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Tribute to Karl Hudson Phillips QC

KARL3Mr. Speaker,

I am full of gratitude to be given this opportunity to express condolences on behalf of the Government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago, to the family of the late Karl Hudson- Phillips Q.C.

The headlines of today’s three newspapers are symbolic of the larger than life personality who graced us with his presence for close to eighty-one (81) years.  What is astonishing is that in the commentaries of his life thus far citizens have pointed to him being a man who sacrificed ambition on the altar of principles.   If there is one person in my view whom I know in my living history who closed the gap between word and deed, promise and delivery it was Mr. Hudson- Phillips.  Rare are persons who put principles above all else in the conduct of their personal and professional lives.  Some may say that it is because of this that he never became a Prime Minister or a President both of which offices he would have served with dignity and with a leadership style befitting the office.

Because of his penchant for principles he was able to convince over ninety-one thousand persons to remove themselves from the trap of the quagmire of tribal politics and to cross into an era where they were convinced that it was important that if the Nation were to progress that voting on issues would be more important.  The political legacy of Karl Hudson-Phillips is not only in the fact that he refused to sign an undated letter of resignation but that thirty-four years ago he was able to convince people to also stand for what was right.  He in my view stirred the minds of our people about change and about country first.  He may have lost the elections of 1981, subject as he was then to the “Ah fraid Karl Campaign” which if properly analysed might one day lead to the conclusion that it was a convenient excuse on the part of many to maintain the status quo, though that status quo worked against the National interest.

Politically he was a selfless individual.  This was manifested in the negotiations for leadership of the NAR in 1986 where he sacrificed his own personal ambitions so that the country could move forward under new leadership.  Again this is a rarity in politics.  But by doing what he did, he strengthened the vision that National unity as a goal is achievable. Subsequent political developments have confirmed this.

Karl Hudson-Phillips was a genuine Human Being. He made the problems of his friends his problems but never failed to give advice whether it was positive or negative but always aimed at a helping the person to be a better human being.  At times he was brutally honest which some people may not have appreciated but such is the style of a man of principles.  This country will do well to examine Karl’s short but significant political life and to seek to find out how it affected the development of a more politically mature national mind.

Karl was a professional who always strived for excellence.  Average performance was not part of his vocabulary.  Timeliness and responsiveness were two of his cherished values.   He gave respect to all and though he was a successful attorney at law reaching the position of a judge at the ICC he never lost touch with fellow citizens from all walks of life.  Today when I read the accolades that are being showered upon him even by the man on the street, I am left to wonder whether they were really afraid of Karl or whether they were afraid of what he stood for and what he upheld throughout his career, a society based on law and order and regard for the dignity of fellow human beings.  It was not a surprise therefore when he was called upon by the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council to head the panel of experts to investigate and determine whether Israel’s Gaza Flotilla Raid in May 2010 breached International Law.

In this context Karl Hudson-Phillips despite the brutal nature of politics in Trinidad never encouraged revengeful politics. He used to say “we will have our day in Court”.  For those of us who knew him he was indeed a loving and compassionate human being.

At an official level his country has honoured him with the order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for his contribution to Law.  His fellow citizens will Honour him for years and years to come by taking from his life those lessons and experiences that enhance principle–centred living and making these a part of our daily life behaviours.  We have lost a good Son of the Soil.  May his soul find an eternal resting place in the home of the Lord and may his good work continue to inspire the nation.

Prepared by Dr. Surujrattan Rambachan

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