Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 9th 2014 Contents 10
I rise to pay tribute to a
former Prime Minister and
President of our country who
through service to our coun-
try and has now passed on.
Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson may have been
born in Calder Hall, Tobago, and may have spent his
early years in Castara, in the sister isle, but his dreams
and aspirations went beyond these nurturing villages,
his island home of Tobago and beyond his country
Trinidad and Tobago which he loved so dearly---that is
why his passing is felt not only in Trinidad and Tobago,
but in the wider international community.
What might constitute some of the critical elements
of his legacy? The first would be the successful battle
for Tobago autonomy and a fair share for Tobago
within the framework of the nation. Former President
Ellis Clarke's statement "side by side, not one behind
the other" captures what Mr. Robinson was able to
achieve in this regard.
His second important contribution to the country
was in enabling a thirty-year rule of the then governing
party for 30 years in Trinidad and Tobago, the PNM, to
come to an end in 1986. Nationalist parties in the post-
colonial period generally entrenched themselves in ex-
colonial societies. They were not easy to move. Mr.
Robinson was able to provide a catalytic pressure in
1986 to break the back of one party rule and to usher
in, by and large, a period which empowered the elec-
torate in a much more meaningful way after 1986.
The third legacy of vital significance is his answer to
the question of what should a leader do when democ-
racy in his country is at risk? Mr Robinson chose to put
his life at risk rather than to make it easy for democ-
racy to be sacrificed. In doing so he made it impossible
for the terrorists at the time not to contemplate their
own risk as they proceeded with their acts of outrage.
Fundamentally what "Attack with Full Force" did was
take the power and control out of the hands of the
hostage takers. That is why, out of anger and frustra-
tion, they shot him in his leg.
The fourth legacy is structural adjustment policies
which facilitated a continuous run of economic growth.
The policies of the NAR ultimately consolidated the TT
economy, building on initiatives earlier taken by Prime
Minister George Chambers before, and set into motion
policies that were by and large irreversible, notwith-
standing loss of election after 5 years for the NAR.
From 1992-2008 Trinidad and Tobago had an unbroken
run of economic growth and relative prosperity.
The fifth legacy is the conceptualization of, facilita-
tion of and advocacy for the establishment of the In-
ternational Criminal Court despite opposition from
very powerful countries in the early days of advocacy.
Today as the International Criminal Court brings abuse
of power cases to Justice, Mr. Robinson's contribution
to the International justice system can be seen as a re-
markable and formidable achievement.
ANR Robinson served this country in various capaci-
ties for almost fifty years; as a Member of the Federal
Parliament, Member of Parliament for Tobago East,
Minister of Finance, Minister of External Affairs, as the
first Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assem-
bly, as our third Prime Minister and finally, our third
President. He was not a populist leader and he took
both hard and controversial decisions. He was a leader
that was more respected than loved. He empathised
with the poor and the vulnerable but he did not have
an easy way with people. Those who knew him well
appreciated his genuineness, his warmth and his ca-
pacity for humour. Those who saw him from afar re-
garded him as somewhat aloof. It took a complex man
He was a persistent man and a
patient man. "Learn to Labour" he
once quoted for me in advance
"and to wait".
Tribute to Arthur N. R.
Robinson by Senator Dr.
Minister of Planning and
in the Senate -- Tuesday,
April 15, 2014.
and an individual of a certain character to leave such a
legacy and evoke such mixed feelings.
Yet, at a certain level, ANR Robinson was a simple
man. He was a country boy who grew up in a small vil-
lage with a strong sense of right and wrong. This guided
him throughout his career in public life. Under stress he
would always revert to the grassroots in order to derive
inspiration and garner his strength.
He was a persistent man and a patient man. "Learn to
Labour" he once quoted for me in advance "and to wait".
He made it from Castara to London in those colonial
days out of sheer ambition and persistence. Losing an
election in 1956 did not daunt him. Leaving a ruling Party
and Government in 1970 was one thing but forging Al-
liances (AC/DC in 1971 and the Alliance in 1981 and
eventually in co-creating the NAR) took persistence and
grit. Although the NAR receded after 1991, ANR Robin-
son persisted in public life for nearly two decades after-
wards. He pursued the International Criminal Court idea
for thirteen years before the idea really began to take
root. He was a man of great courage who would not be
easily swayed. This is epitomized by his call to the army
and police to "Attack with Full Force" during the hostage
crisis in Parliament, but it also took a courageous man to
leave the PNM under Williams in 1970, build a political
vehicle that would through alliances, become more than
a sufficient alternative to rout an entrenched Party
which he had helped to found and to become at last
Prime Minister. It is a formidable achievement.
The courage he showed, the persistence, the stead-
fastness also came from a certain strong-headedness
which made him live by his convictions. He showed this
in his battle for autonomy for Tobago, his battle against
a monolithic PNM, his Cabinet reshuffle of 1987, his ex-
pulsion of Basdeo Panday from the NAR, of which he,
Panday, was a co-creator, his decision in 2001 not to re-
instate the incumbent government that had not lost the
election. Throughout all of these controversial decisions
one sees a certain consistency of character and in this
consistency one finds the co-existence of simplicity and
There can be no doubt that ANR Robinson was a pa-
triot. He literally devoted all of his life after returning
from law and University studies to public duty and he
made many sacrifices along the way. No allegations of
corruption against Robinson, ever stuck; the life he lived,
the company he kept, the way he conducted his busi-
ness, the issues he was interested in belie any false alle-
gations which may have been made against him. We
can say about Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson that
besides being a patriot, he was a decent and honest
Robinson's leadership style was difficult for some. He
never told people what to do and he never gave clear di-
rections. He would frame things, contextualize them,
and leave it to you to decide how to proceed. I thrived
under his leadership; I had a great deal of freedom and
autonomy and could pursue objectives with the frame-
work of Government policy and good common sense.
Robinson, in a sense, was a leader of leaders, he was not
at his best with followers who needed constant support.
I had a long, respectful, affectionate relationship with
Mr Robinson. I called him Mr Robinson from the first
time I got to know him personally in 1983. Before that he
was just a public figure in the papers, but he was Mr.
Robinson to me until he died.
I had a close working relationship with him as General
Secretary of the NAR and as Leader of Government
Business and because I was Minister without Portfolio
in the Office of the Prime Minister, I interacted with him
regularly in the early days of the NAR Government. He
had a lot of confidence in me and said so publicly in
Party forums and once in the Parliament. Needless to
say not everyone was thrilled by that. As Minister of In-
dustry Enterprise and Tourism I enjoyed a good deal of
freedom and a sound working relationship with Mr
During the 1990 attempted coup I was there in the
room with Brigadier Joseph Theodore during the entire
period of Brigadier Theodore's negotiation of his release.
Bilal Abdullah was afraid that Mr Robinson would die,
and he had called Raffique Shah in desperation and Raf-
fique Shah called me. I went straight to Theodore with-
out consultation. I was so happy to see him smiling in a
bed at St Clair Medical on his release as a hostage. Our
relationship continued until the end.
Prime Minister ANR Robinson and his wife, Patricia Robinson, with President Noor Hassanali and his wife Zalayhar Hassanali
at a reception at the Trinidad Hilton.
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