(Trinidad Express) Former President and Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson has died.
Robinson, who had been ailing for several months, passed away at the St Clair Medical Centre around 6 am yesterday. He was 87.
His passing was confirmed by National Security Minister Gary Griffith who said a state funeral was being planned.
Born in Tobago in 1926, he became T&T’s third president, serving from 19 March 1997 to 17 March 2003. He was also Trinidad and Tobago’s third prime minister, serving in that capacity from 18 Decem-ber 1986 to 17 December 1991.
Robinson held the distinction of being the first active politician to be elected president.
His life was punctuated with numerous accolades, gaining international recognition for his proposal that eventually led to the founding of the Inter-national Criminal Court.
His first stint in politics came in 1958 when he was elected to the Federal Parliament of the defunct Caribbean Federation. He would go on to serve as a representative for Tobago in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament in 1961 and later as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Robinson broke ranks with the People’s National Movement (PNM) following the Black Power disturbances in 1970. He would form his own political party, the Democratic Action Congress (DAC) after the 1971 general elections.
The DAC would win the two Tobago seats in both the 1976 and 1981 general elections.
In 1981 Robinson joined forces with the United Labour Front (ULF) under the leadership of Basdeo Panday and the Tapia House Movement under the leadership of Lloyd Best to form the National Alliance. This group entered an accommodation with the Organisation for National Reconstruction under the leadership of Karl Hudson-Phillips to fight (and win) the Local Government elections of 1983. Building on this victory the four parties combined to form the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) which won the 1986 elections by a margin of 33-3 and Robinson was appointed the first non-PNM Prime Minister.
Prior to the 1986 elections Robinson was instrumental in setting up the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and was its chairman for a six-year period, December 1980 to December 1986. The DAC controlled the THA from1980 until the PNM gained control of it in 2001.
His life in politics did not come without its fair share of controversy. He was the sitting prime minister during the 1990 attempted coup by the Jamaat al Muslimeen where he and many members of his Cabinet were held hostage for six days.
Despite being shot in his leg during this trying time he will be remembered for instructing the armed services to “attack with full force”, in response to the insurrectionists.
He also sparked a bit of controversy during his presidential term when he bypassed Basdeo Panday and appointed Opposition Leader Patrick Manning as prime minister following the tied 2001 general elections.
Robinson was honoured with the Trinity Cross, the then highest national award. He was also the recipient of the Order of the Caribbean Community and the Tobago Medal of Honour, Tobago’s highest honour.