The death of Fidel Castro has revealed the anti-democratic mindset of many leading citizens of T&T and the Caribbean.
There are few people in the history of Trinidad and Tobago more worthy of the supreme honour of having an airport named after them, while they are living, than Arthur NR Robinson. Mr Robinson’s resume is as long as it is impressive, being one of the few people in the post-colonial era, in countries that use the Westminster tradition, to serve as both the head of government and the head of state. As the country’s Prime Minister, Mr Robinson inherited an economy that was forced to adjust to some of the excesses of the seventies, which involved many people having to swallow the bitter medicine prescribed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
As the third President of T&T, Mr Robinson served from March 1997 to March 2003, which included the period following the 18-18 tied general election and the still controversial decision by then President Robinson to hand political power over to Patrick Manning. Mr Robinson also played a significant role on the international stage as has been recognised for his proposal that eventually led to the founding of the International Criminal Court. What is significant about this week’s honouring of Mr Robinson is that the idea was put forward by a Tobago House of Assembly that is under the control of the opposition People’s National Movement, from which he broke away over 40 years ago.
And the idea to name the Crown Point International Airport after Mr Robinson was accepted by the Cabinet which comprises ministers, including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who would have formed the government in 2001 when President Robinson decided to take the reins of government away from Basdeo Panday’s United National Congress. It may be a sign of our developing maturity that our politicians can put the cuts and wounds of the recent history aside and focus on paying tribute to one of the country’s great men.
As Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner said at Thursday’s function: “Far too often we wait until people die and after they die we say so many nice things, so we have chosen to do differently and this is why we are here today with Mr Robinson and I want to thank the THA who was the brainchild of this idea of naming the airport after Mr Robinson and I will like to thank the Prime Minister for having her Government implement the idea of the THA.”
The naming of international airports after great leaders has become a modern way of countries honouring their leaders. When most people fly into New York, they arrive at John F Kennedy International Airport, named after the slain United States President from the 1960s. When most people from this country fly into Canada, they generally use the Toronto Pearson International Airport, which is named after the ground-breaking Canadian Prime Minister from the sixties, Lester B Pearson. The main airport in Washington DC is named after late US President Ronald Reagan and the one in Paris is named after President Charles de Gaulle. The tradition of naming airports after national leaders is one that has been adopted in the region with airports in Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, St Vincent, St Kitts and Guyana being named after the chief ministers or significant politicians in those countries.
This just leaves the issue of the renaming of Piarco International Airport. Surely, in the year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s first Prime Minister and the founder of modern T&T, there would be no more appropriate and fitting tribute than to rename the international airport at Piarco after Eric Eustace Williams.