Nation Builders -Trinidad

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    President Noor Hassanali

    Former President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Noor Hassanali was born on 13th August 1918, the sixth in a Muslim family of seven.

    He acquired his secondary school education at Naparima College, and upon receiving his Higher School Certificate, he taught at his alma mater from 1938 to 1943. Between 1943 and 1947 he attended the University of Toronto, where he was a member of the Canadian Officers Training Corps in Army Service.

    He was called to the English Bar as a member of Gray's Inns of Court in June 1948, and was admitted to practice in Trinidad and Tobago in August 1948. He then entered into private practice as a barrister-at-law. In 1953 he was appointed as a magistrate (West Districts) in Victoria, Tobago, St. Patrick, Caroni and St. George, and in 1960 he was made senior magistrate. In addition, in 1960, he was made Senior Crown Counsel in the Attornery General's Chambers. In 1965 he was appointed Assistant Solicitor General, while in 1966, he was made a judge in the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago. In 1978, he was appointed Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago - a post he held until he retired.

    Mr. Hassanali was also the Master of the Moots at the Hugh Wooding Law School from 1985 to 1987. He served on a number of statutory boards, including the Judicial and Legal Service Commission 1985-1987, and the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Commissions Board 1985-1987. Justice Hassanali was elected President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on 19th March 1987, and as such became the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He served two terms.

    Mr. Hassanali was the recipient of several honours: Bronze "T" Athletic Award of the University of Toronto, 1947; Certificate of Honour from San Fernando Borough Council for contribution to football at Skinner Park; Honorary Bencher, Gray's Inn, Inns of Court; Council of Legal Education, London; Hon. Causa LL.D. University of the West Indies, 1989; Member, Chancellor's Council, Victoria College, University of Toronto, 1989-1991; Hon. Causa LL.D. University of Toronto, 1990; Trinity Cross (T.C.)

    Sheik Mohammed Jaleel

    In the early days, when goods were still transported by horse and cart, a young man with a purpose and determination decided to make his vision a reality. He worked his way up the ladder from a mere factory worker to become the pioneer of the soft drink industry in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the year 1924 and the man was Sheik Mohammed Jaleel.

    Today, 84 years later, his grandsons, Mr. Jinnah, Mr. Hassan Mohammed and Dr Aleem Mohammed, the chairman, are the directors of what has become the leading soft drink company in Trinidad and Tobago.

    Initially the soft drink factory started off from premises at the Corner of Keate and Murcurapo Streets, San Fernando.

    Sheik Mohammed Jaleel started as an employee in this factory. His hard work eventually made it possible for him to purchase the business from its owners.

    The factory was then moved to under Mohammed's home at 7 Prince Alfred Street (now Murcurapo Street), San Fernando. Its first product was called "Jaleel Beverages".

    Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, around 1939, the company produced its first soft drink, which was named "Wonder Beverage".

    It was around that time too that Joe Louis, the then internationally acclaimed World heavyweight boxer, was brought to Trinidad by S M Jaleel. The famous "Joe Louis Punch" was named after him. The brand "Red Spot' was added in 1950 and "Dixi Cola" in 1968.

    In those days, the production of soft drinks was a manual but very innovative operation.

    A dosage of syrup was put into each bottle, which was then filled with carbonated water and sealed with a marble.

    The plant then produced about 90 cases per hour. These were the days when sweet drinks were sold for 24¢ per case.

    In 1950, after the end of the Second World War, S M Jaleel purchased an automated line with rinsers, conveyors, carbonator and a 20-head CEM Crown Cork and Seal Filler. At this time, the fleet of distribution trucks were ten in number.

    It was already becoming clear that this company would play a leading role in the business world, for in September 1959, it expanded its operations to Grenada by establishing a soft drink plant headed by one of the sons of Mr. S M Jaleel, Mr. Zaid Jaleel.

    Man has often had to conform to society in his quest for success. But there have been times when such transformations have shaped his destiny with remarkable results.

    So it was in the life of Joseph Charles, a self-made entrepreneur who rose from being a simple and poor yard-boy at St Clair, to a magnificent businessman and industrialist, who, without a formal education, developed one of the major soft drink enterprises in Trinidad and Tobago.

    His is a story of fortitude, faith and the burning desire to improve life’s declining status when he was quite a young boy. His subsequent skill in business practice, more so for one with no proper schooling, was astonishing to say the least.

    Here was a teenager who knew nothing of trade and economics, laying the path to a successful business through hard work, unique ideas and above all, a mind sharpened on ambition and courage.

    Charles fought his way through a tough and challenging period in Trinidad and Tobago when colour and class were facets that determined one’s progress. He discovered that one of East Indian decent did not enjoy the same privilege as others in the higher economic echelons of the community.

    In the first place he was born on July 29, 1910 at Moruga to a Punjab immigrant father and Martiniquan mother named Rosalin Jamaria. He was given the name Serjad Makmadeen. This was the prelude to his subsequent hardship in his early years.

