Friday, December 15, 2017

Eternal flame to burn in his honour


GETTING IT RIGHT: Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard public relations officer Lt Commander Kirk Jean-Baptiste briefs the media on arrangements for the funeral service of former president and prime minister ANR Robinson at Knowsley, Port of Spain yesterday. Robinson’s body will lie in state today and tomorrow at Tower D, International Waterfont Centre, Port of Spain. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

Mark Fraser

President Anthony Carmona will be the first person to pay his respects to the body of former prime minister and president Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson at 8 a.m. today.

As the most senior State official, Carmona will be the first dignitary to pay his respects to Robinson, who died on April 9 at the age of 87.

There will be a window of time—between 8 a.m. up until 10 a.m.—for State mourners (the Prime Minister, Chief Justice, etc), and chief civilian mourners (such as persons in the table of protocol and members of the diplomatic community who would also be accommodated during that period.

Robinson’s body will be lying on the seaside of Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, where the Parliament is currently housed.

It will lie in state there from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. today and tomorrow.

But before Robinson’s body is placed there, it will today be carried as part of a military procession from the funeral home, Clarke and Battoo, on Tragarete Road.

Along the way, the eternal flame, which stands atop the marble cenotaph outside the Red House in Port of Spain, will be burning brightly.

The eternal flame, “symbolising the need to be ever-vigilant in the protection of our democracy”, was added to the Red House, which suffered tremendous damage during the 1990 coup attempt, when armed insurgents stormed the Red House and held Robinson and other members of the Parliament hostage.

The flame has not been functioning since 2010, when the renovation and restoration of the Red House began in earnest.

Today, the area around the flame will be de-hoarded so that it can be exposed.

The two major bodies coordinating the funeral arrangements are GISL (Government Information Services Ltd) and the Defence Force.

Yesterday, Coast Guard public relations officer Lt Commander Kirk Jean-Baptiste said the Defence Force had never had to coordinate a funeral involving two “states” (Trinidad as well as Tobago, where Robinson will be buried on Saturday).

He cited the funeral of former South African president and international icon, Nelson Mandela, and that of former US president Ronald Reagan.

There will be seven tributes at Robinson’s funeral service at the National Academy of the Performing Arts (NAPA), Keate St, Port of Spain on Thursday morning.

They will be given by President Carmona, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Integrity Commission chairman and former Robinson colleague Ken Gordon (who will speak for the Robinson family), president of the International Criminal Court, deputy chief executive officer of the Global Environmental Facility, and ex-Commonwealth secretary general Shridath Ramphal.

The chief celebrant will be Rev Dr Leslie G Anderson. The Lydian Singers will be performing.

The service, which starts at 9.30 a.m. and finishes around noon, closes with the National Anthem.

Robinson’s body will lie in the foyer at NAPA until 3 p.m. on Thursday when the body will be taken to Piarco International Airport to be flown to ANR Robinson International Airport in Tobago on an Air Guard helicopter.

The body will lie at the Tobago House of Assembly in Scarborough on Friday and the funeral service will be held at Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet on Saturday.

There will then be a private family service at Scarborough Methodist Church from 1 -3 p.m. Then the body will be taken to the cemetery for burial by 4.30 p.m. on Saturday.

Jean-Baptiste said although much of Tobago is Seventh-Day Adventist, he expected a full turnout of the population, despite the fact that the Tobago funeral and burial would be held on Saturday, the Adventist Sabbath.

He said there will be a larger military parade in Tobago, and there will be a State ecumenical service at Dwight Yorke Stadium from 9.30 a.m.

There will also be a Nigerian ritual service since Robinson had been accorded the status of a chief during his visit to Nigeria as Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister.

Jean-Baptiste said the Coast Guard will be carrying the two cannon which normally line the front of Staubles Bay (Coast Guard headquarters) to the graveside, where a gun salute will be delivered.

“There would be a loud explosion. People with heart problems should stay away from the graveside,” he advised.

Jean-Baptiste mapped out the route from Clarke and Battoo and the route to Tower D, where Robinson will lie in the Parliament foyer today and tomorrow; the route from Clarke and Battoo to NAPA on Thursday; the route from NAPA to Ulric Cross Air Station, Piarco; the loading to the helicopter, the air route to ANR Robinson Airport; from the airport to the funeral home in Tobago to the THA; from Union Funeral Home to Dwight Yorke Stadium; from the stadium to Scarborough Methodist Church; and from there to the cemetery.