Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and members of her Government and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and his MPs sat together for Ken Valley's funeral service at the St Finbar's RC Church, Diego Martin, yesterday. This prompted Fr Clyde Harvey to remark in his homily: "A wonderful mix of politicians, all sitting on the same side of the aisle. Ken Valley would hope that side is side T&T." Various politicians, past and present, including former People's National Movement (PNM) leader Patrick Manning, Tobago House of Assembly head, Orville London, and new Planning, Economic and Social Restructuring Minister, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, were also at the church.
His relatives, Diego Martin Central constituents and friends packed the church. Valley, a former PNM government minister, died of cancer last week Thursday at age 63. Political allusions and Valley's contributions in that arena laced the speech of every speaker who paid tribute to him. His eldest son, Kerwin, a Canadian citizen resident in T&T, urged the congregation to strive for a country that crosses ethnic divides.
He said his father visualised T&T as an Eden and worked towards the attainment of a country where everyone would be equal and recognised on merit alone. Valley's youngest brother, Clinton, a minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, California, USA, said the PNM was one of his deceased brother's passions.
"He loved the PNM but his allegiance was not to individuals but to the ideals on which the party stood," he said. Clinton referred to a book Valley wrote with deceased PNM MP, Morris Marshall, called: "In Defence of The People's Interests." He said the first chapter was about integrity in public life. "I believe this should be required reading for all who enter politics today," Clinton said. He said Valley was a "transformational leader who modelled what integrity in public life meant," Clinton also recalled Valley's "unceremonious" exit from politics in 2007.
Valley was not allowed by then PNM leader, Manning, to run for the Diego Martin Central seat again.
"His unceremonious exit from politics was determined by his deep love for his country. "He preferred to sacrifice his political career, to bow out rather than bow down at the altar of political expediency," Clinton said, to loud applause from the congregation. Rowley, addressing the congregation, said he met Valley in the "very dark days of the PNM" in 1986 (when the party suffered a humiliating defeat in the general election). "If there ever was a man of crisis, Ken Valley was that man," he said. Rowley said Valley remained a "loyal and reliable friend" since then.
Also paying tribute was Costa Rican Ambassador Ricardo Thompson-Thompson, who recalled that in 2006 Valley helped establish an airline that could take citizens of T&T directly to Latin American countries without having to travel north first. Thompson-Thompson said Valley helped to increase trade and contact between Costa Rica and Cuba. "He is considered a great friend by the people of Cuba," he added. On a more philosophical note, the ambassador said: "Death is not welcome anytime. It's like an intruder but when it knocks at the door it says, here I am." Persad-Bissessar, speaking briefly with the media after the service, said Valley was a great man, father and son of the soil and he would be missed. She said a full statement on Valley would be made in Parliament today.
Manning dismisses media
Former prime minister Patrick Manning dismissed the media after the funeral service of Ken Valley yesterday, saying: "Now is not the time for that." Members of the media approached him for comment on Valley's passing but Manning did not stop in the crowded yard of the church after the service. He kept on walking and his security pushed back people in the way, causing them to almost fall on each other. Angry outbursts from people in the crowd followed his exit from the church. "Let the dead go!" a man shouted after Manning.