All of us owe him a debt of gratitude which we can only repay by our contribution to the Democratic Republic of Trinidad and Tobago whose guiding principles he influenced to a significant extent. May his soul rest in peace."
—Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary
"On behalf of the Executive and members of the Congress of the People, I extend deepest condolences to the family of Sir Ellis Clarke on his recent passing.
His entire life was characterised by his total dedication to duty and country. A caring family man, he stood tall to inspire us with his incisiveness and drive which laid the foundation for an Independent Trinidad and Tobago .
His impressive record of achievements as Solicitor General, Attorney General and Ambassador were as a result of a proud academic back ground.
Being the last Governor General after Sir Solomon Hochoy,Sir Ellis became the first President of our Republic in 1976.
For 10 years, he served with dignity and honour and his statesman-like and sagely approach made difficult decisions seem simple. After his retirement in 1987, and even
as a private citizen, Sir Ellis continued to give of his time and effort to help build our twin island republic.
Sir Ellis Clarke would be remembered as the architect of our Independence and Republican Constitutions and was also deeply involved in discussions for the introduction of a new constitution to meet the changing needs of our society.
The Congress of the People salutes Sir Ellis Clarke for his outstanding contribution and service to our Nation.
As we approach our 50th Anniversary as an Independent Nation, we record with deep sincerity and gratitude our appreciation of the role of Sir Ellis as a true patriot in nation building. Rest in Peace Sir Ellis. May Almighty God Cover you with His Wings of Mercy and Protection."
—Winston Dookeran Political Leader Congress of the People
"Sir Ellis will be remembered throughout the region as a true giant and strong advocate for constitutional reform. He was Trinidad and Tobago's chief architect and grandfather of its constitution which remains the supreme law today. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and all whose lives were forever changed because of Sir Ellis Clarke. He has left a lasting legacy through a life that was well lived for the benefit of his country. The people of Trinidad and Tobago will always cherish his memory."
(Golding extended regrets on Sir Ellis passing on behalf of the people of Jamaica and Caricom.)
—Prime Minister of Jamaica,
Chairman of Caricom,
"First of all on behalf of the government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and on behalf of my immediate family, I offer profound condolences. My wife knew him very well and my father in-law, FOC Harris was a friend of Sir Ellis having worked together at law reform in Trinidad and Tobago for many years. Trinidad and Tobago has lost a great native son. As President he did his work for all objectively and with class and high quality. A constitutional scholar, he contributed to the country's independence constitution and its subsequent overhaul. During the last administration he also worked on a draft which then Prime Minister Patrick Manning had hoped to institutionalise. He had a full life in which he distinguished himself as a great Caribbean man."
—Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves
"I am deeply saddened at his passing. He was for me a national icon, a national Trojan - one of our national heroes. As a young man entering the public service, I looked up to him with great admiration. He spent most of his life serving the country with distinction reaching the heights of the Presidency. Even after demitting the Office of the President he continued to be of great service to the nation. Part of his great service to the nation is his contribution to the country's constitution of which I am not competent to assess. His record of service was impeccable in every field he travelled and many of us would find it hard to emulate. We certainly would miss him and the nation is poorer for his passing. In giving thanks for his life and service I also extend comfort to his family."
—Outgoing Caricom Secretary General, Dr Edwin Carrington
"I think that the country has lost one of its greatest sons if not its greatest son. Sir Ellis gave much promise to the rest of us that we can have a society and a nation that can be proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with all others in the world. I think that he had done an excellent tour of duty serving this country and I wish that his spirit would continue to reside among us and that his soul would rest in peace."
—Minister of Labour Errol McLeod
"What I can say, he has probably fulfilled his purpose here because everybody is here for a time. He did what he was sent to do and he did it very well."
—Coordinator of Network of NGOs Hazel Brown
"Sir Ellis Clarke was a distinguished statesman rightly regarded as the constitutional father of the nation the citizenry benefited from his patriotism, brilliance and generosity and his legacy remains an inspiration for all."
—Director of Police Complaints Authority, Gillian Lucky
"It's a sad day for the legal profession. We will miss him dearly and although he lived to the ripe age, I believe he still had a lot to give the country. I wish to offer my sincerest condolences to his son and daughter, who I know will miss him very much."
—Senior Counsel Theodore Guerra
"It is a sad loss, but we all have to go one day. He served this country with distinction, dedication and honour and he will always be remembered as one of the father's of the nation."
—Senior Counsel Israel Khan
"His passing has created a great void in the life of our nation. Sir Ellis has been for over 40 years a monumental figure in the life of our country. I came to know him in my early years as a lawyer. The details of that early occasion are mentioned in my autobiography which is soon to be available, I think as early as March of next year.
His passing has been known to me with sadness. For we were on friendly terms for many years. In fact, even as a relatively young man in public life, we were on such friendly terms that I called him 'Ellis' and he referred to me 'Ray'. So it has been a long and friendly association.
He is a gifted man of high intellect, very amenable with all the social qualities and attributes and a caring man, not only in his profession as a lawyer, but also in his religion.
I know that he would be accorded all the attributes, ceremonies that are due to a Head of State. I wish his family God's blessings and know that he would be long remembered for his unique role he has occupied for such a long time. May God have mercy on his soul".
—Former president Arthur N R Robinson
"Sir Ellis was an icon, one who you would always believe would be there forever to help us and to guide us along. He helped us to become as independent as we are today and was in a real sense, the true father of the nation. A man whose wit know no bounds. His death leaves a void, a deep sense of sorrow, tragedy and grief. I want to extend to his family the condolences from the Ministry of Works and Transport. I hope that in some way we in this country could honour him after his death. For too often we tend not to pay regard to our heroes and I hope that with Sir Ellis Clarke we do make a difference".
—Works and Transport Minister