TIME TO HEAL
By Clint Chan Tack Saturday, April 12 2014
DECLARING now was the time for healing in Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday declared the State funeral for former President and Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson will take place from April 29 to May 3.
The Prime Minister made this announcement as she paid tribute to Robinson, who died on Wednesday at the age of 87, in the House of Representatives.
Robinson’s body will lie in State at the rotunda of the Red House on April 29 and 30 between 6 am and 6 pm on both days, allowing persons to pay their respects to him by filing past the flag- draped unopened casket. A State ecumenical service will take place at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port-of-Spain on May 1.
This service will be preceded by Robinson’s body being carried by the procession of a military cortege with full honours from Clark and Battoo Funeral Home to NAPA, along a route to be lined by members of the protective services and uniformed groups. Following the service, Robinson’s body will lie-in-state in the eastern lobby of NAPA until 3 pm for persons to pay their respects to him.
On May 2, Robinson’s body will be flown to Tobago where it will lie- in-state in the Legislative Chamber of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) between 6 am and 6 pm, to allow persons to pay final respects.
A thanksgiving service will be held for Robinson in Tobago, at a venue to be announced on May 3. Prior to this service, Robinson’s body will be carried by a military cortege along a route lined by members of the protective services and national uniformed youth groups.
Robinson’s final committal and burial takes place on May 3 at the Scarborough Methodist Cemetery. Robinson will be laid next to his wife Patricia, who died in 2009 and was buried in that cemetery.
The inter-ministerial planning committee working out the details of the State funeral will next meet on Monday at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair at 9 am to further consider and finalise arrangements for the State funeral.
In announcing these details to the Parliament, Persad-Bissessar again said she was comforted that Robinson will be reunited with his beloved wife Patricia.
Reflecting on the role Robinson played in forming the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) and how he helped the United National Congress (UNC) to form the government after the 17-17-2 tie in the 1995 general elections, Persad-Bissessar said Robinson was “one of the first persons to understand Partnership politics for better representation and governance.”
She recalled that while he was President in 2001, Robinson “faced another defining moment in our social and political history” when the snap election of that year resulted in the famous 18-18 electoral tie. Persad-Bissessar, who was attorney general in the then UNC government, looked at San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning as she said Robinson chose him over then prime minister Basdeo Panday to “assume the prime ministership.”
Recalling that “electoral tie and unprecedented constitutional crisis” caused intense debate, Persad-Bissessar stated, “We all know what the arguments were at that time. We all know how we felt at that time and how we were prepared to fight his decision.”
Noting the pain, anguish and bitterness which many persons felt over Robinson’s decision, Persad-Bissessar said, “Many were hurt. One side did not lose and the other side did not win.”
However she said 14 years after Robinson’s decision “has written itself into history as a moment when our nation was forced to re-examine our supreme law and reconsider the arrangements by which we govern ourselves,” now was the time to move forward.
“For anyone who still holds to the pain of the past, I ask respectfully that we allow our old wounds to heal, consider what we have been able to learn and then allow ourselves to breathe,” Persad-Bissessar declared. She added, “We are the ones as a nation who will hurt ourselves if we remain locked in the past.”
Telling MPs that they are “authors of history” and will become part of history in time to come, Persad-Bissessar said, “Acting responsibly is not just a requirement but a duty.”
Calling upon the nation to celebrate and reflect upon Robinson’s life, Persad-Bissessar said she is guided by the principle that “our every action, our every word, our every conviction, all come together to create the future.”
Prior to speaking in the House, Persad-Bissessar signed the condolence book for Robinson which was set up in the Sir Ellis Clarke Corridor outside the Parliament Chamber. Speaking briefly with reporters, Persad-Bissessar said, “There is an ACS and Caricom Mexico Summit which is taking place on the 28th, 29th. We are now liaising with the Caricom Secretariat to see whether on the return of those Caricom Heads from the Mexico Summit, whether they can come through TT which will be on the 30th and therefore for their attendance on the first (of May). So those are the dates that we have for the moment for the funeral.”
Commenting on discussions between Government and Robinson’s family on the funeral arrangements, Persad-Bissessar said, “As I say, it seems to be a long time, but in discussions and consultation with the family and with of course other stakeholders and friends of the family that seems to be the most appropriate date at this point in time.”
“As you know we have the Easter weekend in Tobago, which is a very busy time, we have the jazz festival and in consultation with the family of course with the pastor there, a Methodist pastor in Tobago and others in Tobago it seems that will be the most appropriate,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar noted, “there are a lot of Heads of States and other international persons who will be coming to TT for the funeral” and all of this had to be factored in, while respecting the wishes of Robinson’s family.
When the House adjourned for tea at 5 pm, several MPs signed the condolence book. Among them were Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and Labour Minister Errol McLeod.
From Monday and leading up to the ecumenical service at NAPA, condolence books will be available for persons to sign on Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) at specific locations between the hours of 8 am to 4 pm.