By Miranda La Rose and Marlene Augustine Wednesday, April 30 2014
Former President and Prime Minister Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson was a soldier, a gentleman and an inspiration to all citizens, President Anthony Carmona wrote in a moving condolence to the Robinson family yesterday.
Carmona was the first citizen to pay homage to Robinson as he walked past the flag-draped casket holding Robinson’s remains which lay in State in the lobby of the Parliament, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain at the start of a five-day State funeral.
Four soldiers of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force in ceremonial tunics stood guard with heads bowed at the four corners of the casket.
Arriving promptly at 8 am, Carmona was greeted by Robinson’s son David, daughter Ann-Margaret and granddaughter Anushka who were on hand to receive the number of dignitaries and others who arrived continuously throughout the day.
Writing in the book of condolence, where he spent some six minutes reflecting on the life of Robinson, Carmona wrote, “An international jurist of great influence, who in his wisdom well placed, decided that impunity must find no place in the international arena and became the grandfather of the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
He continued, “He placed the Republic on the world map by his vision. A soldier and a gentleman. An inspiration to all citizens that the rule of law is supreme and must be protected at all times.”
Accompanying Carmona were his wife Reema and son Christian.
In his lifetime Robinson was an advocate of the ICC and as Prime Minister during the July 27, 1990 attempted coup famously called on the Defence Force to “attack with full force” when Jamaat al Muslimeen insurgents stormed the Parliament at the Red House during which he was shot in his right leg.
Preceding Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s arrival were members of her Cabinet and other parliamentary colleagues who greeted her on arrival. Also in the entourage were sacked minister of the people Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh and former tourism minister Chandresh Sharma who resigned amid an allegation of abuse involving an ex-girlfriend.
Persad-Bissessar arrived sharply at 10 am acknowledged the media and the ever present “Flagman”, retired policeman Peter Diaz, with a quick handwave and proceeded into the lobby where she led her Cabinet and parliamentary colleagues past the casket. Bringing up the rear was Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. Having done their solemn duty Persad-Bissessar and her delegation proceeded inside the Parliament tower to hold the weekly Cabinet meeting which was brought forward to yesterday on account of tomorrow’s ecumenical service for Robinson.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who was scheduled to arrive at 10.30 am showed up at 9.52 am and proceeded to the lobby where he paid his tribute. Like Persad-Bissessar, Rowley did not speak with the media.
Taking advantage of the early hours were PNM MP for La Brea Fitzgerald Jeffrey and PNM Senator Faris Al-Rawi.
Among the members of the diplomatic mission to arrive early was China’s Ambassador to TT Huang Xingyuan. The first day of the official State funeral began yesterday with officers from the various arms of national security carrying Robinson’s casket — draped in the national flag — in a solemn military procession along several streets from the funeral home to the Parliament.
Under overcast skies, the procession took off promptly at 7 am from Clark and Battoo Funeral Home on Tragarete Road. The casket bearing Robinson’s body was preceded by a contingent of uniformed members of the Defence Force, including soldiers and police officers, in a slow funeral march. At the centre was the gun carriage on which Robinson’s casket was borne in a slow, sombre procession on a regimental jeep while the funeral march was played by the regimental band.
From the corner of Tragarete Road in front of Clark and Battoo, the military procession made its way down St Vincent Street on its journey to the Parliament at the waterfront.
Spectators including schoolchildren from the surrounding area lined the roadside, some taking photos as the cortege proceeded slowly.
The lying in State officially began at 8 am and lasted throughout the day until six in the evening so as to allow as many citizens as possible to file past the casket and sign the condolence book. Shortly after the arrival, it was noticed that the flag was draped in the wrong direction from right to left. Defence Force personnel quickly re-draped the flag to fall from left to right before the public viewing began.
Clouds which hung low over the sea at the waterfront added to the sombreness of the occasion.
Robinson’s body is expected to be taken back to the Parliament Tower today for the second day of lying in state before tomorrow’s ecumenical service at the National Academy for the Performing Arts.
After the service the body will then be taken to the Ulric Cross Air Station to be flown to Tobago by helicopter.
Robinson’s body will then lie in State at the Tobago House of Assembly administration building and on Saturday it will be taken to the Dwight Yorke Stadium where another ecumenical service will be done.
The family will have a private service at the Scarborough Methodist Church, after which he would be laid to rest in the cemetery plot next to his late wife, Patricia. Robinson who died on April 9 at the age of 87.
See Page 18A