Selwyn Ryan will be greatly missed | Letters to the Editor
With the passing of Selwyn Ryan, Trinidad and Tobago and the region have lost an academic titan, a clear-eyed (and often controversial) observer and analyst of the twists and turns of English-speaking Caribbean society.
Selwyn was generally referred to as a political scientist, and it’s true that many of his publications — his books, his essays, his polls — focus on politics.
But he was more than that. He was also a sociologist examining the undercurrents and swirls of the often bewilderingly complex composition of T&T.
Sharks and Sardines, for example, his 1992 publication with Lou Anne Barclay, dealt with black people in business in T&T (always a sensitive topic); and Social and Occupational Stratification in Contemporary Trinidad and Tobago, which he had edited the previous year, expanded on Professor Lloyd Braithwaite’s seminal 1953 study of ‘Social Stratification in Trinidad and Tobago’.
However, it is his monumental biography of Eric Williams – over 800 pages – for which he will be best remembered.
It is a marvel of detailed research. Admittedly, some of his assessments and conclusions have not garnered universal approval, but if you hear of anyone in this country who can appeal to everyone, especially on a subject as multifaceted as Williams, do let me know.
Selwyn and I first met in 1970 in Uganda. He was a lecturer at Makerere University, I was a traveling diplomat, on leave from the T&T Foreign Service for an American foundation.
The following year, we were to see each other again, at T&T this time, as members of the Wooding Constitution Commission.
His views and mine on what might be the best constitutional arrangements for this country have not always been in harmony, but there has never been anything personal in our differences.
We remained friends for the next 50 years; I even launched one of his books.
The last time I saw him, I realized that a decline had set in; subsequent telephone conversations only confirmed this.
I will greatly miss his intelligence and directness, his lack of pomp, his willingness to help and enlighten, his commitment to T&T and the Caribbean.
We are much poorer for his departure.
My deepest condolences go to his family, who can be proud of his massive contribution to this country and this region.
I am sure he will rest in the peace he so richly deserves.