    Serjad was the last child of eight children, he being one of two boys in the family. They moved to Princes Town and then to north Trinidad, eventually residing in St James.

    The captain of a ship, living at Ellerslie Park, gave young Serjad a job as a yard-boy when he was just 10 years old and forced to leave school because of poverty in the family. His young life was then filled with work and little hope of any progress.

    But he survived because of his determination to succeed in whatever he did and to live with honesty and sacrifice. He suffered through his teen years, at one time having to pick a loaf of bread off the ground at the railway station, wash it and eat it for lunch. It was as bad as that.

    But the young man rallied on and at 13 left the residence of the captain and took a job at M I Bakery on Charlotte Street. He learned the trade and then became a salesman, riding a bicycle and developing a sales technique of giving customers who bought more then 12 loaves of bread, an extra loaf which he paid for from his own pocket.

    Kamaluddin Mohammed

    Kamaluddin Mohammed is being honoured Saturday (May 10,2008) by the Trinidad and Tobago chapter of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) for his contribution to the nation and to the advancement of culture over six decades. Jai Parasram interviewed Kamal last year for a magazine article and wrote this tribute to "Charch".

    It takes commitment and dedication to be up at four in the morning. And it says a lot about a man who, at 81, does it in order to follow a religious discipline he learned as a boy. The man is Kamaluddin Mohammed.

    "It’s a part of my life," he says, explaining that he wakes before dawn to say Namaz, a routine that enriches his life and prepares him to face the day. "We need faith in our lives," he told me. "Too many people are so busy they forget to make room for God. That’s why our society is in its current state of dismay."

    Kamal’s obligation to duty has characterized both his public and private life. He has met kings and commoners and mingled with the world’s most powerful men and women. At home he helped define our society and mould and shape our national institutions. Yet he remains, as always, a simple, humble man who lives in the community that nurtured him and spends much of his time these days "attending to family matters."

    "When I am finished with my prayers I have time to tend to the plants and read the papers. Then I attend to chores, mostly social and religious," he said.

    It’s interesting that that’s his focus today. It’s as if he has come full circle because it was Kamal’s religious and social activities that propelled him to prominence and made him a household name in Trinidad and Tobago. His success, he says, is due to hard work, and a passion and dedication to every project he tackles.

    Haji Ruknuddeen Sahib was bom in 1865 in Punjab, India to his parents Elahee and Ameena.  He went through spiritual initiation and training as a discplined member of the Chistie Tariqa (Spiritual Order).  He was educated in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, and Farsi languages as well as he acquired a deep knowledge of Theology.  Due to this education and training and being one of the few men of learning amongst the indentured labourers, Haji Ruknuddeen emerged to lead the Muslims of Trinidad for over fifty years. 

    He arrived in Trinidad in November 1897 on board the ‘S.S MOY' and was first assigned to the La Plaisance Estate in La Romain. It soon became evident to those who brought him that he was indeed a Muslim missionary as his Sufi upbringing propelled him to start Maktabs where classes were organized to read and write Arabic and Urdu. It was only because of economic factors that he was not repatriated.

    He later married the daughter of Imam Imdad Hosein of Victoria Village and moved to Tunapuna be resided until his death. At his home in Tunapuna Ruknuddeen Meah set up classes teaching Arabic and religious education and a book shop to meet the local demands for Islamic literature. He then commenced to set up Maktabs across the country and targeted the youths, while doing so at his own expense.

    In 1924 he performed Hajj and in 1928 he succeeded Sayad Abdul Aziz as Kazi (Judge). In 1932 following a meeting of Muslims at Chaguanas Haji Ruknuddeen founded the ASJA which became an incorporated body in 1935 with Syed Mohammed Hosein as First President General. In 1947 he was elected Sheik ul Islam because of his vast knowledge of Islam and his fluency of Arabic and Urdu as well as Hindi which enabled him together with his Sufi background to advise the Muslim community on Islamic matters as well as to other communities and groups who frequented his home seeking his assistance, counseling and solutions to problems.

    Together with Hafiz Nasiruddin Sahib and Haji Aziz Mohammed (interpreter) the Qazi laid the foundation for the development of the Muslim Community of Tunapuna which to this day continues to be served by those who have benefited from his vast knowledge of Islam. Throughout his life he traveled throughout the country and was respected and admired by all sectors of the community. One of his last public acts was to lay the foundation stone for the rebuilding of the Tunapuna Masjid in March of 1960 and to formally open the Masjid on completion.

    Corner Stone at Tunapuna Masjid

    He died at the age of 98 and such was the respect shown to him that Parliament passed a note of condolence to his family saying: "He was something unique, he left a memory of service to all." His grandson, Bro Abraham Mohammed of New York continues year after year to commemorate his grand father's passing in his hometown Tunapuna.

    Throughout his life in Trinidad, Haji Ruknuddeen was highly respected and in death he was honoured with a funeral cortege numbering in the thousands when his funeral service was conducted at his home on Youmul Juma'ah (Friday) 12th July 1963.
    May Allah bless his soul

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