Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday hailed former president Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson as her mentor whom she learnt from and who contributed to her ascendance in political life.
Persad-Bissessar, accompanied by almost all members of her Government paid their respects to Robinson as his body lay in State at the Parliament building of the International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain, yesterday.
Just before 10 a.m., a contingent of Government members, including most ministers and MPs, arrived at the Parliament building and lined the steps outside as they awaited Persad-Bissessar’s arrival.
When the Prime Minister arrived at 10 a.m. she greeted Government members and then entered the building where Robinson’s draped, closed casket was situated.
Persad-Bissessar stood near Robinson’s casket and bowed her head, then proceeded to greet members of his family.
The Prime Minister signed the condolence book and then departed.
Since Robinson’s State funeral in Trinidad will be held tomorrow—the day Cabinet usually meets—a special Cabinet meeting was held yesterday immediately after which the Prime Minister and Government members paid their respects.
On the Prime Minister’s Facebook page, her sentiments were shared on the first day of Robinson’s five-day State funeral.
“Today we begin our celebration honouring the life and legacy of Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson. As a friend and political mentor, it was under Prime Minister Robinson’s guidance that I became an Alderman in the St Patrick County Council. And it was his countless valuable lessons that have greatly contributed to where I am today. During this weeklong memorial we celebrate Prime Minister Robinson’s years of service and life dedication to Trinidad and Tobago,” stated Persad-Bissessar.
Since she became Prime Minister in 2010, Persad-Bissessar paid special attention to Robinson, honouring him with a grand birthday party that year where she invited children to celebrate his 84th birthday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
“Many people think of her as the first female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, but I think of her not because of the fact that she is female but because of the courage, the persistence, the interest that she has shown in the people of Trinidad and Tobago and I will add particularly in the children of Trinidad and Tobago,” Robinson said then.
“I wish to express my own admiration of the history of Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar from early days in the fight to be a member of Parliament on to be the leader of the country as Prime Minister, this is a path that no one else has pursued... no one else has been able to survive after the task they have had before them,” he added.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley also paid his respects yesterday, as he viewed Robinson’s casket and greeted members of his family.
Rowley signed the condolence book and then left.
Opposition MPs Fitzgerald Jeffrey and Alicia Hospedales as well as Opposition Senator Faris Al- Rawi also paid their respects and greeted Robinson’s family.
A-Rawi told the media Robinson was a man who transcended every boundary possible and who left an indelible mark on the country and the world.
“Trinidad is definitely a lot darker today and has been since Mr Robinson passing but I do hope that we all remember that we should reflect on the positive aspects of his existence and his contributions to Trinidad and Tobago in a time when our country desperately needs sight of very good leadership, committed and strong personalities who are prepared to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. I think Mr Robinson’s life’s work stands as testimony for that,” said Al-Rawi.
Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz said Robinson lived an “interesting life”.
“I became aware of him in the 1970s when he left the PNM. After 1970 I supported Robinson and the NAR. I thought what he did was what T&T needed in 1986 and I think the country benefitted from what he did and is still benefitting today,” he said.
Cadiz said it was proper for Robinson to be given a full State funeral in both Trinidad and Tobago so the people of the sister island had an opportunity to pay their respects to a son of the soil.
Robinson’s body will lie in State today at the Parliament building.
Tomorrow a State funeral will take place at the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA).
On Friday and Saturday Robinson’s body will be in Tobago where his burial will take place.