As the country readies itself to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Trinidad and Tobago's independence, claims are being advanced to recognise our pioneers. The latest in the call for recognition is one for renaming Wrightson Road to Ranjit Kumar Boulevard.
The claim has come from Prof Brinsley Samaroo and Prof John La Guerre as they spoke on the contributions of Kumar, following a lecture delivered on the life of Kumar by Primnath Gooptar, who carried out a considerable amount of research on the life and times of Kumar.
The lecture was held on Monday at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) Campus at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Keate Street, Port of Spain, as a collaborative programme between the National Library and Information System (NALIS) and the Kumar family.
Speaking on a panel discussion after the lecture, Samaroo described Kumar as a pioneer in the field of engineering and a successful politician, who was responsible for the introduction of several social and political improvements to the lives of people in different walks of life.
Describing Kumar as an outstanding citizen whose contribution as an engineer deserves special recognition in Trinidad, Samaroo said, "There should be no place in Trinidad and Tobago named after Walsh Wrightson because he was the one responsible for raising water rates and building a sea edge road for exclusive use by estate owners to get to the sea at Mucurapo."
Samaroo said, "Kumar took that same road and built it up with mangrove and made it into one of our most used network highways."
He said Kumar was an outstanding engineer whose services were also sought after by many. He recalled when the Americans had decided to extend Wrightson Road eastwards, he was hired as a consultant to work on the project."
La Guerre hailed Kumar as one who was instrumental in bringing the Indian community together.
"He was able to deal successfully with rivalries that existed at the time between different factions of the East Indian community. As a politician, he was the least flexible of all the politicians of that age. I see him as the architect of Indian unity in Trinidad and Tobago."
Kumar was described by both La Guerre and Samaroo as one who championed against corruption. "He was the least flexible,
and if he was used to taking bribes,
he would not have ended up as a poor person," said Samaroo.
In outlining his career as an engineer, politician and peacemaker, Gooptar said Kumar came to fame when he became the first to introduce Indian movies in Trinidad. The movie was called Bala Joban, which was shown in cinemas owned by Hajji Gokool. "At one time, he was even accused of being a German spy. He had served in the City Council and the Legislative Council of Trinidad and Tobago. Known as a corruption buster who could not be bought, Kumar is seen as one who had crossed the racial barrier and the dangers of racial conflict."
Attending the lecture were members of Kumar's family, several government ministers, diplomats and a wide cross-section of the national community.