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EXECUTE ME NOW! by Rae Samuel

posted 24 May 2013, 08:06 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 May 2013, 11:59 ]
I met Kirklon Paul only once. It is easy to recall the memory because the day itself remains historic and the circumstances under which I met him were themselves unusual.
 
I was 'working' at the best media house at the time in the country, the Vanguard newspaper of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union. The 'web' was something spiders lived in then and 'Facebook' probably meant burying your nose in a newspaper or magazine so someone would not see or recognise you.

 

I was assigned to visit the prison to speak to Kirklon who insisted that he should be executed - he wanted his death sentence carried out! More on that just now...!

 

It was the day twenty seven years ago (March 1986) that the PNM government ordered a most vicious attack by the police on workers and progressive nationals outside that (then?) bastion of colonial racist supremacy, the Queen's Park Oval. Brutal beatings and some arrests were the order of the day.
 
We were protesting the presence of players on an England cricket Test team who had broken the international ban on sporting links with apartheid South Africa. We had already banned our own running dogs from the Caribbean who were willing to accept blood money from that fascist regime.

 

The action of the morally bankrupt neo-colonial regime of the day produced a backlash that had an unintended effect. The general public could not believe that the PNM government could be so depraved. Even the most reactionary regimes in the region paid lip service to the anti-apartheid boycott. (In December of that same year, the PNM was voted out of office).

 

What was initially a protest organised by the Committee In Defence of West Indies Cricket (CIDWIC), led by Lyle Townsend, ballooned into expressions of horror that a "black" government could brutalise its own citizens for protesting against a regime that large sections of "white" societies condemned. CIDWIC’s slogan was: We love cricket, but hate apartheid more!

 

After the debacle, having missed my share of the cut-arse by about 5 minutes, (people like Miguel “Fano” Jimenez and Justice Gregory Rousseau, among others, weren’t as lucky), I headed up to Death Row. The fifteen minute supervised visit was held in a narrow cell, probably 4'x8’. In those days, the cells were on the Eastern side of the prison, near the wall. A naked bulb burned all day and night. The prisoner was allowed one hour exercise daily, handcuffed; if a guard was available. The prisoners were in white uniforms.

 

The following letter was sent by Cecil Paul (older brother of Kirklon Paul) to the editor of the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, Judy Raymond:
 

Dear Ms. Raymond

Reference is made to a report in today's Guardian Newspapers (2013/05/24) on the death by accident of Kirklon Paul. I wish to make the following corrections so that the historical records can be factual.

Kirklon was not a member of the Jamat-Al Muslimeen nor was he in any way involved in the 1990 attempted Coup.

He was a dedicated Socialist and ascribed to the World view of Economic Equity, Social Justice and the promotion of Cultural and Artistic activities as a means to a higher relationship among people. He was also a poet.

Kirklon was a student leader in 1970 (at age 18) of an organization known as National Organization of Revolutionary Students (NORS). He then became involved with NJAC and then National United Freedom Fighters (NUFF).

In 1973 he together with Andy Thomas of the MOKO Newspapers and Michael Lewis an activist from Fyzabad was arrested and charged by then Randolph Burroughs and the Flying Squad. After a period of detention they were all charged and convicted for the murder of a policeman.

After spending 14 years in prison the three men were granted a Presidential Pardon by then President Noor Hassanali.

Verification of this brief account can be had by communicating with activists involved with the Revolutionary Actions of the 1970's.

Cecil Paul.

Kirklon, along with Andy Thomas, had been convicted of the killing of Police Constable Sankar. Both had been members of the National Union of Freedom Fighters (NUFF), a guerrilla movement committed to armed struggle against the neo-colonial regime.

 

I was thoroughly intimidated. So it did not help when Kirklon bellowed "Speak up man, speak up!" He went on to explain why he had asked for his sentence of death to be carried out: "Your eyes go bad, your teeth go bad, your skin goes bad from the lack of sunlight. The guards take a sick delight in seeing you waiting to be executed. I no longer wish to give them the pleasure".

 

The execution room was at the end of the corridor. Prisoners heard the trap door fly when sentences were carried out. They certainly knew when one was 'selected' from on the row, and removed in preparation for execution. 

Kirklon had not long turned twenty one when he was convicted. One of the more remarkable aspects of the visit was that Kirklon already knew of the incidents outside the Oval.

 

I was to learn later that an effort was made to surreptitiously hang Kirklon earlier in 1985. Those of my generation would remember the Great Flood of that time when the Caroni River seriously flooded its banks and the country was literally cut in two for almost 14 hours. The country was a virtual standstill when the prison authorities came for Kirklon.

 

Somehow word got out and it was a question of finding a judge, getting a stay of execution and delivering it to the prison. One hears stories of banging on the outside gates, blowing car horns and attempts to wake up the authorities in time. Executions were done at 7 a.m. for some reason.

 

It was not much of an interview as interviews go. I heard the guard softly say "Kirklon". I do not remember final words or last exchanges. I remember Andy Thomas, who was in an adjoining cell, asking me to get him a newspaper. When I attempted to return with it the guard said, "Boy...Andy Thomas does get papers before you in the morning.''

 

Andy and Kirklon were pardoned in 1987. I never saw or met Kirklon after that. The prison experience had clearly damaged him. Who would it not have after undergoing such prolonged psychological and mental abuse; confined to a tiny cell for hours on end, surrounded by persons who took delight in seeing such torture?

 

The final horror of his passing, knocked down like a dog on the Priority Bus Route, while using the Zebra crossing at Macoya, is not for us to mull over. This man has had, in life and in death, unimaginable tragedy. Let us wish him and his family Peace!
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