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Arthur NR Robinson, former President and Prime Minister, passes

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
In this 1987 photo from Guardian’s archives, then prime minister ANR Robinson shakes hands with Basdeo Panday who was a member of his NAR Cabinet.

Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson has died, aged 87.


Robinson was Prime Minister and President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and was one of the most experienced parliamentarians in the Caribbean region.


He served as President of the Republic from 1997 to 2003. During that tenure, he was called upon to decide which political party would form the government after the election results produced a deadlock of 18 seats for the two main political parties.


He was a founder of the National Alliance for Reconstruction of Trinidad and Tobago, which he led to victory in the elections of 1986 when he became Prime Minister until December 1991.  As Prime Minister, Robinson was responsible for the economic and financial measures that brought economic improvement to his country after a seven-year period of progressive decline. 


During the 1990 coup d'état attempt by the Jamaat al Muslimeen the Prime Minister Robinson and much of his Cabinet were held hostage for six days by gunmen under the leadership of Yasin Abu Bakr. When instructed to order the army to stop firing on the Red House (the seat of Parliament where they were held hostage) Robinson instead instructed them to "Attack with full force", an action that earned him a severe beating from his captors. He was also shot in his leg.


He was also responsible for several Caribbean initiatives, including the Caribbean Regional Economic Conference, the proposed Caribbean Court of Appeal and the West Indian Commission chaired by Sir Shridath Ramplal, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. He has represented Trinidad and Tobago at many international conferences and at the United Nations where he has been acknowledged as a leading proponent of an International Criminal Jurisdiction.


From 1976-1986 he led the struggle for decentralization and devolution of authority to Tobago. He was the first Chairman of the (restored) Tobago House of Assembly and was a representative of the constituency of Tobago East in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.


As Minister of Finance from 1961-1967, Robinson was responsible for the restructuring of the country's financial institutions and the reform of financial and monetary policy on the achievement of independence by Trinidad and Tobago. 


Robinson was the holder of two international awards: The Distinguished International Criminal Law Award of 1977 and the Distinguished Human Development Award of 1983.


Robinson attended the Castara Methodist School where his father, James A. Robinson was headmaster. From there he was the first Bowles Scholar to Bishop's High School, Tobago, in 1939, and later the first House Scholarship winner from Bishop's High School in 1942. As a candidate for island scholarship from Bishop's High School in 1944 and 1945, he obtained the Higher School Certificate in both years with Distinction in Latin.


Continuing his studies in Tobago, Robinson gained admission to the Bachelor of Laws Degree of London University as an external student in 1949. In 1951, he left for the United Kingdom where he gained admission to the Inner Temple and passed the bar final examinations in 1953. That same year he was admitted to St. John's College, Oxford, where he obtained a Second Class Honours Degree in two years in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.


He was admitted to practice as a Barrister-at-Law in Trinidad and Tobago in 1955 and was in the Chambers of Sir Courtney Hannays from 1957 to 1961. He was elected to the Federal Parliament in 1958 and to the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament as representative for Tobago in 1961.


Robinson was a representative of Trinidad and Tobago on the Council of the University of the West Indies and a director of Trinidad and Tobago's Industrial Development Corporation. He served as the first Minister of Finance of this country after Independence and later as Minister of External Affairs. He was a consultant to the United Nations Secretary-General on crime and the abuse of power.


Robinson was a director of the Foundation for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court for over 15 years.



Robinson was a Master of Arts of St. John's College, Oxford, in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Bachelor of Laws of London University, Barrister-at-Law of the Inner Temple, London and Senior Counsel. He held an Honorary Degree of Civil Laws from the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria. He was an Honorary Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, and was a visiting scholar to the Harvard Law School.


In 1987, Robinson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honour from California Lutheran University. On a state visit to Nigeria in 1991 he was made Chief of Ile Ife by the Ooni of Ife.


Robinson was also awarded a Knighthood of Honour and of Merit by an Ecumenical Foundation of the Knights of St. Johns for "exceptional achievements and unselfish support of humanity." He was a Freeman of the cities of Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks and held Venezuela's highest award - the Simon Bolivar Award.


In November 1993, he was co-opted as Vice-Chair of the International Council of the United Nations affiliated body "Parliamentarians for Global Action" which has a membership of over 900 Parliamentarians from 75 countries around the world.


He was the author of The New Frontier and the New Africa, and The Mechanics of Independence, the latter published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, USA. 
He co-authored the article on Trinidad and Tobago in the Encyclopedia Britannica and has published numerous articles and addresses.



Sources: Wikipedia, Trinidad and Tobago Parliament website


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