MEETING THE PM: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaks with pupils outside the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain, yesterday prior to the State Ecumenical Service for former president and prime minister Arthur NR Robinson. —Photos: ANISTO ALVES

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...Pupils witness ‘historic event’

By Michelle Loubon

Preparing to distribute black ribbons, Remy Jardine, a teacher at Point Cumana Government  Primary School, said she wanted her pupils to gain a deeper appreciation about the unparalleled contribution of late president Arthur NR Robinson.

As a result, Jardine seized the opportunity to chaperone them while they viewed on the big screen the State Ecumenical Service in Robinson’s honour at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain. 

They  joined about 3,000 more primary and secondary school pupils at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. There were even pupils   from Woodbrook Government Secondary School, where his beloved daughter Ann Margaret  teaches mathematics. 

Teachers and pupils said they wanted to share in the historic event with a practical lesson on Robinson to complement their history, geography and social studies classes. On the screen and outside NAPA, they also saw people like Anglican Canon Knolly Clarke who had negotiated with Robinson’s captors during the 1990 hostage crisis. 

As the tributes unfurled like a beautiful banner,  the children heard several members of the “Caribbean intelligentsia”, including Chief Justice Ivor Archie, laud Robinson for his valour. During the attempted coup on July 27, 1990, Robinson had uttered the words “Attack with full force” in his defence of democracy. 

Mourners were seated under tents at Memorial Park, where they shared fond memories of Robinson. Most of them made much ado about his command “Attack with full force.” 

The big screens beaming the funeral service live from NAPA were eagerly watched by citizens including Zora Rahamut, Gary Darmanie and Gweneth Brizan. 

During the service, they saw Robinson’s granddaughter Anushka Robinson reciting  King  David’s Psalm 91 “from the heart” as someone had forgotten to bring a copy of the Good Book. 

Anushka’s efforts did not go unnoticed and Chief Celebrant Rev Dr Lesley G Anderson commended her. Chief Bobadega, Honorary Consul for Antigua and Barbuda, also noticed Anushka’s efforts which he said were based on the grounding of “a good Christian faith”. 

At the end of the service, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar greeted a small group of pupils from San Juan Government Secondary at the NAPA entrance. They were excited to take photographs with her. Some jostled to get closer. Teacher Natasha Hislop said, “It was truly an inspirational experience. I was excited and humbled to meet the Prime Minister. She is such a warm human being with a big heart.”

Pupils Simone St Louis and Alexis Hall said they learned that Robinson was an icon.  Meanwhile, they were excited to meet Persad-Bissessar, whom they described as  “a living icon in politics”.  

Hall said, “I read in the Express when (Jerome) Teelucksingh (St Augustine campus historian) said he (Robinson) was the ‘Nelson Mandela of the Caribbean’. I found that was a  cool comparison.” 

Even adults rushed over and took “selfies” of themselves and Persad-Bissessar. There was cheering when Persad-Bissessar and her entourage left. 

A similar pattern of hearty cheering followed when Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley departed NAPA with his wife Sharon. 

The pupils were given bookmarks with a picture of Robinson and a note stating, “Trinidad and Tobago has lost a genuine leader and outstanding citizen.”

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