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TRIBUTE TO FORBES by Raffique Shah

posted 4 Jul 2011, 10:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Jul 2011, 10:50 ]

TRIBUTE TO FORBES

By Raffique Shah


My life-long friend and brother-in-struggle, Randolph “Forbes” Chandrakate, passed away on Saturday, July 2, at the Mt Hope Hospital. He was 65 years old. His funeral will take place on Tuesday, July 5, with rituals, ceremonies and cremation starting at 10am at the Waterloo cremation site.
Brother Forbes’ name may not quite register on today’s generation, or even yesterday’s. That is because his personality was such; he always kept a low profile even as he made immense contributions to struggles waged on behalf of the dispossessed and “downpressed” of society for some four decades of his life.

Forbes (a nickname we gave him from early in our college days) attended Presentation College, Chaguanas, from January 1958 to June 1964. He gained a Grade 1 Cambridge School Certificate in 1962, and went on to complete his “A” Levels in 1963-64. He and I were in the same form from the day we entered “Pres”, and our friendship endured to the end.

He was bright enough to have pursued higher education, but he dropped out on at least two occasions because of his involvement in struggling for the vulnerable. He was involved in the 1970 Black Power movement, stimulating interest in Chaguanas and Montrose (where he lived). He joined in demonstrations and was a good friend to the mutinous soldiers—before and after our “sins”. He faced police searches at his home (pity his poor mother, who died a few years ago), harassment on the streets and worse. He never wavered.

I need add that he first taught at Lutchmansingh’s College in Chaguanas (circa 1964-65) before moving to work with Shell at its head office in the Salvatori building, Port of Spain. Later, he worked with NP, where his main focus was that company’s agro-division (which he headed). He retired from NP about five years ago.

Post-1970, Forbes was very involved in mobilising cane farmers when the ICFTU (Islandwide Cane Farmers’ Trade Union) was launched in 1973. He left his job at NP to take up the often-not-paid position of treasurer of the ICFTU. Indeed, none of the principal officers of that union was paid on a regular basis. But Forbes, whose substantive job at NP paid well, eschewed that to help put more money in farmers’ pockets (or under their mattresses, in those days!).

He was also very active in 1974 during the formation of the (National Food Crop Farmers’ Association) NFFA. The real history of that organisation was the germination of an idea in the mind of Mobarack Ali, an Aranjuez resident. He visited and spoke with me at the height of the cane farmers’ struggles in early 1974. He spoke of the hell food crop farmers endured and asked if I would help them. I agreed, but made it clear that I could not easily divide my time between serving the cane farmers and food crop farmers.

The NFFA was born out of the initiative, first at the Aranjuez Hindu School, with later meetings held at Raj Dookhan’s home. Forbes was at my side. Among the early activists (besides Mobarack and Forbes) were Raj and several Dookhans, “Bhangur” (Routee Singh’s father), Ragoonath Khemraj, Khemraj Nanhu, Nazim Ali, Selwyn Sukhu and others whose names elude me now. Norris Deonarine was among the youngest persons who attended the meetings held during those formative years.

As a direct consequence of the above, the United Labour Front (ULF) was born in 1975—first as a collective of trade unions, and later, by March 1976, as a political party. Forbes worked like the proverbial horse in all these initiatives. Because of his training, he also advised farmers on fertilisers and chemicals applications and good farming practises. In this regard, the expertise of Dr George Moonsammy was invaluable.

When the ULF emerged as the main opposition in 1976, Forbes, who had managed Routee Singh’s campaign against Sham Mohammed, never sought office or rewards. He gave of his time, his little resources, and sacrificed devotion to his family—all in the interest of a better Trinidad and Tobago.

Following the split in the ULF, he remained active for many years. But he was also among the disillusioned young people who felt we had been betrayed by Basdeo Panday, who seemed content to replace the DLP, not to build a new Trinidad and Tobago.

Forbes would return to NP, but he always had time for farmers and a passion for agriculture. He was also a foundation pillar of the Dattatreya Yoga Centre in Carapichaima, and was the person who first hosted Sri Ganapati at his home—long before the Centre was built. He practised yoga and was very involved in spiritual matters in his post-retirement years.

Brother Forbes will be remembered as one of the unassuming people who have done so much for his country, mostly the poor and oppressed, but one whose name probably never made the news. He preferred to work hard, stay out of the limelight, and get his satisfaction from seeing others happy as a result of his efforts and initiatives.

My heartfelt sympathy goes to his wife Sandra and his four children, as well as his sisters and many friends. I shall miss his company, which we shared for 53 years, and his intellect, which always gave me food for thought.

Rest in peace, my brother.
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