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Category: Profiles Date: 12 May 02

In late April, Winston Dookeran spoke to an audience of a thousand people in the Centre of Excellence at Macoya.


The speech by Dookeran, Governor of the Central Bank, slipped by the media and went largely unnoticed, drowned out perhaps because the evening correctly belonged to Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, who was honoured with ‘The Kanti Marg Award’.


Dookeran’s address was uncharacteristically unrelated to the financial sector. But perhaps the outgoing Governor of the Central Bank was able to speak with ease about matters close to his heart, because he had, according to David O’Brien, President of the T&T Chamber of Commerce, “done his job well”.


O’Brien was unreservedly admiring of Dookeran, who has navigated our financial sector out of the international tremors of the aftermath of September 11, and locally, through our somewhat unsettling political climate.


“Dookeran has been a stabilising force,” O’Brien said. “He did an excellent job in monitoring and directing our financial system. Our currency remains stable and strong. He has accomplished what he set out to do, reducing interest rates, keeping inflation under control, ensuring financial stability, with tremendous grace and style.”


On the evening of the Kanti Marg Award function, however, the theme of freedom was uppermost on Dookeran’s mind as he placed Dr Tewarie’s meteoric rise in academia to Campus Principal and Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, and quest to build a ‘learning culture’ in the context of our history.


“It was the quest for that heaven of freedom,” he said, (quoting the poet Rabindranath Tagore) “that caused our forefathers to cross the ocean from India and join those who had come before from Africa and every other part of the world in what turned out to be a long struggle for freedom and independence.”


In a stirring message, he suggested “our voyage of discovery as a people lies not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”


The sub-text of Dookeran’s message was we have succeeded, more than we acknowledge, in pulling together the strands of our separate and faraway origins to create a common identity. And we may be at risk now, of losing it if we don’t recognise that our various religions, ethnic backgrounds, cultural practices don’t preclude one another, but deepen, and enrich us.


He explained:

“The divergent pulls of community, ethnicity and religion, while rich in culture and civilisation, should not prevent us from claiming broader identities - like a Caribbean identity in which everyone is secure.

“In our time we must continue that new voyage of discovery to awaken in us a statecraft of good citizenship, a common notion of identity, a common loyalty to shared values and complete cultural freedom for all our people.”


How do we do this? According to Dookeran:

“We must redefine freedom to mean ‘freedom from political repression, freedom from lack of economic opportunities, freedom from systematic social deprivation’.”


We must, each of us, reflect deeply, think for ourselves, see ourselves in the context of our New World, in the context of our collective maturing identity. That, too, is freedom.


Dookeran quoted Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen to make this point:

“The real journey of discovery starts from within - to know who and what we are, and what is our relation to our society.

“Each of us is endowed with that knowledge. We know what is goodwill and generosity, and we must use this knowledge to do our duty in the best possible way.”


He quoted Rabindranath Tagore:

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out of the depth of truth;

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”


So here was this senior economist, quoting poet, Nobel Laureate, and finally, the world’s most beloved statesman, Nelson Mandela from whom he says we learn “there must be strength in our convictions and truth in our words and actions.”

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur