PM, Rowley view Mandela’s body
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday chose to take Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley with her to view the body of the the first black president of South Africa Nelson Mandela where it lay in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
They were among world leaders and thousands of South Africans who filed past the flag-draped casket containing Mandela’s body, having a final look at the anti-apartheid icon in the amphitheatre where he was sworn in 19 years earlier. They are to return home Thursday along with the rest of the Caricom delegation.
According to a release from the Office of the Prime Minister, Persad-Bissessar said yesterday that with thousands lining up to view Mandela’s body, officials decided to limit the number of persons accompanying world leaders to the event.
“In my case, I was allowed one person and I chose the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley to accompany me to the public viewing of the body.
“I want to express my thanks to Dr Rowley for agreeing to go with me, and also to the rest of the Trinidad and Tobago delegation for their understanding in not being able to view Mr Mandela’s body because of the security concerns,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She added, “In death, the world has seen the importance of this great freedom fighter, Mr Nelson Mandela. The people of South Africa, and by extension the world, want to be part of this historic occasion.
“In line with his inherent humility, the great statesman Nelson Mandela often emphasised that the value of his work lay with the people with whom he worked and motive behind the struggle. In Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela’s 1995 autobiography, he said: ‘I have always believed that to be a freedom fighter one must suppress many of the personal feelings that make one feel like a separate individual rather than part of a mass movement. One is fighting for the liberation of millions of people, not the glory of one individual.’ ‘’
Persad-Bissessar pointed out that Mandela’s legacy was one of communion with his fellowmen,” befittingly, while his body lies in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria over the next three days, I too shall join the masses in paying final respects before his family says an even more personal and heartfelt goodbye.”
She lauded the announcement by South African president Jacob Zuma that the Union Buildings will henceforth be known as the Mandela Amphitheatre.
Persad-Bissessar added, “The great former South African president will forever be revered worldwide for successfully shepherding the country towards a peaceful transition to multiracial democracy after three centuries of white domination. Remarkably, after serving 27 years of a life imprisonment sentence, Mandela returned more determined than ever and led an apartheid-divided South Africa towards an all-race democracy, becoming the nation’s first black president in 1994.
“As we celebrate the life and works of Mandela, let us remember him the way in which he desired. In 1994, in an interview for the documentary Mandela, he said, ‘Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.’”