PM Douglas pays tribute to Trinidad and Tobago’s first President

Sir Ellis Clarke

ST. KITTS, JANUARY 7TH 2011 (CUOPM) – As the people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago lays its first President to rest, St. Kitts and Nevis has expressed profound sadness on his passing.

“I learnt of the recent passing of Sir Ellis Emmanuel Innocent Clarke, the first President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. On behalf of the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis, and indeed on my own behalf, I offer deepest and heartfelt sympathies to the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago, and in particular to the family of Sir Ellis,” said St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas in a message of sympathy to the Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr. Douglas said that Sir Ellis’ distinguished career spanning the legal environment, the diplomatic arena and governance was an example, not only to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, but to the entire Caribbean, as to the heights to which “we can all aspire.”

“His contribution has been well received and he will be truly missed. As your country mourns the passing of a Caribbean giant, be comforted by the fact that we share in your moment of bereavement,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

Sir Ellis died on December 30, 2010 at his home in Fairways Maraval. He had suffered a stroke on November 24 at had been hospitalised.

Sir Ellis Emmanuel Innocent Clarke, an only child, was born on December 28 1917 into a middle class family from Belmont. He received his high school education at St Mary’s College, where he won an island scholarship in mathematics. He pursued his tertiary education at London University where he obtained his LLB. He was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn, London in 1941.

The flag-drapped casket with the body of Sir Ellis Clarke lies in state

Not long after his return to Trinidad and Tobago, Ellis Clarke was called to the Bar in his homeland, engaging in private practice from 1941-1954.

Between 1954 and 1962 Ellis Clarke held several posts in the Colonial Government: Solicitor General, Deputy Colonial Secretary, Attorney General and Constitutional Advisor to the Cabinet.

After the attainment of Independence, Ellis Clarke became a foreign diplomat, holding numerous posts between 1962 and 1976, sometimes simultaneously, including Trinidad and Tobago’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

He was an ambassador for Trinidad and Tobago to the United States and Mexico. He was also Trinidad and Tobago’s Representative on the Council of the Organisation of American States. He also held the post of Chairman of BWIA from 1968 to 1973. He was appointed Governor-General by Her Majesty the Queen of England in 1972, and assumed duties on 31st January 1973.

Upon proclamation of Republican status on September, 1976, the post of Governor-General became obsolete. Following a meeting of the Electoral College, as provided by the Constitution, Ellis Clarke was elected unopposed as President, becoming the first President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago – an office he held until 1987.

Ellis Clarke was involved in the draft Constitution, culminating in his attendance at the Marlborough House Conference from May 28 to June 8, 1962.

He was bestowed the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG.) in 1960 and made a Knight Bachelor (Kt Bachelor) in 1963. He was one of the first to be awarded this country’s then highest honour, the Trinity Cross (now known as the Order of Trinidad and Tobago) in 1969.

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