He took the Napoleon in his name very seriously.
Long before he was put in the 1990 situation and uttered his most famous phrase, Arthur NR Robinson was preparing himself for the most difficult and important decision of his life.
According to the recently launched autobiography of former president and former prime minister Arthur NR Robinson, titled ANR Robinson, In the Midst of it, Robinson was undaunted by the formidable problems which lay ahead, when he accepted the challenge to be Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago in 1986.
As he lay in bed, during that period, he said he pondered on the life of his namesake, Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military and political leader who rose to prominence in the latter part of the French Revolution.
"My father had called me Napoleon, and I remembered the story of how Napoleon (Bonaparte) battled his way through Europe, his most impressive battlefield victory at Austerlitz and all the major battles he fought until he was interrupted by the winter snows of Russia and thereafter defeated on the marshy ground of Waterloo. Nevertheless, he had a great spirit...I was sustained for the difficulties which I encountered which have been recorded in this book. I have no bitterness whatever...All I wanted to do was to address myself to resolving the problems that lay ahead."
Fast forward to July 27, 1990. Muslimeen insurgents violently storm the Parliament. Robinson, beaten, blooded bruised, has a phone placed to his face and gun to his head, he is ordered to give an instruction to the army to lay down their arms. But Robinson unbowed, does what very few human beings in these circumstances would have been able to do. "Attack with full force," he declares.
This was Napoleon, walking the talk.
In the book, Robinson examines the breakdown of his relationship with Basdeo Panday and his (United Labour Front) colleagues during the National Alliance for Reconstruction years.
Robinson said, for instance, that during the NAR tenure, he discovered that "the Ministry of External Affairs was being used to allow persons of a certain ethnicity to come in the country and unusually large numbers".
Robinson said on the insistence of Basdeo Panday, immigration was added to his portfolio of External Affairs and Tourism.
"Gloria Henry was supposed to handle tourism in that Ministry, but it was reported that Panday gave her no work to do. Then we started to get these reports about the Guyanese people of a certain ethnicity coming into the country in droves- about 70 a week," he stated.
Robinson in his assessment of the split in the NAR does not accept any responsibility for what happened.
He referred to the "boorishness" of John Humphrey (who had changed from a "pleasant" and "gentle" man), his Trinity dollar idea and his failure to follow Central Tenders Board procedures; he referred to the fact that Trevor Sudama wanted to be Minister of Finance (not junior minister) and the general non acceptance of the principle of Cabinet's collective responsibility by the ULF element. Robinson also referred to the fact that Panday brought a list of persons of Indian ethnicity from which he selected candidates for appointment to the Boards.
"Panday was arguing that since most of these Boards were peopled or run by persons of African origin, they should be changed to persons of Indian origin. My own position was that this could not the only consideration–one should seek to achieve a balance, but only after taking into consideration suitability, by reason of experience and academic achievement, for the positions to which the appointments were to be made. This was the basis of some contention, very early on in our proceedings, and as a national leader, it could hardly have been wise for Mr Panday to be projecting an image of partisanship, based on ethnicity," Robinson stated.
Robinson said: "The view that I was personally not affable or outgoing in relation to Ministers, would have been held by two or three persons from opposing political parties, but that view was not held by others, and in the population at large. There was some hostility to me, as leader, and which members of the ULF took the opportunity to accuse me of. Some members of the opposing party said that I had adopted those stringent measures in order to punish the people of Trinidad, in reprisal of how Trinidad had treated Tobago, in the past. Personal attacks of a very vicious kind were raised in the media then."
In writing about his appointment of Patrick Manning, Robinson said he was very surprised that his reference to "spiritual and moral values...which was really an excerpt from the Constitution" created such a 'commotion'.
"It was not only because of the Constitution but also because of the oaths of office which Members of Parliament had taken that I made the decision."
He added, very interestingly and without an explanation: "After all, I had no doubt that, if members had adhered to their oath of office, they would advise me to appoint Manning as the Prime Minister. It was on that basis that I acted, and took the decision to appoint Mr Manning."