Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Politics blamed for small crowd at Memorial Park
Politics was identified as a major reason why large crowds did not turn up for the Trinidad leg of the funeral of Arthur NR Robinson. The reason was given by a handful of mostly senior citizens who occupied a few of the chairs arranged for a large crowd under a huge tent in front a big screen in Memorial Park, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. The screen was erected to televise live the funeral at the National Academy for the Performing Arts opposite. Althea Lyder, a Tobagonian, who has been living in Trinidad since Hurricane Flora devastated the island in 1963, said she always looked up to Robinson as a leader but was disappointed at the small showing of Trinidadians at Memorial Park.
Aside from schoolchildren, who made up the hundreds, only a smattering of adults turned up at the park. “I think it will be different in Tobago. People in Trinidad not showing support. There were long lines for Ellis (deceased president Sir Ellis Clarke),” Lyder said. “I think people in Trinidad didn’t appreciate how he took away the COLA,” she said, referring to the Cost of Living Allowance that the Robinson-led National Alliance for Reconstruction took away as part of austerity measures during the economic recession of the 1980s. Kenneth Payne, 69, who said he endorsed the National Alliance for Reconstruction, which Jamaat al Muslimeen insurgents sought to overthrow in July 1990, came from Tunapuna to watch the service on the big screen.
“Politics, plain and simple,” he said, answering why there wasn’t a bigger crowd there. “People didn’t come because they didn’t want to be associated with this. But you will never get a political leader like Robinson,” he added.
Zora Rahamut, of Chaguanas, wearing a huge hat, also said: “I think people didn’t come for political reasons.” Leatrice Burke, 61, a Vincentian living in Trinidad, came to the service because when they were sending Vincentians back home, Robinson made provisions for them to get citizenship, she said. “Thanks to him, me and my whole family are citizens of Trinidad,” Burke, of Laventille, said. She felt the fact that Robinson’s body was kept inside a covered casket kept people away. “Plenty people were talking about this around town,” she added. A 61-year-old man wearing a red, white and black knitted cap and a grey suit, identified himself as “The Risk Factor.” He said he was called that because he was willing to take any risk for Jesus Christ.
Only after some pleading did he give his real name, Kenneth MacDonald, and said he had worked as a clerk/driver for one of Robinson’s ministers.
He said Robinson almost gave his life for this country and Jesus actually did. MacDonald pulled out several hats from a bag and showed them to the T&T Guardian, saying he wore them for different occasions. “Right now, I representing the country,” he explained. Alban David, of Chaguanas, dressed in a gaily-coloured shirt and a straw hat, said if the Government had sent buses for people they would have come.“But they forget the community. They make it look like a big-boy thing.”
Robinson’s body was flown to Tobago yesterday evening and will lie in state at the Tobago House of Assembly Legislative Chamber today. A second funeral service, hosted by the State, will be held at the Dwight Yorke Stadium tomorrow. In the evening, there will be a final procession from Shaw Park to the Methodist Church Cemetery, Bacolet, where the Tobago-born Robinson will be buried.