ALBERT MARIA GOMES
Emerging from a middle class background, Albert Gomes always identified himself as a member of his community, Belmont, even though the community comprised mostly poor black folks and his status group tended to avoid the lower class. Born on March 26, 1911, Albert Gomes became a City Councilor and Legislator who fought for social and political justice for the people of Trinidad.
A supporter of the literary and visual arts, in 1931 he founded a magazine “The Beacon” which provided a forum for well known figures such as C.L.R. James and which led to the recognition of excellent literary works in later years from writers such as Earl Lovelace, Merle Hodge and many others from Trinidad and Tobago. He was also a supporter of painters, steel pan and the calypso art form. In addition, he fought against the ban on the religion of the Shouters through the use of his pen and aggressive oratory.
After the labour riots of 1937 which had been organized by Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, Gomes wanted to help the people fight for equal rights against the Colonial society. In 1938 he sought and won a seat on the City Council in Port-of-Spain. This was the beginning of his political life and his popularity so increased that he was voted for three (3) consecutive terms by the people of the South-Eastern Ward.
In 1941, Gomes was appointed to a Committee to study whether the citizens of Trinidad were equipped for autonomous rule. A few persons on the committee did not believe that the people were ready with the exception of Gomes who believed otherwise. However when a vote was taken, the majority of the Committee supported the call for autonomy and this opened the way to independence for Trinidad and Tobago which began with the first ever Adult Franchise elections in 1946 for every citizen over the age of 21.
In 1944, he crossed over to the North-Eastern Ward and became known as one of the most unrestrained and dynamic members of the City Council. He was determined to work for the people and if he had to use his booming voice to get his point across and ensure democracy, he was willing to do so. His many clashes and outbursts at the City Council meetings were always related to the welfare of the workers.
By 1945 Albert Gomes won Cipriani’s seat on the Legislative Council after a by-election was held due to the death of Captain Cipriani. A great believer in the coming together of the British Caribbean islands, he supported the idea of a Federation. In August 1947, a conference was held among the West Indian leaders and it was agreed in principle to form a Federation of the West Indies, but his commitment to working on the Federation lapsed due to constitutional reform and the upcoming General Elections in Trinidad and Tobago. In 1950, under the new constitution he was re-elected to the Executive Council and was appointed the Minister of Labour, Industry and Commerce.
Due to his popularity with the people, Gomes expected his party to win the General Elections in 1955 but this was postponed to 1956. This was to prove very detrimental to his party as a young Trinidadian by the name of Eric Williams leading the People’s National Movement came out victorious in this election. This defeat came near to ending his political career yet Gomes felt he needed to participate in the Federal Elections of 1958 since he was the initiator of the idea of the Federation. He joined the Democratic Labour Party of the West Indies and won the St. George East seat, which he triumphantly acknowledged to the party in power. However in 1961, the Federal Government broke up and this brought an end to his political life.
In February 1962, he left Trinidad to reside in England and passed away in that country in January 1978.