PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was absent during the send-off for Nigerian President Dr Goodluck Jonathan and his wife Dame Patience yesterday.
According to the State visit programme provided by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Persad-Bissessar was to arrive at the South Terminal, Piarco International Airport, at 7.25 a.m..
Communication Minister Jamal Mohammed informed the Express that it was an "early morning", that Persad-Bissessar had a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning and asked the ministers to represent her.
A few ministers, including acting Foreign Affairs Minister and Minister of Local Government Suruj Rambachan, acting Attorney General and Environment Minister Ganga Singh, Transport Minister Chandresh Sharma and Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Dr Lincoln Douglas, were in attendance yesterday. The majority of the Cabinet, including Persad-Bissessar, had been on hand to welcome Jonathan when he arrived on Tuesday afternoon.
President George Maxwell Richards, his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, House Speaker Wade Mark, Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith, Nigerian High Commissioner Musa John Jen and other members of the diplomatic corps were among the officials present to see Goodluck off.
The Defence Force honour guard was on hand to play the country's national anthems and for the presidential salute.
Jonathan, once again dressed in all black with matching hat, waved from the stairs of the official Nigerian plane before departing for Jamaica at about 7.45 .m., 20 minutes earlier than scheduled.
He was originally scheduled to leave this country at 3 p.m. yesterday. Rambachan said he was informed by Nigerian officials that Jonathan had cut short the visit, and his visit to Jamaica for its Independence anniversary celebrations, as he wanted to attend the funeral for Ghana President John Atta Mills to be held between August 8 and 10.
The Nigerian president had a packed itinerary on Wednesday including participating in Emancipation celebrations, bilateral meetings with Persad-Bissessar, visiting Nigerians at the National Energy Skills Centre and a State dinner hosted by President Richards.