April 12, 1910
August 26, 1997
Patrick Solomon, a government minister, diplomat, and member of the People's National Movement, was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He displayed a superior intellect as a child and later excelled at the College Exhibition Examinations, placing first among all primary school students, including Eric Eustace Williams (1911–1981), the future prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago. In secondary school at St. Mary's College, he won a prestigious Island Scholarship in 1928, which allowed him to pursue medical studies at University College, London, and Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Between 1934 and 1939, Solomon practiced medicine in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. He then returned to the Caribbean, where he served in the Leeward Islands Medical Service until 1942. In 1943 Solomon returned to Trinidad and obtained employment at the Port of Spain General Hospital. That year also marked his entry into politics, as he joined the West Indian National Party (WINP), which was founded in South Trinidad by Dr. David Pitt (1913–1994). Solomon formed a branch of the WINP in Port of Spain and served on its management committee. In 1943 he supported the WINP in its boycott of Victoria County's by-election, an attempt to force the colonial authorities to dissolve the legislature and hold general elections. At the WINP's first party conference on March 19, 1944, Solomon was elected to the party's Central Executive Committee. Three months later, at a meeting of the WINP General Council, Solomon was elected to serve as third vice president.
Within the labor movement, Solomon played a pivotal role but left a transient impression. In 1946 the Seamen and Waterfront Workers' Trade Union (SWWTU) appealed to their employer, the Shipping Association, for a new contract. The association refused and the waterfront workers decided to strike. Solomon intervened, and he not only marched with the disgruntled workers but aired their plight in the Legislative Council in Trinidad and Tobago. The strike eventually ended due to the increasing hunger of the workers, who reluctantly returned to work.
In 1946 Trinidad and Tobago held its first elections under adult suffrage. The United Front was one of the newly formed political parties contesting the election. This was a coalition of individuals and organizations, including the WINP and the Indian National Council. The objectives of the United Front were: (1) full internal selfgovernment; (2) nationalization of the sugar and oil industries; and (3) mass education. Solomon served as secretary of the United Front and was chosen to contest the Port of Spain North seat. In a keenly contested electoral battle, Solomon and two other candidates of the United Front were victorious in the 1946 elections.
The urgency to increase the number of elected members was one of the major factors leading to the formation of the Constitutional Reform Committee in 1947. Solomon submitted a minority report that criticized the nomination system and appealed for a fully elected single chamber (elected on the basis of adult suffrage), an executive elected by and from the legislature, and an executive council to be responsible to the legislature. However, Solomon's suggestions were ignored by Britain. When the new constitution was announced on January 19, 1949, the noteworthy changes were an elected majority of one person in the executive council and the decrease of the nominated element from six to five persons. The House was to be presided over by a speaker chosen from among the elected members.
In the aftermath of the 1946 elections, the high level of racism prompted Solomon to form the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Institute on August 22, 1949. However, due to accusations of promoting Indian racialism, this venture quickly collapsed. Solomon formed the Caribbean Socialist Party to contest the 1950 elections, but he and the party were soundly defeated at the polls. Solomon then briefly withdrew from politics, but he was persuaded by Eric Williams to return to the political arena as one of the founding members of the People's National Movement (PNM). This was a wise move because Solomon apparently had a genuine interest in the political development of the country, and as a professional he was considered an asset to the PNM. Subsequently Solomon was elected as a member of Parliament for Port of Spain South (1956) and Port of Spain West (1961). On September 25, 1959, Solomon put forth a motion in the Legislative Council seeking full internal self-government. This historic appeal finally materialized on August 31, 1962, when the country attained independence.
As a member of the PNM, Solomon faithfully served in various capacities. He served as minister of education and culture (1956–1960), minister of home affairs (1960–1964), and acting prime minister, deputy prime minister, and minister of external affairs (1962–1966). At the international level, Solomon was chosen as vice president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 and as High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago in London between 1971 and 1976.
In 1978 Solomon was awarded the Trinity Cross, Trinidad and Tobago's highest award for distinguished service. During the 1980s he was no longer in active politics and became a weekly columnist for the Sunday Express, a local newspaper.
Solomon, Patrick. Solomon: An Autobiography. Trinidad: Inprint Caribbean, 1981.
Williams, Eric. History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain, Trinidad: PNM, 1962. Reprint, New York: A&B, 2002.
jerome teelucksingh (2005)