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21-gun salute for Robbie in Tobago
Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Orville London yesterday called for Tobago to be given full autonomy as a fitting and lasting tribute to former president, prime minister and chairman of the THA Arthur NR Robinson, who died from kidney failure at St Clair Medical Centre, Port-of-Spain, on April 9. He was 87.
London said this during a state funeral for Robinson at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet, Tobago. The first state funeral was held at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (Napa), Port-of-Spain, on Thursday.
Yesterday’s funeral service was not without incident. Shortly after the casket was brought on the stage, the national flag draping it fell off, causing the audience to gasp in surprise. One of the soldiers who had brought the casket on stage had to rush to rectify the problem. Moments later, it slipped off for a second time, as there was a strong breeze blowing across the stadium. The flag was again secured around the casket, allowing the service to begin.
Among those present were President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Chief Secretary Orville London, cabinet ministers and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley. Robinson’s children Ann Margaret, granddaughter Anushka and nephew Ellis were also present. Allen Granville honoured Robinson’s national contributions in song; the audience sang along with him, clapped and even gave him a standing ovation.
London said Robinson’s vision was for autonomy for Tobago: “He has died with his Tobago vision unfulfilled.” London said: “...We must take the responsibility to ensure that Robinson’s vision of an autonomous Tobago in an equitable, dignified, and mutually beneficial relationship with Trinidad, in a strong, united, democratic state, is realised.” He also urged leaders to “strive to emulate (Robinson’s) courage, fortitude, character and refusal to compromise on principle.”
Persad-Bissessar paid glowing tribute to Robinson, saying he was willing to lose his life in defence of the nation during the 1990 attempted coup by the Jamaat al Muslimeen, when he ordered the army to attack with full force during the hostage crisis at the Parliament building. Robinson was a true citizen of this country and a true Caribbean man, she said. She said he must be remembered as “a caring father, a resolute leader, a loving son, a devoted husband, and a loyal friend.”
The Signal Hill Alumni Choir, Bishop’s High School Choir and Roxborough Community Chorale all sang songs. Rowley said Robinson was a good example of morality in public affairs. He said the late president recognised the importance of spiritual knowledge and urged everyone to emulate the high standards set by Robinson. Rev Joseph Hepburn of the Methodist Church gave the homily. He said Robinson did not embrace the idea of power, but believed in the power of ideas.
Following the three-hour service, there was a private service at the Scarborough Methodist Church. Robinson was later buried at the church cemetery, with a 21-gun salute.