Balgobin Ramdeen, the last surviving Opposition Member of Parliament when Trinidad and Tobago gained Independence in 1962, has died.
Ramdeen, 91, father of Leela Ramdeen, chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice, died Wednesday in a hospital in England.
Ramdeen, who was ailing for some time, was a retired attorney, author, and teacher.
He was a member of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) led by Dr. Rudranath Capildeo which formed the Opposition against the People’s National Movement (PNM) led by Dr. Eric Williams.
Ramdeen was a Member of Parliament from 1961- 1966.
Ramdeen was born in Sangre Chiquito, Sangre Grande in 1925. His grandfather came to Trinidad from India in 1874. They all belonged to the Dial family.
His grandfather was an owner of extensive cocoa plantations.
Ramdeen attended the Canadian Mission Primary School in Sangre Chiquito which his father had also attended.
He then attended the private secondary school, St Andrew’s High School, also called Dasent High School, as well as other schools. He taught briefly at his alma mater just after leaving school.
He was always involved in community work. When India obtained its Independence from the British, Ramdeen was the president of the Indian Youth Movement in Sangre Grande. He was also the captain of the cricket club in his district and a member of a table tennis club.
At the request of parents, he returned to Sangre Grande and established his own private secondary and commercial school called “The Acme High School”.
After a number of years, he closed his school and accepted a job in the Malaria Division of the Health Service. Shortly thereafter, he successfully applied for the position of clerk of Caroni County Council. He moved to live in Chaguanas.
While he worked as clerk of the Caroni County Council, Ramdeen was awarded a British Council Bursary to study local government in the United Kingdom.
Under various pseudonyms, he began writing letters which were published in the local press. By doing so, he attempted to alleviate the condition, mainly of the sugar workers who were subjected to degrading conditions of work.
Under his own name, Ramdeen was a contributing editor of the Sentinel Magazine, co-editor of the Windian Magazine, a regular contributor to the Observer Magazine and a columnist in one of the daily newspapers.
As a member of the Opposition, Ramdeen fought for the development of basic amenities, pipe-borne water supply, electricity, and good roads, particularly for rural communities island-wide.
He resisted the importation of cane-cutting machines which would have deprived almost all of the sugar workers, almost entirely people of East Indian descent, of their livelihood. In spite of resistance, these machines were imported, displacing thousands of sugarcane workers – virtually all being of East Indian origin.
He left Trinidad in 1967 and was called to the bar in London in 1972. He later returned to Trinidad with his wife, Ruby, to practice his profession.
He is the father of seven children, 10 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.
When his wife died in 1995, he returned to Trinidad and published five short books on politics, poetry, and religion. He was an avid Hindu who taught extensively on Hinduism.