What I wrote to Robinson in 2009
March 23rd, 2009
His Excellency Mr A N R Robinson
I am writing to express my gratitude to you for the positive contribution you have made to my life and particularly my career as a politician and a professional. I do this in this the year of my 60th birthday which will be observed, God willing, on April 14th2009). As I look back into my life, I recognize that my success in many areas of endeavor has been due to the unconditional trust which people have placed in me, to their generosity and interest in my career. You have been one of those who helped me to advance my career and realize aspects of my potential which without the opportunity afforded by you would most likely have remained dormant.
You trusted me with a most important position, that of Ambassador to Brazil in 1987 and gave me and my family a growth experience that would not otherwise have been possible. In addition, being the youngest ever Ambassador from Trinidad and Tobago at age 37, it was a special privilege and confidence booster. It affected my self esteem, particularly since I do suffer from low self esteem. Your confidence in me remains the most significant trust that has ever been placed in me. It allowed me to grow in responsibility. The opportunity as Ambassador also allowed me to meet people I would most likely have not met. Amongst them was Fidel Castro. Together with the late Selwyn Richardson, we spent over an hour in a most interesting conversation. In addition, I was able to witness the return to democracy and the transition of power in Chile from Pinochet to Patricio Aylwin in a most dramatic event at the new Congress building in Valpariso, Chile on March 11th 1990. It was during this time in Brazil that I met the late Princess Diana and Prince Charles. My Ambassadorship in Brazil also saw me being accredited to Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. The learning experience was incredible.
In 1990, you appointed me to the post of Junior Minister in the Ministry of Trade and Tourism. In addition I was appointed a Senator thus being able to serve in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. I was further honored by youwhen I was sent in 1990 as Head of the Trinidad and Tobago delegation to the Commonwealth Conference in Delhi, India.
Perhaps the best days of being a Minister was experienced when you gave me the responsibility to execute through NIPDEC, a programme to develop sporting facilities in communities as well as repair schools and places of worship. This was the birth of a partnership programme between the Government, particularly the Prime Minister’s Office and the communities. One particular project remains in my mind, the Picton Village Presbyterian School. It was a wooden building which was infested with rats and scorpions etc. This school was rebuilt under this programme . I fought this seat in the elections and although we built this school , I received less than 100 votes in this area.
I recall the day you invited Gerry Hadeed, Clive Pantin and myself to your Office and asked us to put together a paper to establish the National Self Help Commission. You had been in Office for exactly thirty seven days when that call was made. I am proud to say, and you I am sure must still be full of even greater pride that this institution continues to bring immense relief to the people of rural Trinidad in particular.
As testimony of your equal vision, the matter of lands for Divali Nagar and the National Council for Indian Culture had remained a sore point. I recall very vividly, that I had requested a meeting through Mr Reginald Dumas, then Head of the Public Service to meet with you along with Mr Hans Hanoomansingh then President of the National Council For Indian culture. At that meeting Gerry Hadeed and Mr Clive Pantin were also present. You made the matter so simple and instructed Mr Dumas to take the necessary steps to have the lands granted to the NCIC. You gave me the privilege of drafting your speech for the handing over ceremony in Chaguanas.
Today, I wish to say how much gratitude I continue to have for you. Without your generosity and trust, your confidence in me, I would not have been able to use my middle years to grow and develop my potential as well as I did. Because of you, I also grew in national stature.
There is one final incident that I would like to recall in particular. I was acting for Dr Sahadeo Basdeo as Minister of Foreign Affairs and had the opportunity to sit at a Cabinet meeting where school, buildings were being discussed. I took the opportunity to introduce the case of the Mohess Road Hindu School building which had been incomplete for quite a while. An animated discussion took place on the matter with several objections. I recall you saying at the cabinet table, “Approved!” When asked where the money was going to come from you said, “We will find it!” Not only did you find it but you did more. On a visit to Siparia you were with children of the Anglican School when the children of the Siparia Hindu School came to the fence and called out to you. You walked across to meet them and seeing the condition of their school you asked that discussions take place for a new school building. This school was also built.
As I celebrate my 60th birthday, I thank you most profusely for the many opportunities afforded to me to serve at the highest levels, to grow my career, to mature as a person, to understand social issues, to contribute to communities and to establish a national profile.
With best regards