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Raving tributes as Robinson passes on
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says a full state funeral is to be held for former president and prime minister Arthur NR Robinson who died yesterday after ailing for months. Persad-Bissessar made the disclosure following a 45-minute visit to Robinson’s Ellerslie Park, Maraval, home yesterday, where she met with his daughter Ann Margaret Robinson and his granddaughter Anushka.
Robinson, 87, who was this country’s third prime minister and president, passed away at St Clair Medical Centre at 6 am. He was taken there one month ago and died from kidney failure. Persad-Bissessar could not give the date of the funeral but indicated that it would be in Tobago as it was Robinson’s wish to be buried in the island of his birth. “Those dates have not been worked out because Mr Robinson’s wish was to be buried in Tobago and the Jazz Festival is coming up so we will factor that in when we meet,” she added.
The Prime Minister said she would remember Robinson for his courage and his call to the army to “attack with full force” against the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen insurgents, when he and other Cabinet ministers were held hostage during a six-day siege at the Parliament building in July 1990. She said the nation should be inspired by his courage, grit, brilliance, family life and his determination. “Attack with full force we must never forget,” she said.
Big funeral plans
She said a state funeral will also be held in Trinidad so that the entire country could get a chance to pay their final respect to a man considered a giant of public life and service to the society. “We do plan to have a full state funeral with all the honours befitting a great man like Mr Robinson,” Persad-Bissessar told reporters outside Robinson’s house. She said a team, including the Foreign Affairs and National Security Ministers, was set up to plan the funeral arrangements.
Flags were ordered flown at half-mast hours after his death was announced yesterday. Among those who visited the family yesterday with the PM were National Security Minister Gary Griffith and Vice-Chief of Defence Staff Anthony Phillip Spencer, who both served as aide-de-camp to Robinson. Persad-Bissessar, who said Robinson was her personal mentor, added he was also “a hero, icon and great son of our soil.”
Plans are being finalised for Robinson’s body to lie in state, possibly at the Parliament Building, Port-of-Spain, and at a venue in Tobago, she said. Several Caribbean leaders and international dignitaries are expected to attend his funeral.
The PM said Ann-Margaret and Anushka were in grief but they detailed during her visit yesterday some of the special moments and experiences they shared with him. Robinson’s daughter and grand-daughter, Anushka, were said to be composed yesterday as they mourned his passing and Robinson’s former international relations officer and legal adviser, Debra Coryat-Patton, is providing support in their time of need.
The PM said she assured them of all the necessary support from the Government during the period of mourning and subsequently. Robinson was the only citizen to hold the office of chairman of the Tobago House of Assembly, prime minister and president. Robinson was ailing for several years but on March 8 he was taken to St Clair Medical Centre complaining of feeling unwell. He was treated for a kidney aliment but succumb yesterday after complications several hours before.
During the 44th session of the UN General Assembly in 1989, Robinson proposed the creation of a International Criminal Court (ICC) to address trans-national crimes. The International Criminal Court was inaugurated in 2002 to hear cases of crimes against humanity.
Robinson, an attorney, was awarded the country’s highest award, then the Trinity Cross, the Caribbean Community’s highest award, the Order of the Caribbean Community, and the Tobago Medal of Honour, the island’s highest honour. Former president George Maxwell Richards said the world owed Robinson a debt of gratitude. “He was a good man who served with integrity and commitment. His legacy will live on,” Richards said. He said Robinson displayed compassion and spoke glowingly of his pursuit to establish the ICC.
“We have lost a fine individual and my heart goes out to his family and loved ones,” Richards added. Leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley, said Robinson, who was a founding member of the PNM, served the nation with distinction and did so during the country’s darkest hours during the 1990 attempted coup.
ICC president Sang-Hyun Song, in a statement on the internet yesterday, said: “It is with great sorrow that I learned of the passing of former President Robinson. He will be remembered by many as the ‘grandfather’ of the International Criminal Court.” Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr, who led that coup attempt, said Robinson had achieved a lot academically but as a politician he did nothing for the country.
He said he would tell his side of the 1990 attempted coup soon and his decision to speak out had nothing to do with Robinson’s passing.