While paying tribute to ANR Robinson at the April plenary sitting of the House on Thursday, 24 April, at which Assemblymen observed one minute’s silence, Chief Secretary Orville London said that the only meaningful way to pay tribute to the former prime minister and president is by remembering him “as a statesman and a patriot”.
“The tributes will continue to pour in and they will all be deserved, but I am convinced that there is only one meaningful tribute that we can pay to the only man who held the positions of chairman of the THA, prime minister and president of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and who held these positions with dignity and with pride.
“There is only one meaningful tribute that we can pay to a man who spent most of his life in politics but is honoured and is remembered not primarily as a politician but as a statesman and a patriot; there is only one meaningful way that we can pay tribute to such a man… and that is to strive to emulate, in this House and outside of this House, the courage, the character and the refusal to compromise on principle that made Arthur NR Robinson a special man.”
London said that the nation is mourning the passing of a man who, like many great figures, might be appreciated and lauded more in his death than his lifetime, and that over the past two weeks much has been said and written by many, including London himself, about the life and times of Robinson.
He added: “The comments have been divergent, sometimes even contradictory, but I think there is general agreement on some characteristics of Mr Robinson. I think there is total agreement on his courage, his character and, by extension, his refusal to compromise his principles under any circumstances, regardless of the personal price he had to pay.
“All of us remember his attack with full force but I wish to posit that this was only the most dramatic demonstration of the courage and commitment to principle which exemplified his life, and if you look at his life many of his major decisions were in fact inspired by that. You should recall his decision to break with prime minister Eric Williams and to venture into unknown political territory; remember his controversial economic decisions as prime minister which might have cost him his position, but which many scholars believed speeded the country’s economic recovery; remember his decision to use the two Tobago seats to give the prime ministership of the country to Basdeo Panday to become the country’s first prime minister of Indian descent; and then his decision as president to appoint Panday’s bitter political rival and, for most of his political life, his own political rival Patrick Manning as prime minister after the 18-18 election tie.
“All of these are indicators of a man who always did things not only his way but in what he considered to be the right way because to him the right way was the only way.
“We in this House feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to pay tribute to Mr Robinson in the space that he had created. He was the main architect of the THA Act of 1980 and then of 1996. As the first chairman of the Assembly he instituted the measures, interpreted the law, he adopted the posture that ensured the then-fledgling institution called the Tobago House of Assembly was respected and given the opportunity to develop,” London said.
“We, Mr Presiding Officer, may be standing or may be sitting on the shoulders that he built and we must thank him for that.”