Trinidad & Tobago former leader dies

Former Trinidad and Tobago President and Prime Minister Arthur Napoleon Robinson.
AP Photo/Robert Glass, File
AP Photo/Robert Glass, File

Tributes are pouring in from the Caribbean and other parts of the world for the late former Trinidad and Tobago President and former Prime Minister Arthur Napoleon Robinson, who died on Wednesday after a prolonged illness.

Robinson, 87, died at the private St. Clair Medical Hospital, where he had been patient since March 8, 2014.

The Tobago-born former president is the only person to have served as both head of state and prime minister.

He was the first and only person to hold three highest offices in Trinidad and Tobago: Chairman of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), from 1981-1986; Prime Minister from 1986-1991; and president from 1997-2003.

In 1958, Robinson was elected as a member of the Federal Parliament in the short-lived Federation of the West Indies.

He was a founding member of the People’s National Movement (PNM) and was appointed minister of finance after the Federation collapsed in in 1962.

Robinson held the post until 1967, when he was moved to the Ministry of External Affairs, acting also as head of government in the absence of the then Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams.

In 1981, Robinson teamed up with the Organization for National Reconstruction led by Karl Hudson Phillips to contest the general election.

But while the ONR got 22 percent of the overall votes, the party failed to win a single seat.

In 1986, he got together with the United Labor Front (ULF) led by Basdeo Panday to form the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) and becoming victorious in the general election.

On July 27, 1990 Robison was shot in his leg when members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen stormed the Parliament building in Port of Spain. Despite being held captive for six days Robinson urged the protective services to attack “with full force.”

In 1995 election, with both the PNM and the United National Congress (UNC) winning 11 seats, Robinson used his two Tobago seats won by his party to form a coalition with the UNC.

Two years later, he resigned to become the head of state.

During the 18-18 tie in 2001, Robinson appointed Patrick Manning as prime minister saying he made the decision on the grounds of spiritual and moral values.

Panday, who was prime minister during the time, was pushed to the Opposition bench. Panday then became opposition leader.

In 1987, Robinson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor from California Lutheran University. On a state visit to Nigeria in l991 he was made Chief of Ile by the Ooni of life. He was a Freeman of the cities of Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks and holds Venezuela’s highest award – the Simon Bolivar Award.

He wrote three books: The New Frontier and the New Africa; The Mechanics of Independence and his autobiography titles “In the Midst of It.”

Robinson was instrumental in establishing the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque said: “The Caribbean Community has lost one its truly great sons, who will always be remembered for his historic role at the landmark Grand Anse Meeting in l989, where the decision was taken to significantly deepen the integration.”

The 15-member regional grouping in l989 bestowed its highest order, “Award of the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC) on Robinson for his “distinguished serviced to the Caribbean region.”

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