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Tribute to Calder Williams – a true son of the soil

Tribute to Calder Williams – a true son of the soil
Calder Williams

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by Cosbert Sargeant

Calder ‘the Rep’ Benjamin Williams; a former parliamentary representative for the constituency of North Leeward, and a former Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal opposition, was laid to rest on April 29, 2022. He was a true son of the soil, one who emerged from the bowels of the peasantry in Chateaubelair.  Calder dedicated his life to the advancement and upliftment of his people and was totally committed to the improvement of the socio-economic conditions and circumstances of his beloved people of Chateaubelair, the wider community of North Leeward and by extension, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

At the age of 26 years, when he was elected as Parliamentary Representative for the constituency of North Leeward, Calder was undoubtedly, one of the youngest political candidates to have been elected to the house of Parliament in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He also had the honor and privilege of becoming the youngest leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in the House of Assembly, in the multi-Island state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

During the period 1979 to 1984 “The Rep” as he was fondly called, embarked on a mission to bring about meaningful changes to his constituency.  Like many others, he could have chosen to capitalize on the privileges and opportunities that were accorded his office, and pursue a lifestyle of self- enrichment and personal gratification. Instead, being a man of immense integrity, honesty and simplicity, he decided to remain and live among the people of his poverty-stricken community, whilst he relentlessly pursued his goal of satisfactorily representing these people who had entrusted him with the well-being of their communities.

After his parliamentary term ended in 1984, Calder was subjected to the worst form of political denigration, at the hands of his political opponents and even by those on his own political team who wanted their pound of flesh.  His humiliation and victimization continued to the very end.  However, despite the literal and metaphorical wounds and pain which he suffered (pains that I imagine he carried to the very end), like a true soldier, he took his burden on his shoulders and pressed on without complaint. 

For his politics and his ideology, this icon of North Leeward and more particularly Sharpes Village, Chateaubelair and also a national treasure was persecuted and prosecuted by those with whom he differed politically.  He was deprived of an opportunity to be gainfully employed in the land of his birth for most of his productive working life.  This local hero was deprived of an opportunity to provide for himself and his family the quality and standard of life commensurate with his contribution to his community and his country.  Furthermore, he was deprived of the opportunity to impart his knowledge in a meaningful way and at the highest level. I dare to say, as a wider society we are the poorer for such deprivation.

I have had the privilege of knowing Calder Williams for all of my life.  It has certainly been a blessing to have had him as a role model in the village, not only to me but to many of us who grew up around him.  I can distinctly remember that he was the first person to have given me a newspaper to read.  I could not have been more than nine or 10 years of age at the time. He later became my weekly supplier of newspapers and other reading material, which he provided on one condition; that I completely read each piece before collecting a new one from him. 

As a youngster, I engaged “The Rep” regularly, discussing cricket, politics, music and a many other issues and topics. In fact, I had the pleasure of playing cricket with him.  As the youngest team member of the Chatex Cricket Club I kept wicket to his fearsome fast bowling.  He had the ability to swing the ball in both directions which sometimes presented a challenge for me as a young wicketkeeper. He was a versatile individual from whom I have garnered priceless knowledge.

Calder ‘The Rep’ Williams was the description of humility, honesty, integrity and simplicity.  He was a strategist, he was witty, he was courageous and intelligent.  He gave selflessly and demanded very little in return.  When the clarion call was made, he did not ask, “What can my country do for me?”  He answered that call, accepted the challenge and asked, “What can I do for my people and my country?” He was a man of the people, a man for the people and a man chosen by the people to be their representative.  He served with grace and humbleness.  He walked with kings and princesses but never lost the common touch.  That common touch that kept him connected to his people. 

As I watched his mortal remains lying in the halls of Parliament in that resplendent mahogany casket on Thursday the 28th day of April 2022, the day that was designated for his body to lay in state at the House of Assembly, my heart was filled with joy and satisfaction knowing that this selfless and humble man was accorded an official funeral by the state, for his service and contribution to his country.

However, I was extremely disappointed, that on Friday the 29th day of April 2022, at the official funeral service, held at the New Testament Church of God in Chateaubelair, for the late Calder ‘the Rep” Benjamin Williams; a former parliamentary representative for the constituency of North Leeward and a former Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal opposition, that there was a noticeable absence of official representation by the government.  This absence, intentionally or unintentionally, borders on gross disrespect to the memory of the decease, to his family and his beloved community of Chateaubelair.  Like many of the other deceased parliamentary representatives, he once served this country and as such, deserved a degree of acknowledgement by the government of this country.  In my opinion, this level of disregard is reprehensible and distasteful and should be condemned at all levels of society, officially and otherwise.

To my departed brother, Calder Williams, you have touched the hearts and lives of many. We, who were the children of yesterday are today the beneficiaries of your sacrifices and struggles. May your soul rest in perpetual peace.  

29th April, 2022

 

 

 

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