President Anthony Carmona commiserated twice yesterday with grieving children David and Ann Margaret Robinson, as well as Anuskha, granddaughter of the late former president and prime minister Arthur NR Robinson.
Accompanied by his wife Reema and son Christian, Carmona was the first prominent citizen to arrive to pay his respects to the Robinson family.
The body, which was placed in a closed casket and draped in the national flag colours of red, white and black, lay in state at the Parliament Building of the International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain.
Robinson, 87, died on April 9 at the St Clair Medical Centre.
Today, Robinson’s body will again lie in state at the Waterfront Complex from 6 a.m. to 5.45 p.m.
In the background, at the left entrance of the foyer, hung the National Coat of Arms. On the right, red, white and black drapes tied in with the patriotic theme.
In a display of compassion, Carmona made his way to Robinson’s relatives and greeted them. He shook their hands and extended words of condolences.
Then, Carmona moved to the antique desk and wrote a fairly lengthy message in the condolence book.
Carmona’s words in the condolence book were: “An international jurist of great influence who in his wisdom well placed, decided impunity must find no place in the international arena and became the grandfather of the International Court (ICC). He placed the Republic on the world map by his vision. A soldier and a gentleman. An inspiration to all citizens that the rule of the law is supreme and must be protected at all times.”
Reema Carmona also wrote and signed the book.
Before Carmona exited, he again approached the Robinsons and spoke to them. Reema Carmona followed. She, too, spoke to the Robinsons for a second time.
Carmona was joined by dignitaries including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her Cabinet, former president George Maxwell Richards and his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, House Speaker Wade Mark and Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith.
They were also joined by citizens from all walks of life including school children from Nelson Street Boys who had come to pay their respects.
When Robinson died on April 9, Carmona had also met and prayed with the family at St Clair Medical Centre. Before departing, he greeted Mark and Hamel-Smith.
Mourners who filed past the casket included senior military personnel including Major General Kenrick Maharaj, Lt Com Kirk Jean-Baptiste, Brigadier Anthony Phillips-Spencer and Warrant Officer Winston Browne. Former head of the Inter Religious Organisation, Brother Noble Khan, also paid his respects.
Despite the smooth flow of events, there were a few diplomatic lapses. The national flag which draped Robinson’s casket was placed on the wrong side. National Security Minister Gary Griffith noted the error.
Media personnel were asked to leave the room for three minutes for a changing of the guard during which it was corrected. The flag was turned around. It was marked by a ceremonial sword ceremony.
Community Development Minister Winston “Gypsy” Peters arrived before Persad-Bissessar and paid his respects. He made his way past the casket. Both he and Wendell Eversley, Congress of the People (COP) secretary for election and voters’ registration, were prevented from signing it at that time.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley also paid his respects. He faced a similar experience when La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey arrived before Rowley.
He paid his respects, signed the condolence book and left.