Where we stand‎ > ‎News & Comment‎ > ‎

NORRIS DEONARINE IS… by Burton Sankeralli

posted 16 Apr 2013, 21:20 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 Apr 2013, 21:46 ]
The National Foodcrop Farmers Association (NFFA) held a memorial to mark the Second Anniversary of the death of Norris Deonarine on April 6th 2013 at the Norris Deonarine Northern Wholesale Market in Macoya. The function was chaired by Priya Ganness-Nanton.
Priya Ganness-Nanton and Sheldon Blackman
Among those who addressed the celebrants were Vashist Maharaj - attorney at law, Terrance Haywood - President of NFFA; Mukesh - the PRO, Seeta Mohammed - the General Secretary, Gerry Kangalee - National Workers Union, Merle Hodge, Jai Kernahan - Port of Spain East Community activist, Cathal Healy-Singh - environmental acivist, a representative of the Bon Air Farmers Association and Burton Sankeralli - Rights Action Group. Sheldon Blackman, Curious Ringo and Derron Ellies entertained the celebrants.
We reproduce here the text of Burton Sankeralli's address:
Norris was real! Yes he was always in the media. He knew how to utilize the media to get his message across. And some have tried following him. But for Norris it was not a matter of posturing, posing and profiling. Rather, for him the commitment was genuine (an understatement, I know). What you see is what you get! 

Norris was a man of the people! This sounds like a cliché. But in the case of Norris it was not. Some of us can deal with people some of the time. But his door was always open. Literally 24-7… Literally! He was always on the go. It seemed as if he did not sleep. 

Everybody knew Norris: from Cedros to Toco. He was a man organically rooted in his own community and embracing the whole. He was a patriot and a true Caribbean man. His funeral was remarkable. The ceremony was Hindu. This was followed by a farmers’ and workers’ leftist gathering in the Catholic Church yard and an Islamic caseeda was sung. The songs and messages at his cremation were calypso, midnight robber, Spiritual Baptist doption and about revolution. 
Norris was disciplined! I once heard Norris use this word to describe himself and some may here express disbelief; even shock. When it came to punctuality Norris, as it were, kept his own time. But what Norris meant was that he had completely disciplined himself to focus utterly on the work…on the struggle. This, without any regard for personal gain! One is tempted to say that in this country this makes him unique.
Curious Ringo and Derron Ellies
Yes Norris was a full blooded Caribbean male he liked to lime and drink … and smoke (smile). But he never ever fell into dissolute behaviour. And he had no time for trivialities and distractions. For him the work always came first. 
Norris was a fighter! I once heard this word used to describe him. His giving of himself to the struggle came from the most profound personal and serious commitment (and yes he was serious, very serious). And while he was very much a team player he was fully prepared, willing and able to carry this burden personally. 
His focus was intense; his commitment unyielding. And he expected this from those of us around him. And I must confess I could not keep up. His struggle really was his life. 

Norris was brilliant! He was capable of understanding profound philosophical concepts; to people; to the most complex situations. I can recall during the anti-smelter conflict in Chatham the situation in the community got very complicated. It could easily have fallen apart and lead to the unravelling of the entire resistance. 
Yet Norris understood what was happening and what was required was utter clarity. (And again I confess in the middle of it I doubted him). Moreover I suspect his quiet behind the scenes interventions were critical and may have played a decisive role in bringing us to victory. Norris’s real genius lay in the power and practicality of his insight, vision and commitment. 

Norris was a soldier! It bears repeating that his was an intense, unyielding unrelenting commitment to the struggle. He carried the burden and it literally cost him his life. In the end his body could not take it. In essence he died as a true soldier with his boots on. His final battle standing with disadvantaged farmers in the face of a violent vicious physical assault. 
Norris was a socialist! For a time this was not something spoken of in polite company and thankfully Commander Chavez has changed this. Norris well understood Marxist-Leninism and Mao Tse-Tung Thought. But even more important he had profound insight in his concrete analysis of the concrete conditions of our material situation. I remember he told me that he had predicted there would basically be food riots in this country. So said…so done! Of course above all else it was not about empty theory and old talk but it was all about praxis; justice. 
He was attuned as well to the issue of succession in this socialist struggle and the pivotal place of the young generation. Speaking to him once, I was made to realize that this was not a question to be treated casually. And he was definitely not going to pass the baton lightly. Sadly in the end the decision was not his. 
While Norris clearly understood the critical role of organization he was fully prepared to carry the burden of socialist struggle all by himself whether it was fashionable or not. In this regard the harsh truth is we all failed Norris. The organization still awaits us. On the other hand I cannot imagine Norris being otherwise. And I certainly cannot conceive of him following hypothetical doctor’s advice that he “take it easy”. Norris? Taking it easy? 
He has been truly described as the arrowhead of the movement. In his fifty two and a half years he lived far, far more than a single lifetime. 
Norris Deonarine IS a revolutionary!