I read of Fazal Karim’s passing while I was in Suriname a couple days after I left Trinidad. It is a huge loss for the country. The sadness of his death spread across the diaspora very quickly, and this was so because of his reputation. He served the country in several capacities. He was widely respected. He touched the lives of many at home and the diaspora and even among non-Trinis with who he developed acquaintance. He left a positive mark in public life.
My association with Karim went back to the early 1990s when he was very close with Basdeo Panday. Unfortunately, his relationship with Panday fell apart after the internal election of January 2010. I was aware of skullduggery involving several characters, an episode in UNC politics that I prefer not to rehash. He supported Kamla in 2010 and knew, as I did, that she would win the leadership. I do not know if he every repaired his relationship with Bas.
Karim had enormous respect for me and I for him. He was always a very humble gentleman who asked questions and listen to the responses. He rarely offered his views preferring to listen to those of others on how to improve his representation and that of the party.
He had faith in my polling, a new concept for the UNC that was introduced by NACTA, and complimented me repeatedly for my work. He would always query about my poll findings. He did not think the UNC would do as well as it did in the election of November 1995 when the poll projected a tie 17-17-2. He commended NACTA for spot on findings of elections. From 2002 onwards, he was concerned about the politics and the future of the UNC. He supported reconciliation between Panday and Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, which he recognized was needed in order for UNC to win in 2002. And he urged several people to bring the two together after the UNC lost the October 2002 elections. A group met in Mumbai in January 2004 and brought Bas and Ramesh together, and they agreed to rebuild the UNC to make it electable. The split in UNC with the Dookeran and Panday factions deprived the party of a victory in October 2007.
Karim backed Kamla after the UNC defeat and she won the party leadership in 2010 and the election in May. He was rewarded with a Ministry and a seat in 2015.
In recent years, including for the 2020 elections, he stated that UNC would not win and will not win in 2025 unless there is internal reform. He did not see the party reforming itself and therefore next year is not on the horizon.
Karim left his mark in all government positions he held, including as a Senator and Minister and as an elected MP, representing Chaguanas East until he was unceremoniously dumped by the UNC. He was very popular in his constituency and provided effective representation. He would have easily won re-election. He was very hardworking holding activities to improve the well-being of constituents.
Karim was also liked nationally as he was a good leader of youths he helped to train and as a tertiary Education Minister although he did not deliver on promises made to several individuals who were close to him. He made such a positive impact on so many people especially the young when he was in charge of a youth program for many years.
His commitment to education was commendable and his efforts as Minister in shaping tertiary education will continue to guide many. He stood out in the UNC administration 2010-2015. His kind, caring demeanor and leadership were unparalleled among colleagues of his time in office.
At the time of his passing, we were engaged in exchanges on how to effect political change in T&T and provide better representation and governance. His demise has left a huge void in politics as he was involved in constructing a new political force that would pose a challenge to the incumbents. He had a formula to win an election, but it is unknown whether others would listen and approve it!
He will be remembered by people who knew of his commitment to politics.
May God give peace to the departed soul and strength to the bereaved family!