ADRIAN COLA RIENZI
Labour leader, barrister, trade unionist and politician. His real name was Krishna Deonarine, but he changed it to Adrian Cola Rienzi, “Cola Rienzi” being the name of a 14th century Italian patriot who struggled for the rights of the peasants. Adrian Cola Rienzi joined forces with Cipriani at the outset of Cipriani’s career but broke with him and formed the Trinidad Citizens League in 1936. He was considered to be representing the Indian sugar workers, although he appeared to be just as interested in the fate of the other major ethnic group, the Africans.
When the oilfield workers rioted in 1937, Rienzi, who had a most cordial relationship with the leader of the oilfield workers, Uriah Butler (and was the legal representative of Butler’s party), showed great solidarity with Butler who went into hiding. While Butler was in hiding, Rienzi mediated between him and the government, trying to obtain a safe conduct for him which was not conceded. On July 25, 1937, in order to keep high morale and solidarity among the oil workers in the absence of Butler, he formed the Oilfield Workers Trade Union. The workers made him their President-General. During that period, he also helped to form the All-Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Trade Union and served as the President of this union.
After Butler gave himself up in September 1937 and was arrested and tried, Rienzi, as his counsel, brilliantly defended him in the court and received high commendation from the trial judge. Butler was jailed for two years and during this period and Butler’s subsequent detention on war security grounds, Rienzi made spectacular efforts to keep the Butler followers united and Butler’s image alive. Indeed, it is due largely to Rienzi that when Butler was released in 1945 he was received warmly and with great acclaim.
Earlier, in January 1938, under the banner of the trade union movement, Rienzi fought and won the seat for San Fernando at the Legislative Council elections that year. Speaking in the Legislative Council on June 16, 1939, he called for the observance of June 19, the anniversary of the Oilfield Riots, as a public holiday. He was ridiculed then, and he heard Captain Cipriani declare: “All those who have the best interests of the working classes at heart, would like to forget forever June 19, and are not asking for the making of a day for the adulation of false heroes.” (However, in 1973 the Government declared the anniversary, June 19th, as Labour Day to commemorate the oilfield riots of 1937).
Rienzi became mayor of San Fernando in November 1939 and administered the borough for three consecutive terms, until November 1942. He was a member of the franchise committee which was appointed in 1941, and strongly advocated universal adult suffrage. He was made a member of the Executive Council in 1941, but he did not have a long stay in the House. He retired from active politics in 1944 at the relatively young age of 39. So far as his legal career was concerned, he was made a Second Crown Council in 1944, First Crown Counsel in 1949, and Senior Crown Counsel in 1952. He was Assistant Attorney-General from 1953 to 1958, Acting Solicitor-General in 1959, and Acting Director of Public Prosecutions from 1959 to 1961. His last post was that of Assistant Solicitor-General in 1964. He died on July 21, 1972.
- Anthony, Michael. Historical Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago. London: The Scarecrow Press, 1977. 480 - 481.