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Eric Williams, Caribbean premier

By WITH ANALYSIS FROM MONITOR CORRESPONDENTS AROUND THE WORLD, EDITED BY HILARY DEVRIES / March 31, 1981



Port of Spain, Trinidad

Dr. Eric Williams's lasting legacy is this two-island nation's parliamentary democracy, which is likely to serve the Caribbean country well in the wake of his passing March 29.

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Monitor Latin America correspondent James Nelson Goodsell writes that Dr. Williams, a historian by training and politician by inclination, brought his nation into independence in 1962 and ruled over it without much challenge ever since. His governing touch was a trifle autocratic, but he repeatedly stood by parliamentary rules that he learned from the British, who had ruled Trinidad as a colony from 1802 until independence.

Dr. Williams's passing was announced by the Trinidad and Tobago President, Sir Ellis Clarke, who immediately appointed George Chambers as both prime minister and minister of finance -- the posts Dr. Williams held.

As a longtime ally and associate of the late prime minister, Dr. Williams was not expected to alter island politics. But his rule could be short. Williams never named a successor, and there is likely to be a struggle for the job within the ruling People's National Movement. Moreover, general elections are scheduled for later this year.

As a historian, Williams was regarded as one of the leading specialists on the Caribbean. He was the author of various books. His "Slavery and Capitalism ," in which he sought to prove that Britain granted freedom to West Indian slaves not so much for humanitarian mot ives as from economic exigencies, is a classic.