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Why Robinson picked Manning as PM
Former president Arthur NR Robinson has explained his reasons for appointing Patrick Manning as prime minister in December 2001 after the PNM/UNC 18/18 tie at the polls. Robinson had said then that on the basis of “moral and spiritual values,” Manning was the better person to lead the Government of T&T.
In his book In the Midst of It, which was launched at the Central Bank Auditorium, Port-of-Spain, on Tuesday evening, Robinson said he reached his controversial decision after consultation with both Manning and Basdeo Panday, the incumbent PM.
Among the specially invited guests at the launch were President George Maxwell Richards and his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Rodger Samuel, chairman of the Integrity Commission Kenneth Gordon, Robinson’s daughter, Ann-Margaret and his granddaughter Anushka. There was no fanfare nor was the national anthem played after the arrival of the President, causing some present to express anger.
In his 261-page book, which he started writing since he was PM in 1986, Robinson said he wanted to appoint a prime minister before Christmas of 2001 as the country was “in a state of suspense” and several days had elapsed after the historic election and the country had no government. Robinson said he decided to address the nation after speaking “privately and simultaneously” with both Manning and Panday. He said to his great surprise “a great commotion took place because of my reference to moral and spiritual values,” which he said was an excerpt from the T&T Constitution.
Robinson said he appointed Manning not only because of that but also “because of the oath of office which Members of Parliament had taken, on which I made the decision.” Robinson said in his autobiography: “After all, I had no doubt that if members had adhered to their oath of office, they would advise me to appoint Manning as the Prime Minister.”
He noted the decision was controversial as some people accepted it and others did not “and severe attacks followed” as they felt the incumbent should have been allowed to continue as prime minister. Robinson said: “In the period that followed, the situation in the Parliament was one of non-co-operation. It became clear that the agreement between the two (Manning and Panday) to abide by whatever decision I took in appointing a prime minister was not holding.”
Robinson said it was apparent that fresh elections would have to be called and he was asked to remain in office for an additional year in 2002, as the country was unsettled and the business of the Government could not proceed as it should. He said in October 2002, the PNM won the election and secured a majority. Robinson said his bequest “to the youth of this nation, indeed to the world, is to ‘dream the impossible dream.’”
Robinson’s daughter Ann-Margaret, in her address, said her father was not perfect but very human, and the book was a reflection of the man Arthur NR Robinson. Prof Courtenay Bartholomew said Robinson displayed great patriotism while he was a hostage of the Jamaat al Muslimeen during the 1990 attempted coup and assault on Parliament, and was prepared to give his life in the interest of preserving T&T’s democracy.