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THE LAWRENCE DUPREY FILES: PART 5
• From Page A6
It was his longest communication to me
and the fact is when I read this rebuke I recalled
what Harry Harnarine had told us in our first
interview with him: "I think that Lawrence
has been destabilised and it has caused him
I had ignored this as an overstatement of
the problems Lawrence perceived he had just
as Mr Harnarine had said that "there is a cer-
tain fear among some people who want to
come back and redeem themselves but they
think they see a mongoose gang just waiting
to get them. That is a real fear."
When I went to see him, I was after writing
a book about Lawrence s management of Colo-
nial Life Insurance Company. It was not about
setting the record straight in the enquiry and,
indeed, I was in no position to guarantee him
exposure in any newspaper of commentary
that could come from our interviews.
But shouldn t he have known this?
This is what I wrote in our first article which
appeared in the Sunday Guardian on April 7:
"It was not possible after spending a week
with Lawrence Duprey, the disgraced chairman
of the Colonial Life Insurance Company Ltd
and of the CLF Group of Companies, to come
away not wondering if the anointed successor
to Cyril Lucius Duprey had not been a lucky
and skilful entrepreneur as much as a colourful
adventurer, a sweet talker and a bloody idiot.
This would not be the confusion one would
have had about Sidney Knox and Thomas
Gatcliffe, rivals in the business world of the
Caribbean and business leaders he would crit-
icise for having a narrow vision of their entre-
preneurial role in T&T."
But Walter Lippmann had warned that
"when you come to international affairs con-
fusion is compounded," and Duprey had
mounted this stallion for more than 20 years
and had stood in the arena like a colossus
until the world s financial crisis put an end
to his image of omnipotence. Day after day,
the legendary Duprey talked to us about the
business and political world he had lived in
since the elder Duprey s death in 1988, and
now one in which he hoped for redemption
and for the opportunity to return to Trinidad
to put Humpty Dumpty Together Again."
I want to make it plain that Rhona and I
had gone to Florida on our own and did not
represent any newspaper when we talked with
Lawrence. We could promise him nothing.
However, the morning that we returned to
Trinidad, because of delays by Caribbean Air-
lines, I wrote the Guardian and the Express
asking if the newspaper would be interested
in a five-part series of interviews with
Lawrence Duprey. I meant to offer the series
to the first newspaper that responded.
I heard from Ms Raymond the morning of
March 22, but I never heard from One
Caribbean Media, whose CEO I had offended
it seemed by refusing an offer to assist me
with another project, In Search of America s
Soul. Well, this is not altogether true. I had
asked her to help with a grant of $120,000
(Rhona and I had spent seven weeks in the
United States interviewing Americans and
West Indians for the book) and weeks later
she had responded with an offer of $20,000.
I am usually good at concealing my disap-
pointment but when she called me with her
decision I failed to do so. I was not surprised
therefore when she ignored my e-mail.
From the start I had not thought of dupli-
cating the work of the Colman Commission
of Enquiry, and whatever Lawrence wanted
said was in his power to get by appearing
before the commission. It was not my intention
to replace the commission. All he had to do
was to appear before the commission, face
the battalion of lawyers and policyholders,
and tell his story. I had no illusion that I could
do a better job than he.
However, that he continues to absent himself
from the commission is not really his fault;
it is the weakness of the commission, its terms
of reference, and the strategies of his lawyers.
I am not trying to offend anyone; I am
trying to find an explanation for what appears
to be a travesty of the rules and to prevent
this from happening again. If it is indeed the
fault of the rules of engagement, change the
rules. We must discontinue our habit of wast-
ing taxpayers money and our learned friends
should be the first to say this.
I have no idea how I could have misled
Lawrence Duprey. I was glad that he had agreed
to meet with us and I hoped he would agree
to Duprey 2. That was my passionate wish.
When I look back at our meetings I fail to
understand how I could have convinced him
that I could get anything published in the
Guardian or the Express when I was not a
representative of either newspaper. I remember
that he talked of having shares in both news-
papers but he never said to me, "Write your
pieces and leave it to me to get them in the
newspapers." I am sure that would not have
worked either, and the fact is neither of us
could even be sure that I would write anything
that would be worthy of publication. And the
idea of five articles was what I proposed to
the Guardian when I returned to Trinidad.
But he did say he could use full-page adver-
tisements in the Advocate newspaper in Bar-
However, I could make no such promise.
Did I really misrepresent myself to him? Did
he see me as having the power of a newspaper
mogul? I hope I have never shown this char-
acter to anyone. I find the notion disgusting.
This tendency to falsify the accounts is not
going to get Lawrence Duprey the redemption
he craves. Instead, it will have his enemies
making fun of him.
As Harry Harnarine says, "Lawrence is a
lonely man. I have some of my top officers
still with me and my directors still talk to me.
Who was closer to Lawrence than Bhoe
Tewarie and then the enquiry started?
" You have to be brave. In terms of walking
the streets of Port-of-Spain I am free, don t
mind people call out to me, You still here?
I thought you were inside. "
But only a Trinidadian would recognise the
black humour in this greeting and know that
it is without malice. It would have been dif-
ficult, however, for Sylvia Duprey to understand
this behaviour and not to go away thinking
that she couldn t trust Trinidadians.
I think by now, after 12 sessions of the
enquiry, Sir Anthony Colman would know
that the lady s assessment of the Trinidad
character was wrong. What she was sceptical
of and finding fault with was our love of picong
and mauvaise langue and Sir Anthony has
had to cope with this eccentricity for a long
time. Poor chap.
'Hoping for redemption'
It was not possible after spending a week with Lawrence
Duprey, the disgraced chairman of the Colonial Life
Insurance Company Ltd and of the CLF Group of
Companies, to come away not wondering if the anointed
successor to Cyril Lucius Duprey had not been a lucky and
skilful entrepreneur as much as a colourful adventurer, a
sweet talker and a bloody idiot. This would not be the
confusion one would have had about Sidney Knox and
Thomas Gatcliffe, rivals in the business world of the
Caribbean and business leaders he would criticise for
having a narrow vision of their entrepreneurial role in
Log on to
to post your
As Harry Harnarine says,
"Lawrence is a lonely man. I
have some of my top
officers still with me and my
directors still talk to me.
Who was closer to Lawrence
than Bhoe Tewarie and then
the enquiry started?
"You have to be brave. In
terms of walking the streets
of Port-of-Spain I am free,
don't mind people call out to
me, 'You still here? I thought
you were inside.'"
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