By Caribbean News Now contributor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Former Trinidad and Tobago president and prime minister ANR Robinson passed away at around 6 am on Wednesday. He was 87 and had been ailing for several months.
Robinson was the third president of Trinidad and Tobago, serving from 1997 to 2003. He was also Trinidad and Tobago's third prime minister, serving in that capacity from 1986 to 1991. He is internationally recognized for his proposal that eventually led to the founding of the International Criminal Court.
Robinson was the first active politician to be elected to the presidency, and was the first presidential candidate who was not elected unopposed -- the opposition People's National Movement (PNM) nominated Justice Anthony Lucky as its candidate for president.
He sparked controversy during his term in office when he refused to appoint certain senators recommended by then prime minister, Basdeo Panday, following the elections in 2000, and in 2001 when he appointed the leader of the opposition Patrick Manning to the position of prime minister after a tied election.
Prior to the 1986 elections Robinson was instrumental in setting up the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and was its chairman from December 1980 to 16 December 1986. This local government entity was established in 1980 to strengthen the position of Tobago within the unitary state of Trinidad and Tobago.
Robinson remains the only person to have held the posts of chairman of the Tobago House of Assembly, prime minister, and president.
During a 1990 coup d'état attempt by the Jamaat al Muslimeen, Prime Minister Robinson and much of his Cabinet were held hostage for six days by gunmen under the leadership of Yasin Abu Bakr. When instructed to order the army to stop firing on the Red House (the seat of Parliament where they were held hostage) Robinson instead instructed them to "attack with full force", an action that earned him a severe beating from his captors. He was also shot in his leg.
In 1989, during the 44th Session of the UN General Assembly, he proposed the creation of a permanent international court to deal with the transnational drug trade. This eventually led to the inauguration of the International Criminal Court in 2002, commissioned to hear cases of crimes against humanity. He has received many honours for this achievement.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said in a statement, "We have lost one of our nation's outstanding sons."
His passing is a deep and tragic loss for the country, but the legacy he leaves behind shall surely live on to inspire today’s and tomorrow’s generations, she continued.
The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) said that Robinson served his country with distinction during his decades in public life and was always committed to the democratic process to which press freedom is such an integral part.
“It was Mr Robinson’s government that opened up the media in Trinidad and Tobago by granting licences for the establishment of additional media houses. This liberalisation of the media has allowed it to grow, to deepen press freedom and to ensure that the media continue to fearlessly and aggressively defend press freedom,” MATT said.
Irwin LaRocque, secretary-general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said the Community has lost one of its truly great sons who will always be remembered for his historic role at the landmark Grand Anse Meeting in 1989, where the decision was taken to significantly deepen our integration.