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posted 18 Feb 2011, 07:33 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Feb 2011, 10:54 ]
"...if it must be
you speak no more with me
nor smile no more with me
nor march no more with me
then let me take 
a patience and a calm-
for even now the greener leaf explodes
sun brightens stone
and all the river burns."

Martin Carter
(Death of a Comrade)

The National Workers’ Union (NWU) expresses its great sorrow at the death of Comrade Norris Deonarine, Education and Research Officer of the National Food Crop Farmers’ Association (NFFA). He apparently succumbed to a heart attack on the morning of February 18th 2011.

Comrade Deonarine was involved for forty years in the struggle to break the shackles of neo-colonial economics and politics and had become a much respected activist and leader who dedicated, but not restricted, himself to the task of advancing, protecting and defending the interests of small farmers in the country.

Being heavily influenced by the 1970 Uprising, he became politically active in revolutionary and united front politics. He viewed himself as a Marxist Socialist and was a member of the National Movement for True Independence (NAMOTI) from the early seventies until its demise in the nineties.

He was associated with the early United Labour Front and opposed the unprincipled politics of the “Panday faction”. He was a leading member of the Committee for Labour Solidarity and was a founder member of the National Foodcrop Farmers Association and stayed the course for more than thirty years.

He was closely associated with the work of the Council of Progressive Trade Unions and worked tirelessly to cement the worker-farmer alliance. His efforts in that direction won him the admiration of CLR James with whom he struck up a personal relationship.

Through the efforts of people like himself, Ragoonath Khemraj, Selwyn Sukhu, Terrence Harewood and Glen Ramjag, the NFFA garnered great respect in the trade union movement of the 1970’and 1980’s and was a reliable and consistent supporter of workers’ struggles, particularly during the great strike struggles of the 1980’s. Many striking workers greatly
appreciated the practical provision of food for the strike camps donated by the farmers. Workers at then – Fedchem and throughout the East–West Corridor can attest to that support. 

Norris was a leading member of BLOCK UP, a Curepe-based community organisation which organised the leading primary school windball league in the East-West Corridor. The league is about thirty years old.

He was a leading member of the Rights Action Group (RAG) and played a major role in the anti-
smelter and environmental movements which drew a new generation into the progressive movement. He took great pride in the movement’s success in shutting down the smelters in Chatham and La Brea. 

He was involved in the struggle of the Pranz Garden Villagers and Claxton Bay fishermen to stop the Claxton Bay port and steel mill. He was a leading figure in the Summit to Drumit event.

Norris was deeply involved in the struggle for land tenure for small farmers, for a rational land use policy, for a national water management policy, for the deepening of infrastructural support for agriculture, for a better deal for ex-Caroni worker/farmers.

He also stood for investment in activating research facilities and programmes involving the development of seed banks, plant plasma research etc., for using indigenous technology to develop foods that would assist in breaking the stranglehold of the grain suppliers in the spirit of the research that was pioneered almost a generation ago by people like Dr. George Moonsammy. He stood for Caribbean food sovereignty.

The progressive movement has lost a giant – a leader who put the interests of the masses before his own; an activist who participated in the great social struggles of his time; an elder whose advice and experience influenced a new generation of progressive activists.