I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of beloved wife, mother, community activist and Queen of the Santa Rosa First Peoples, Ms. Jennifer Cassar.
Having worked for forty years in the public sector before her retirement, Ms. Cassar devoted almost her entire life to the service of her country. I have known her since 1996 when I had been working at the Hall of Justice. I quickly became aware of the esteem in which Ms. Cassar was held by members of her team and was struck by the diligence with which she executed her duties. She was fiercely loyal to the judge for whom she was the Executive Secretary for many years and involved herself with many other ancillary functions of the Judiciary until she retired.
During her tenure at the Judiciary, Ms. Cassar held a deep concern for the welfare of the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago. She had always wholeheartedly embraced her indigenous identity and sought to encourage others to also take pride in their heritage.
Her inauguration as Carib Queen in 2011 therefore acknowledged her many years of activism and her standing in the First Peoples’ community. I was pleased to follow her leadership as Carib Queen as she worked tirelessly to improve the unity and solidarity of the indigenous people and to secure greater recognition for their customs and traditions, such as stick-fighting.
It was perhaps her proudest moment to lead the processions last year which celebrated the one-off holiday which was awarded by the government to recognise the history and contributions of the First Peoples to Trinidad and Tobago. This holiday was testament to the hard work of Ms. Cassar and many others in bringing greater awareness of our indigenous peoples to the national community.
At a meeting with members of the indigenous community on 29th May, 2018 at the Office of the President, Ms. Cassar and I had the opportunity to reminisce on our days at the Judiciary and on the long journey to the recognition of the achievements of the First Peoples.
I join with the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago in honouring Jennifer Cassar’s extraordinary legacy and I extend my sincere condolences to her family, friends and the members of her community.