Saturday, February 24, 2018

...‘His legacy will live in our hearts’


MARK OF RESPECT: Dominican President Charles Savarin signs the condolence book as the body of former president Arthur NR Robinson lies in state at the Parliament building in Port of Spain, yesterday. Standing, from left, are Clara Savarin, the Dominican president’s wife; President of the Senate Timothy Hamel-Smith and House Speaker Wade Mark. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

Mark Fraser

As the nation entered day two of the State funeral for former president Arthur NR Robinson, a small crowd of mourners came to pay their respects yesterday.

By about 2 p.m., about 300 people had turned up to pay homage to a man who it was said could “walk with kings and not lose the common touch”.

They were joined by Caribbean citizens including former Commonwealth secretary general Sir Shridath Ramphal, Dominican President Charles Angelo Savarin and Lenore Dorset, who worked with Robinson as permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and as his executive assistant.

Several citizens also signed the public condolence book which was placed in the front lobby of the entrance to the Parliament Chamber. The body was in a closed casket and draped in the national flag colours of red, white and black, and 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.

Consensus among citizens from all walks of life was that Robinson was a true patriot.

Many remembered the famous words “Attack with full force” which Robinson uttered when Yasin Abu Bakr and his band of insurgents attempted to overthrow the democratically elected National Alliance For Reconstruction (NAR) on July 27, 1990.

Ramphal and Savarin greeted Robinson’s daughter Ann Margaret Robinson, House Speaker Wade Mark, Senate president Timothy Hamel-Smith and Parliament Marshal Brian Caesar. They signed the condolence book and departed.

Among the mourners were 2014 Calypso Monarch Roderick “Chucky” Gordon and ace storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas. Pupils from Cunaripo Presbyterian School and St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain, also paid their respects.

Schoolteacher Deokala Rampersad said her pupils had learned salient facts about Robinson.

She said, “I thought the visit would add to their treasure trove of information.”

Express columnist Heather Dawn Herrera said Robinson recognised the “worth of my work” when he launched her first book Scenic T&T.

“He understood and supported what I was doing for the preservation of the environment,” she said.

Dorset said many people saw Robinson as a strict disciplinarian. But there was a softer side to him, since Robinson was “always willing to listen and he was a most remarkable man”.

Born in Plymouth, Tobago, comedian Tommy Joseph said, “People are trickling in. But it was the same situation when they had Eric Williams at the rotunda of the Red House. People are saying what is the sense coming if I can’t see the face. If the casket was open, there would have been more people.”

Extempo artiste Phillip “Black Sage” Murray said, “He was the best. He was a man of integrity and dignity. Robinson was not corrupt.”

Andrea Frederick, who lives in Montreal, Canada, said, “I left here a long time ago. But I had to pay my respects to Robinson for what he did for Trinidad and Tobago. Robinson’s legacy will live in our hearts.”