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David Coore — nation builder

Elder statesman, framer of Jamaican Constitution eulogised as mentor and role model

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 04, 2011    

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THE man whose brilliant legal mind contributed to the crafting of the Jamaican Constitution 50 years ago, the late David Hilton Coore, was extolled in both the spoken word and in song yesterday for his unforgettable contribution to nation-building.

Former prime minister and friend of the deceased, PJ Patterson, was among mourners who took part in the official funeral for the former deputy prime minister and lauded Coore as a scholar, economist, legislator, banker, diplomat, politician, raconteur and a good family man.

"David Coore was for me a mentor and role model," Patterson said. "Blessed with one of the very finest legal minds in the practice of the common law, gifted with a sense of pragmatic idealism born out of the Jamaican experience, one could always be assured of benefitting from his well-reasoned analysis, his sound judgement and his willingness to share a rich store of knowledge with others," he said.

A decided sense of loss pervaded the Holy Trinity Cathedral on George Headley Drive in downtown Kingston as mourners reflected on the former prime minister's description of how Coore, being lead Counsel at Patterson's first appearance in court in 1963 — a case brought against a seaman on a banana vessel for the death of a shipmate — mesmerised the jury as he dismantled the prosecution's case despite the strong evidence put forward.

"He was not given to spellbinding oratory, nor theatrical histrionics," Patterson said.

"He was seldom flamboyant, but he was always penetrative. His arguments were concise, founded always on reliable evidence and his mastery of the storehouse of judicial precedents. He could lure the unsuspecting witness by setting the trap from which there could be no escape."

Patterson said when Coore left Jamaica in April last year, he was deeply disappointed that he had not completed the initiatives for the Constitutional Reform which had been ongoing since the 1990's.

"He was deeply troubled that Jamaica did not complete the process of acceding fully to jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice. He had expected that by now, and before our 50th year, that we would have severed ourselves from the monarchy and become a Republic within the Commonwealth, with our own indigenous president as head of State."

With the funereal urn bearing Coore's remains nestled in its black velvet sleeve standing on a table at the rear entrance to the large church, the congregants were also reminded of the witticisms of the man who passed away on November 14 at his Dominican Republic home, where he had resided for the past year with his wife, Maria.

Opposition Leader Portia Simpson-Miller spoke with pride of the man who she said served the People's National Party with purpose. Declaring him to have been a man who enjoyed the cut and thrust of vigorous parliamentary exchange and debates, a man whose intellect shone whenever he delivered Jamaica's policy addresses to the United Nations in New York, as he did on numerous occasions as minister of foreign affairs under the PNP administration. Simpson Miller declared that Coore was one who would always put Jamaica's interests first.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kenneth Baugh paid tribute on behalf of the prime minister, who is overseas, while scripture lessons were read by former prime minister Edward Seaga and President of the Senate, Oswald Harding.

Members of the Force, lead by Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, were out in their numbers, inside the church and scattered around the churchyard and beyond.

In first speaking directly to Coore's widow Maria, Rev Monsignor Michael Lewis in his homily, not only told the grieving widow to focus on the type of person her husband was — one who was willing to give his best to his country — but thanked her for caring tirelessly for Coore during his illness.

"Thank God for the gift of a man who gave his time to family, country and friends, but now its time to give him back to the Lord...In the core of David there was God. And at the core of all of us there should be God," Monsignor Lewis said. "David lived his life in such a manner that he was able to give a good report of service and love."

He challenged the congregation to let this be their report at the end of the day.

Coore's son, Stephen 'Cat' Coore, of reggae group, Third World, fame along with the deceased diplomat's granddaughter, Rita Widener partnered with entertainer AJ Brown to deliver a thrilling musical tribute. Other tributes came from The National Chorale of Jamaica and two of Coore's other sons, Michael and Ivan.

Coore was born in Anchovy, St James and acquired his secondary education at Jamaica College in Kingston.

He studied economics at McGill University in the US, then law at Oxford University and at Middle Temple in London. He was admitted to the Jamaican Bar in 1951.

Over the years, Coore earned himself the reputation as one of Jamaica's most brilliant attorneys, noted for his peerless articulation and acuity of mind.

In 1959 he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council, and in 1961 became a member of the team that had the tricky and arduous task of drafting the Jamaica Constitution.

Coore served in the executive organs of the People's National Party, rising to the post of chairman. He was member of parliament for St Andrew West Central from 1967 to 1976, and St Andrew West from 1976 to 1978.

He served as minister of finance and deputy prime minister from 1972 until 1978 when he resigned to take up a post with the Inter-American Development Bank as its representative in the Dominican Republic and Barbados until 1986.

In 1989 he took up office as minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade while also serving as minister of legal affairs and attorney general.

Coore died from complications relating to pneumonia.

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