It is with a deep sense of sadness that I received the news of the passing of one of our country’s greatest sons of the soil, former president and prime minister Arthur NR Robinson. Men of his tremendous drive, intellect and patriotism defined our country’s post-Independence history.
From his teeming ambition and brilliant mind, honed in his hometown of Castara, Tobago, grew the force of a driving dream, which in turn led to his remarkable life’s journey that has now ended.
But while we mourn as a nation and individual citizens the death of this immensely great man, we also rejoice in his life’s journey and its immortal impact across our country, region and international community. His life mirrored and was bound up with the striving of our whole people, with our hopes, dreams, progress and triumphs.
As one of the most brilliant economic and political minds of the region, he took on challenges here at home, in the Caribbean and eventually internationally, through his distinguished, pioneering work which led to the formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on matters of civil and human rights, always putting the power of the political system in the hands of the ordinary people whom it serves.
He was our country’s prime minister at a time in our history when we chose to actively overthrow the shackles of racial divisiveness that still governed us in principle, but while we struggled to hone this new idealism into a definitive system of cultural and social progression and development, he was courageous enough to insist that we did so with discipline—economic and social—and temperance, for he, more than others, saw the dangers of extremism as previously demonstrated by political predecessors and the necessity for moderation, in a country yet to find its social and economical moorings in those eventful, post-colonial years of our development.
He famously took a bullet for our country’s democracy in the face of the darkest terrorist threats of our history in 1990 and demonstrated to our people then, now and forever the true mark of patriotism, public
service and leadership.
I had the honour and privilege of knowing this great man through personal interaction as we moved in professional and social circles together, as well as tending to his wound at the St Clair Medical Centre when he took that fateful bullet for our country’s freedom, and whenever we would meet, he often gave to me, as indeed he gave to most others, his wise counsel and the benefit of his inspiring brilliance and foresight. Our country truly owes him a debt of gratitude and honour for that immortal service.
Today, as we mourn his passing and honour his life, let us all take comfort in the fact that as it is said, though he may be gone, it is the mark of a great man that he puts to flight all ordinary calculations and thus becomes at once sublime and touching, childlike and of the race of giants. And as a great man’s influence never ends, so also there is not definite finality, no end to a great survey; it runs along for centuries, ever responsive to the strain of the increasing needs of a growing population and an enlarging domain, for as it is said, when a great man dies, for years, the light he leaves behind him lies on the paths of men.
May the family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and followers of the great Arthur NR Robinson find strength and comfort in the arms of the Almighty at this tragic time, and may his great soul rest in eternal peace.
Dr Tim Gopeesingh
Minister of Education