PORT -- OF - SPAIN, Trinidad -- Noor Hassanali, Trinidad and Tobago’s first president of Indian descent, died Friday after an illness of several weeks, his son said. He was 88.
The former two-term president was buried Friday in accordance with traditions of his Muslim faith, Khalid Hassanali said. He declined to elaborate on the cause of death.
Hassanali was elected in 1987 and reelected in 1992. He left office in 1997.
His two terms in the largely ceremonial office were characterized by efforts to improve the Caribbean islands’ racial relations and by consensus building among various political parties.
Forty percent of the population is black and 40% is of East Indian descent.
“He tried to bridge gaps caused by racial differences,” said Lloyd Best, a political expert in Trinidad.
Hassanali was president during an attempted coup in 1990 by a Muslim group that bombed the police headquarters, stormed Parliament and took the prime minister and his Cabinet hostage. Hassanali was in London at the time, where he remained until the government regained control after a six-day siege.
Born in San Fernando, which is now the second-largest municipality in Trinidad and Tobago, Hassanali was the sixth child in a Muslim family of seven.
An excellent soccer and cricket player in school, Hassanali emigrated to Canada and earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto in 1947. A year later, he was admitted to practice law in Trinidad and Tobago, and he did until he was named a magistrate in 1953. He later served as a judge.
Hassanali is survived by his wife, two adult children and five grandchildren.