The recent upgrading of the PNM party headquarters at Balisier House was a significant event in the politics of this country. A well-established party headquarters is an important symbol of the long-term viability of a political party. Dr Williams had a vision of the establishment of the PNM as a long-term entity for the political development of the country.
This vision was reported in The Nation newspaper on Friday, October 5, 1962, in a column written by the then general secretary of the PNM, Nicholas Simonette, as follows:
“This week I wish to refresh the minds of party members on the ideas which circulated in the party when the decision to acquire a party headquarters was first taken. Here is what the political leader said in his address to the Third Annual Convention on October 17, 1958: “This is what we have to do. We have to build our party organisation from the bottom up. We have to reorganise our system of education so that, through the party, it penetrates the deepest masses of the people. We have to reorganise our press on the same scale. The whole constitutes what we have to look upon as the development programme of the party, which involves above all the financing of these vast projects. The first essential is a party headquarters …” (p 5).
The significance of a party headquarters is what separates serious political parties from the fly-by-night operators who want to offer themselves to the electorate as serious entities that can seek to move a nation forward. T&T has had several political parties that have been formed over the years and have offered themselves for service.
The only one that has come closest to offering a stable political party headquarters was the ULF which later morphed into the UNC. This was largely the product of Basdeo Panday as the leader of the All-Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factories Workers Trade Union insofar as he was able to use the premises of the Rienzi Complex in Couva as the UNC headquarters.
However, in the post-Panday era after the People’s Partnership lost the 2015 general election, the new leadership of the union evicted the UNC from Rienzi Complex based on a landlord-tenant dispute.
Since that time, the UNC has been searching for premises to house the party to conduct their activities. They have moved to two locations in the aftermath of their eviction, however, they have not made the establishment of a permanent party headquarters their number one priority. They must have a plan to make this happen once they continue to offer themselves to the country to seek the permission of the electorate to take the reins of government.
According to the Nation newspaper for Friday, April 26, 1963, under the headline “Golden Key to Balisier House” the following was reported:
“Dr Williams said: We had been looking forward to this great day for many years, and what we will see today as we enter the building … we would understand is the work of many people, many contributors, drawn from all walks of life in the country, drawn from all levels of our national Party. The idea of a Party Headquarters is at least five or six years old. But for the first time in 1961, during the elections, we launched the campaign for funds throughout the country … and it became possible to envisage the realisation of the dream. The appeal fund was largely under the control of the Donations Committee with the political leader as chairman …” (p 6).
The PNM were able to use the 1961 general election as a means to raise funds from all across the country as well as from inside the party. This strategy was coupled with the support of other persons who were pivotal to making Balisier House a reality.
The article in the Nation newspaper went further to report on Dr Williams saying the following: “I believe that today I ought to draw attention to the work of three members of the party … work which has resulted in the establishment of the Headquarters. The first, party Chairman, Sir Learie Constantine … The second member of the party whose services I would like to place on record is Mr John O’Halloran … The third member responsible for our presence today is Mr Alfredo Bermudez …”
These individuals were central to the success of the completion of the building. The conclusion of Dr Williams’ address as reported in that edition of the Nation read as follows:
“We were in rented premises. This is our own local habitation, therefore I give it a name. I name this Party Headquarters Balisier House.”