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John D made rich contribution to T&T
John D Donaldson served long and with a measure of distinction as senator, constituency representative and minister in succeeding governments of the People’s National Movement. But that was not all; he was a public servant who worked in the early days of the diplomatic service in important places such as the United States and Nigeria.
He was placed in the Senate by Dr Eric Williams in the mid-1970s as part of the second generation of PNM ministers. It was the post-1970 era when large segments of the population were calling on Dr Williams for change in policy direction, and requiring new and dynamic leadership with a nationalist perspective.
It is an indication of the confidence that Dr Williams, a man who did not tolerate mediocrity, had in young Donaldson that he gave him as his first assignments two of the most demanding portfolios in the Cabinet, those of External Affairs and National Security.
It was an unsettling period relating to security issues that challenged the internal stability of the State. Mr Donaldson must have done well, as he was retained in the post of national security by the succeeding Prime Minister, George Chambers. It is worth noting that Mr Donaldson had the longest stint of any national security minister. Outside of his work in national security, “John D” as he was called by his friends and associates, had specialist knowledge of foreign affairs.
Indeed, Mr Donaldson spent the years before his ministerial career in the T&T mission in Washington under the guidance of Sir Ellis Clarke. Mr Donaldson’s place in the PNM and government was almost ordained for him by his father, John S Donaldson, one of the original and frontline ministers of the early governments of Dr Williams. Young Donaldson must surely have been guided by the work and reputation of his father.
Mr Donaldson junior was one of those PNM former ministers who had to undergo the trauma of being unceremoniously removed from office by the tidal wave of the NAR victory of 1986. There are many who say that had he been able to muster another approximately 100 votes in that election to win the St Ann’s West seat, he would have been the more natural choice of the party as leader to rejuvenate the PNM and perhaps lead it back to government.
Be that as it may, unlike many of his senior former ministers, John Donaldson was accepted by Patrick Manning and the new leadership of the reorganised PNM. He undoubtedly played a role in the resuscitation of the party to return it to office a short five years after it was left almost for dead after the 1986 thumping at the polls.
“Mr Donaldson will be remembered as an authoritative figure who served as vice chairman of the party for many years until 2010,” is how the present PNM leader, Dr Keith Rowley chose to remember and honour his senior colleague. But in his unassuming way, Mr Donaldson was one of the few who have transcended the barriers of party politics and who is recognised for his service and sacrifice for his country.
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