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Three Caribbean leaders, including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, left Port-of-Spain for Johannesburg, South Africa, yesterday to attend today's state memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Some 59 world leaders are expected to attend the service at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. Mandela died last Thursday and will be buried following a private funeral on Sunday.
Haiti’s President Michel Martelle, the Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie, deputy Prime Minister of St Lucia Philip J Pierre and Grenada’s deputy Prime Minister Elvin Nimrod also left on the same plane.
Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Senator Farris Al-Rawi, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Margaret Parillon, chairman of the Emancipation Support Committee Khafra Kambon and journalists Khamal Georges, Juhel Browne, Andrea de Silva and CNMG director Kevan Gibbs also travelled with the Caricom delegation.
They left on a special Caribbean Airlines charter shortly after noon yesterday, via Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the aircraft was expected to be refuelled before continuing to South Africa. The delegation is expected to arrive in South Africa at 6 am South Africa Standard Time, the service begins five hours later.
Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and the presidents of Guyana, Donald Ramotar, and Suriname, Desire Delano Bouterse, left separately, Persad-Bissessar told reporters at the diplomatic lounge at the Piarco International Airport yesterday. She said she was honoured to be at the helm of the delegation going to say farewell to Mandela. Rowley was not at the news briefing called by Persad-Bissessar. Al-Rawi was seen chatting with other members of the delegation before they departed.
Mandela Day is to be observed in T&T next year as a tribute to the former South Africa leader, who died from complications connected with a lung infection. The date for the T&T celebration of his life has not been announced as yet. The Mandela memorial service is to be attended by 59 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Cuba President Raul Castro, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta and India President Pranab Mukherjee.
There will be public viewing of Mandela's body tomorrow and Persad-Bissessar and other Caribbean leaders will be among many who will pay their last respects. The T&T national flag is to be flown at half-mast today and Wednesday on Government buildings and schools as a mark of respect for Mandela. The Prime Minister has also asked Minister of National Security Gary Griffith to ensure that the flag was flown at half-mast.
Persad-Bissessar has appointed Local Government Minister Marlene Coudray to act as Prime Minister during her absence. The delegation is expected to return home on Thursday.
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