‘He was a soldier for justice and equality’
Former police sergeant and activist Takbir Sharrieff has died at the age of 74.
The brother of Philip Perinchief, the former government minister and attorney-general, Mr Sharrieff described himself as a “child of the Sixties” whose political consciousness was forged in the civil rights struggle.
Mr Sharrieff was a supporter of the Progressive Labour Party, as well as an anti-drug crusader and a champion for Bermuda independence.
Last night, Mr Perinchief said that he and “Tak” had shared “a very close, ever-evolving political bond”.
He added: “My brother, Takbir, held strong views and values about life in general, and politics and religion in particular.
“For the most part, he lived these views and values, and did not brook any nonsense, nor suffer fools lightly or gladly. Our household during his presence, was never without rigorous debate, even pure rancour at times, and a thorough analysis of current or past events.
“Takbir was an embodiment and perennial expression of everything our parents, Florence and Earl, who were activists in the Theatre Boycott of the Fifties, instilled in all of us at an early age and expected us to pass on to our children.”
The family ethos, he said, was to “think through the rationale for which you hold a point of view, speak your truth, and be prepared to defend and/or suffer the consequences of the position you take”.
He added: “Takbir did that. He was a soldier for justice, fairness and equality for all to the end. He was, and is today, the bedrock of my political foundation and the catalyst for the ideology I hold now. Hopefully, I can reward him with bringing into being the independent Bermuda of which he and I often spoke.”
Mr Sharrieff's police tenure spanned 1963 to 1972, and retired Chief Inspector Roger Sherratt recalled him as “first-class and everybody thought the world of him”.
His police work ranged from the cycle squad to the dog section, and he was instrumental, along with Mr Sherratt and Ray Sousa, in setting up the police cycle gymkhana. Later in life, Mr Sharrieff worked as a traffic officer and airport policeman for the Transport Control Department.
Much of his career was devoted to private security. He founded Supreme Security Services in 1976 and went on to direct security at the Elbow Beach Hotel.
Mr Sharrieff was a passionate advocate for the PLP and remembered a key chapter in the party's formation in a 2003 letter to The Royal Gazette.
Mr Sharrieff said he became an early admirer of Hugh “Rio” Richardson, a founding figure for the PLP known for hosting vigorous debates at his home.
The young Mr Sharrieff, born Gary Perinchief, became a neighbour around 1954 when the Perinchief family moved to Serpentine Road in Pembroke.
Mr Sharrieff wrote: “Perhaps the strong language and stream of new faces let us know that serious business was taking place.”
He added the meetings grew “hotter and more frequent”.
But he said: “I did not realise at this time that the PLP was being born”.
Mr Sharrieff also remembered watching the Theatre Boycotts in 1959 “as vividly as if it was today”.
He took a new name after his conversion to the Muslim faith.
Mr Sharrieff first joined the Nation of Islam and developed contacts with activists in the US, including the Black Panthers.
Drug use was a factor in undermining the cause and was a major influence on Mr Sharrieff's lifelong hatred of narcotics.
Mr Sharrieff blamed American authorities for creating a drug epidemic.
He told the Mid-Ocean News in 2006: “There was a lot of revolutionary activity and they wanted to break it up.
“They got a lot of revolutionaries involved in drugs and it devastated the cities and devastated the civil rights struggle, because people stopped thinking about the struggle and started thinking about making dollars.”
Mr Sharrieff was a major force in the formation of Bermudians Against Narcotics in 2005.
The group demanded action against drug activity hotspots and pushed for mandatory drug testing to be introduced for MPs.
Mr Sharrieff moved from the Nation of Islam to the orthodox faith and helped to unite the island's Muslim community in the process.
Friend Khalid Wasi in an online tribute called Mr Sharrieff, his wife Edna and wider family a “backbone” for the island's Muslim community.
Mr Wasi said Mr Sharrieff was a “pragmatic believer”.
He added: “He was never ambivalent, I don't recall ever having to guess where he stood on a matter. He was always resolute.”
Mr Sharrieff emphasised the influence of his faith on his activism when Christians and Muslims banded together to campaign against drugs.
He said: “In the past we have been a private group of people, but now we see a need to enter the society in terms of politics and economics. We are citizens of the island and engage in many activities. I am excited about the fact that we have decided to step out as a strong and united community, as to not make a contribution would be a sin.”
Philip Perinchief called his brother “a strong, righteous, and fearless freedom fighter, a loving father, and a loyal and supportive brother who will remain with me always”.
Mr Perinchief added: “Death cannot separate us, and has merely deepened our bond.”