FORMER prime minister Patrick Manning, who succeeded Arthur NR Robinson as this country’s head of government in 1991 and was then controversially appointed as prime minister by Robinson ten years later, yesterday complained to parliamentary colleagues he was not asked to pay tribute to the deceased former president and prime minister at the Lower House.
A minute’s silence was yesterday observed in the House of Representatives, at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, as a mark of respect and remembrance following Robinson’s death.
Robinson passed away on Wednesday at the age of 87. Parliament yesterday delivered tributes to him.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was the first to deliver a tribute. She described Robinson as “one of our nation’s most celebrated and honoured sons”.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s tribute was next. He described Robinson as one of the “thoroughbreds” who came out of the Tobago stable.
Rowley said Robinson showed strength in standing up for what he believed and most times, he did it alone. He said Robinson was a “voice crying in the wilderness”.
Rowley said a statement he once heard from Robinson has always resonated with him.
“He said something one day that might not have been written, but it was recorded somewhere because I heard it and it had tremendous impact on me personally. Venting his frustration at our unnecessary failure, he made the comment that one of the problems of Trinidad and Tobago, if not the main problem, is that the professional class has been consistently failing the country,” Rowley said.
“And when I heard that, coming from Mr Robinson, it affected me personally because I as a person who this country gave a profession to made the decision that I must never be guilty of that,” he said.
Rowley said he has “walked in (his) Robinson’s footsteps with pride”.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran, who acted as prime minister when Robinson was held hostage by Jamaat-al-Muslimeen insurgents during the July 27, 1990, attempted coup, also gave a tribute.
Dookeran said Robinson is a man still not known to Trinidad and Tobago and was always misunderstood. He said Robinson taught us that “if you get it right today, there is no need to look for applause today”.
Dookeran said he met with Robinson some six months ago where he was handed the autobiography In the Midst of it. Dookeran said there was no better title for Robinson’s life as he was all in the midst of every aspect of this country’s history.
Following Dookeran’s tribute, House Speaker Wade Mark began his tribute to Robinson.
Since two members of the Government bench, Persad-Bissessar and Dookeran, gave tributes to Robinson, Manning was asked by Cabinet members Rudranath Indarsingh, Rodger Samuel and Surujrattan Rambachan why he did not say anything.
A disappointed-looking Manning said, “Nobody asked me.”
Mark described Robinson as “supremely courageous and supremely gifted”. He called on youth in the country to “be like ANR”.