While paying tribute to former prime minister and president Arthur NR Robinson, who died at the age of 87 on Wednesday 9th April 2014 after a long illness, Chief Secretary Orville London said that one of the greatest tributes that could be paid to this fine statesman would be the final achievement of Tobago’s full autonomy; an issue he had fought for all his life.
“I think that we as Tobagonians must accept the fact that that is one part of the vision that has not yet been fulfilled. There is the International Criminal Court of Justice, there is a strong Trinidad and Tobago, but the relationship between Tobago and Trinidad which was desired by Mr Robinson and which he fought for all his life, has not yet been achieved.
“One of the greatest tributes that we can pay to Mr Robinson is to ensure that we finish that job [of internal self government]. Therefore, every Tobagonian, every Trinidadian, and everybody who admired and respected the man have to work together towards achieving that goal”.
The Chief Secretary announced that condolence books will be at the Assembly Legislature and at the Calder Hall Administrative Complex for those wanting to sign them, while specially commissioned commemorative bookmarks will be available to those who sign the books. He said discussions were being held with the Presiding Officer of the Assembly, Kelvin Charles, to arrange an appropriate event to celebrate Robinson’s life.
London added that any tribute to Robinson should go beyond what happens over the next few weeks, and must not be merely symbolic.
“It has to be something to which we all are committed, and I want to suggest that there is no greater tribute than ensuring that his vision of Tobago’s proper relationship with Trinidad is realised”.
In his moving tribute to Robinson, London said, “Let me, on behalf of all of Tobago, express our sincere condolences to the family, friends, acquaintances and many admirers of Mr Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson, who departed this life around 6 a.m. today. (Wednesday 9th April 2014) I think that we as Tobagonians, as we mourn his loss, have to take pride in his outstanding contribution and achievements.
“Mr Robinson was, as you know, a man of many firsts. He was the first chairman of the modern Tobago House of Assembly, and the first – and likely to be the only – person to hold the positions of prime minister and president of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Anyone looking back at his life, his tremendous intellect, and the extent of his vision, cannot fail to be impressed. Mr Robinson had a vision for Tobago, he had a vision for Trinidad and Tobago, he had a vision for the region, and he even had a vision for the world. And to his great credit, he lived that vision and he made every effort to translate those visions into reality. In doing that, he displayed a level of resilience, courage, and integrity that marked him as a special human being. When I talk of resilience and courage, I am not only talking about what happened in 1990. I am speaking about qualities that were exemplified throughout his life.
“If you look at the history of Mr Robinson, you will recognise that on every occasion that he had a difficult decision to make, he did not flinch. There was no compromise where right was concerned and, therefore, regardless of the consequences, regardless of the personal sacrifice, regardless of the issues it would create for him, Mr Robinson did what he considered to be right. You might not have agreed with him, but that is the kind of individual he was. It is amazing that a man could be in public life and in politics for all these decades and yet his integrity remained intact to the point where, although he was a politician for almost all his adult life, he will not be remembered as a politician. He will be remembered as a statesman and a patriot.
London also highlighted the former statesman role in modern Tobago. “It was built on the platform created by Arthur NR Robinson, and when one looks at what he did in the 1960s and 70s – , his work with the formation of the first THA Act and then of course the challenges that he faced as the first chairman of the Tobago House of Assembly and how he responded to them… how steadfastly he held to the belief in the kind of relationship that Tobago should have with Trinidad.”
The Chief Secretary said: “Let me extend our condolences and express our grief at his loss, but let us take pride in the fact that a man from Tobago, born in relatively humble circumstances at Calder Hall and growing up in Castara could have achieved so much. But most importantly, let us take pride that he made such a significant and long-lasting impact on the lives of so many people in the country, the region and the world over such a long period of time. May his soul rest in peace”.
Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson, 1926-2014