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‘A great loss for T&T’

Tributes pour in for former independent senator
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Former Independent Seantor Corinne Baptiste-McKnight during a sitting of the Senate. At her left, is Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan.

Former Independent Senator Corinne Baptiste-McKnight, who died around 5.30 am yesterday, has been hailed by  colleagues past and present as a great exemplar of the Senate and ambassador par excellence. Her colleague and friend of many years Independent senator Helen Drayton said Baptiste-McKnight, who had been ill for some time, died at her sister’s home in St James. She said funeral arrangements were being made. 



Co-ordinator of the Independent bench Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan extending condolences to her family, said, “Corinne’s death means a great loss for T&T.  She was a very committed person. My interaction with her as co-ordinator and even before that time underscored the fact that she was a person on whom you could always rely. Corinne was always fully prepared for every single one of the debates.”


“I personally relied on her strength as a sounding board to bounce issues off on. And she was also next in line as  co-ordinator, she sat to my immediate left. 



“One of the things that stood out about Corinne also was that she would listen to the various points of view to distill their ideas. Sometimes persons would come with preconceived notions, but that was never the case with Corinne. She had very strong views but was always willing to see the other point of view and take that perspective into consideration, once it was convincing enough.” Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said, “Senator Baptiste-McKnight was a classic, and was from the old school. What you saw was what you got. 


“She was frank and strong with gentle maternal charm. I enjoyed and missed our strong and robust exchanges in the Senate. She served with a quiet sense of dignity and purpose and made a sterling contribution in public life. My deepest condolences to her friends and family.” Drayton said, “Corinne left us the way she lived and served us: peacefully and happily, and for those of us fortunate to have known her and be close to her, she was a warm, charming caring and thoughtful person.


“She had a beautiful positive mind, great intelligence and a hilarious sense. She gave her life to T&T, having served all of her working years in the public service and as a diplomat. She was an ambassador par excellence who fulfilled the obligations of serving citizens of T&T with whatever their needs were while living abroad. She assisted hundreds of students in the pursuit of their education and kept in contact with them to ensure they were safe and comfortable.”


Drayton added, “She was from a time when public servants served with a passion and dedication and as a senator she was fiercely independent of thought. She spared no words that needed to be said. She was thorough in her research and forthright in expressing her views on the bill of the day. “She was a very joyful person, excellent company, and always lifted the spirit of those around her. I missed her from the Senate and I will miss her now as a sister. May she rest in peace.”  


Independent Senator Elton Prescott SC paid glowing tribute to Baptiste-McKnight at the start of yesterday’s Joint Select Committee meeting, at Tower D, Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain. He said she was “always pointed and direct.” He said her passing was regretted.
Former Independent senator Mary King added, “She served T&T very well, not only in the Senate, but also at diplomatic level. “In the Upper House her job was to review and ensure legislation was in T&T’s best interests and we have to admire  the work that she did.”



“It’s sad that she has passed on. She was a no-nonsense woman who took pride in her work and did her work wholly and solely for the country. Some of us are still doing that and T&T will survive.”  Senate leader Ganga Singh said T&T had lost a true patriot in Baptiste-McKnight. “She served in many capacities in the public service, including the ambassadorial, at all levels.


“As a senator in the Parliament her contributions were always crisp and constructively critical. She made a great contribution to her country. T&T will mourn her passing. At a personal level I feel her sudden passing was premature.” 



...McKnight always offered constructive criticism

Former PNM Senate leader Pennelope Beckles -Robinson said, “Corinne was a person who was fearless in her contributions: she always spoke her mind and was forthright to a fault. She was one of those who clearly did a lot of research and was always prepared to speak on any topic.


“She had an excellent command of the language and that assisted the legislative drafting process greatly. While some people dealt only with substance, she also dealt with content and grammar, ensuring at the end of the day that the legislation was accurate in various respects.” 



Beckles-Robinson added, “She had no fears about delivering her contributions or cared about popularity contests. Whatever government was in office, whether PNM or UNC, she always offered constructive criticism. She was simply about making her voice heard and doing the duty she was engaged for. She maintained her independence by ensuring her contributions were based on reliable research and she was extremely thorough. My thoughts and prayers are with her relatives and friends.”


PNM Senator leader Camille Robinson-Regis said, “I offer my deepest condolences. Senator Baptiste-McKnight was really a treasure in that she was very forthright and honest in her contributions to the Parliament. 



“I only learned very recently she was so gravely ill. She was always an open person and has always been a strong person in any endeavour she participated in and it was the same in the Senate. She pulled no punches in her  contributions and she was very bold and definite on her assertions on matters like the Clause 34 issue, for instance. 



“She will be missed as a voice in T&T, a voice of honesty and very forthright. I’m deeply saddened by her passing. The times I’ve interacted with her were always in a very positive light. This is a real loss to us in T&T.”


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