Among the many epitaphs and eulogies to ANR Robinson may I add my own as a fellow West Indian. It was as a West Indian that I knew him first—as a young member of the House of Assembly of the Federation of The West Indies when I was a member of the Federation’s legal department.
His commitment to the federal principle was an inspiration to all who laboured in the vineyard of regionalism. And when federalism lost to baser instincts, “ANR” was among those who never gave up his West Indian identity. Nearly 30 years later, it was he, then Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister, in a paper he submitted to Caribbean leaders meeting in Grand Anse, Grenada—a paper entitled The West Indies Beyond 1992—that recalled Caricom to its intellectual moorings.
Although I was then with the Commonwealth in London, Robinson invited my collaboration in the paper which galvanised his colleagues at Grand Anse, leading to the Grand Anse Declaration and Work Programme for the Advancement of the Integration Movement and the Resolution of the Summit on preparing the people of the West Indies for the 21st Century and establishing the West Indian Commission.
Robinson’s vision of the West Indies beyond 1992 was not to be attained by the generation of leaders who followed him; but it remains a beacon to guide them and the people of the Caribbean.
It is an example of history’s mysterious workings that I became chairman of the West Indian Commission and that the commission arrived in Tobago on that same fateful morning just as ANR left Tobago for Port of Spain and the Red House—and calamity. As the commission sat out the torrid events that followed, we never forgot how much the Caribbean owed to his leadership.
ANR Robinson’s legacies are manifold, like the International Criminal Court, but he can be honoured best by our striving in the Caribbean to fulfil the vision he had for this region in the 21st Century.
Shridath “Sonny” Ramphal