Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, led members of the House of Representatives in paying tribute to Government Ministers and other public officials who died recently, during a special sitting on Wednesday (June 10).
Heartfelt tributes were paid to the late Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson; Dr. Neville Gallimore, who served as Minister of Social Security from 1984 to 1986 and Education Minister from 1986 to 1989; former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Alison McLean; former Mayor of May Pen, Milton Brown; and former Deputy Mayor of Lucea, Audley Gilpin.
Members of the House also observed a moment of silence in honour of all the deceased.
“These Jamaicans have served our country well, through the Parliament, through local government and through the civil service. The Parliament acknowledges their service, the Parliament commemorates your life and work, and we pass our… respects to their families,” the Prime Minister said.
With a large picture of Mrs. Robinson visible behind him, nestled between two fresh potted flowers, and resting where she would normally sit in the House, the Prime Minister shared fond, light-hearted memories of the late Minister, whom he referred to as “more than a political colleague, she was more like my sister and friend”.
Sharing that he went to see her only a few days before she passed, Mr. Holness said it was and is still a very emotional time, but that he is “comforted she is now in the arms of God and there is no more pain”.
He noted that when Mrs. Robinson came to public prominence in 2001, with her “fresh and endearing personality,” she did not fit the bill of a conventional politician.
“Her unassuming and humble demeanour and her endearing smile belied the talawah of Nanny and the deep love and genuine motherly care of Mother Teresa,” the Prime Minister said.
Following her victory in becoming Member of Parliament for North East St. Ann, Mr. Holness pointed out that “almost 20 years later, she would’ve dutifully fulfilled the pledge of serving her people”.
“Shahine threw herself into representational politics unreservedly. She threw herself into the constituency, and the people of the constituency have become a part of her extended family,” he said.
He noted that Mrs. Robinson took constituency organisation and constituency representation seriously, recalling that she knew her constituents by name and was familiar with their varied stories
“Her mantra was if we are going to be good politicians, that’s how we have to know our people. She lived her sage words and would often say: ‘If you don’t go into politics to serve, it doesn’t make any sense. You have to want to serve the people to make a difference in the lives of the people’,” he added.
Turning to her performance as a Minister, Mr. Holness said she worked very closely with the trade union movement, pointing out that her approach, “her conciliatory style, her soft words, her understanding posture would have contributed to maintaining the industrial harmony and peace which Jamaica has enjoyed for more than a decade”.
He pointed out that Mrs. Robinson was always championing the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), the Ministry’s flagship social protection initiative, and that she had the ability to continue securing substantial increases for the programme.
The Prime Minister said he also admired her performance at the International Labour Organization (ILO), noting that she was well respected in that fraternity.
Mr. Holness said he had the privilege of appointing her Minister of Transport and Works – the first woman to hold that position; and then to name her as Labour Minister.
Mrs. Robinson, whom Mr. Holness had announced would be accorded an official funeral, first served as Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from September 2007 to July 2011, and also served as Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government from July 2011 to November 2011.
The late Minister, who served as Member of Parliament for 19 years, died on Friday (May 29), after a period of illness, at the age of 66. A period of mourning is also being observed from Wednesday (June 10) to Tuesday (June 16).
At the end of his tribute, the Prime Minister paused to look admiringly at the picture of Mrs. Robinson.
Mr. Holness also shared personal experiences of Dr. Gallimore, who succeeded his father, Gideon Aabuthnott Gallimore as Member of Parliament for South West St. Ann.
He noted that Dr. Gallimore took great pleasure in helping people, and positively touched thousands of lives and displayed genuine interest in the welfare of his community, going to great lengths to help the people.
“This was recognised by the people of South West St. Ann where he served for over 30 years. He was devoted to the education of the people and helped countless young people to get education, many times with financial contributions from his personal resources,” Mr. Holness informed.
He further noted that Dr. Gallimore who had a long and illustrious career in politics, “served Jamaica with distinction. He had a passion for his God, his people and his politics”.
The Prime Minister noted that Dr. Gallimore was a part of the Jamaican political landscape from the 1960s and would have helped to shape policy and institutional reform in modern Jamaica.
“We remember his impactful stewardship, and in particular critical programmes such as the National Food Stamp Programme and the National Assessment Programme (a precursor to the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). These were realised under his watch as he steered the institutional changes that formed the critical components of the social system and, indeed, our education system,” Mr. Holness said.
“Jamaica has, indeed, lost a servant, a political elder, a patriot, an astute and willing Trojan in the national political field – a hard worker who has left an indelible mark on our great island,” Mr. Holness added.
Dr. Gallimore, who passed away on May 28, at age 81, was first elected Member of Parliament for the constituency of South West St. Ann in 1967, becoming at the time, the youngest member of the Jamaican Parliament. That title would then pass on to former Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding.
He also served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs from 1969 to 1972, and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade between 1980 and 1984.
Meanwhile, in his tribute, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, praised Mrs. Robinson and Dr. Gallimore as stalwarts of the Jamaican Parliament who were drawn from different decades.
“[They were] 20 years apart at the point of their birth, but each gave distinguished service to their country, their communities, and have established a record that generations coming would do well to study and in many respects emulate,” he said.
He recognised Mrs. Robinson as a “formidable politician”, whose influence extended beyond North East St. Ann.
“She was influential across the entire parish. But what struck me most of all about Shahine Robinson was this quality of goodwill that she extended to all. She did it in her personal relations. Her personal relationships were not restricted to people of her own political affiliation. And her political outreach in her community was driven by a sense of service to community,” he said.
Dr. Phillips added that in the Parliament she was able, “with her own inimitable style,” to maintain good relations with everyone, which is a quality Dr. Gallimore shared.
“On a personal level, what was most striking to me was that despite the fact that he was what you might call a “hard scrabble” politician, he always was able to maintain good relations across the House with everyone,” he said.
Dr. Phillips also paid tribute to Alison McLean, and made mention of the other lives lost.
The tributes would continue well into the night with 22 other Government and Opposition members paying tribute to the departed members.
The tribute of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, for Mrs. Robinson, was particularly touching.
Her voice breaking as she began to speak fondly of her “little sister” and friend Shahine, Ms. Grange noted that the pain of her loss is hard to bear.
At intervals, she had to be comforted by Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague, as she broke down in tears.
Describing Mrs. Robinson as a “phenomenal Jamaican woman”, Ms. Grange pointed out that the House of Representatives “has lost one of its most luminous stars. Jamaica has lost one of her most ardent and compassionate women in leadership”.
“The people of North East St. Ann, especially, mourn the loss of a woman who not only became family but was mother to many, aunt to numerous others and ultimately comforter and provider for so many more,” she said.
Ms. Grange also paid tribute to Alison McLean and Dr. Gallimore.
The other members who gave tributes were Hon. Audley Shaw, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, Hon. Robert Montague, Hon. Karl Samuda, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, Fitz Jackson, Horace Dalley, Everard Warmington, Dr. Morais Guy, Hon. Michael Henry, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, Denise Daley, Hon. Zavia Mayne, Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, Franklin Whitter, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Hon. Floyd Green, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., and Speaker, Hon. Pearnel Charles Snr.