- Leading the tributes was Government Senator, Kerensia Morrison, who said, Mrs. Robison’s love of the people, especially her constituents, is her strongest legacy.
- The Senator also conveyed the thoughts of the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the members of the Jamaica Foreign Service who “treasured their opportunities to work with Minister Shahine Robinson and are honoured to have borne witness to her effortless blend of strength, poise and humility in pursuing her mission for Jamaica’s progress and for the enhanced social welfare and well-being of her fellow human-beings everywhere”.
Members of the Senate on Friday (June 12) paid tribute to the late Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson.
Leading the tributes was Government Senator, Kerensia Morrison, who said, Mrs. Robison’s love of the people, especially her constituents, is her strongest legacy.
“She loved the people, and the people loved her,” Senator Morrison said during sitting of the Senate.
The late Minister, who served for 19 years as Member of Parliament (MP) for North East St. Ann, died on Friday (May 29), after a period of illness, at the age of 66.
She has been accorded an official funeral and a period of mourning is also being observed from Wednesday (June 10) to Tuesday (June 16).
Senator Morrison pointed out that the late MP, was so well-loved that grown men wept openly at the news of her death “because she was so immersed in the lives of her constituents”.
She shared that Mrs. Robinson could be contacted by her constituents via telephone calls and could be counted on to deal decisively with any issue raised.
“She was that firm hand in a velvet glove. Gentle enough to hush a baby, but strong and formidable in fighting for the rights of her people,” she said.
Mrs. Robinson, who was the first woman to hold the position of Minister of Transport and Works in 2011, initially 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.
In her tribute, Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, remembered Mrs. Robinson as “a woman of substance; a woman of dignity”.
“As I pay tribute to her…I do so with sadness but also with pride and gratitude, being proud to acknowledge her legacy as a sure-footed, strong, able, caring and excellent politician who improved the lives of her constituents and the persons touched by her Ministry. I’m grateful to have known her and to have learnt even a little bit from her,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith also marvelled at the connection Mrs. Robinson had with the people in her constituency which “was something to see”.
She shared that she would often tease the MP by calling her ‘Queen Shahine’ or giving her the royal wave, based on the reverence in which she was held.
“Whether it be her constituents, her family, her Parliamentary colleagues on either side, or her Ministry of Labour and Social Security team, Shahine Robinson was loved. Not because of her place, her power, (or) her privilege but because she genuinely showed care and love for whoever crossed her path,” she said.
Turning to her role as Minister of Labour and Social Security, Senator Johnson Smith pointed out that this responsibility was “an excellent fit”.
She noted that the staff at the Ministry’s Headquarters in Kingston and at Diplomatic Missions in Canada, Switzerland and the USA, in particular, who worked with Minister Robinson and her colleagues on matters of her portfolio, have fond memories of her.
“They recount that Minister Robinson knew her portfolio well and she was always thinking of ways to improve the service of her Ministry to the people of Jamaica, as she engaged, in what they described as her calm and decisive manner, with Jamaicans and labour officials from across the world. As they recall, her graciousness and willingness to listen were always appreciated, and she strove to protect the opportunities for Jamaican farm- and hotel-workers in these countries and indeed to expand them,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith also noted that Minister Robinson played a crucial role in Jamaica’s implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) Free Movement of Skilled Nationals Regime and specifically, she spearheaded the issuance of the CSME Skills Certificates, which is a necessary first step for nationals who need to move throughout the CARICOM Single Market to work.
“In Jamaica, the Skills Certificates can only be signed by the Minister of Labour, and this was a task that she continued to undertake, notwithstanding her deteriorating health,” she said.
The Senator also conveyed the thoughts of the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the members of the Jamaica Foreign Service who “treasured their opportunities to work with Minister Shahine Robinson and are honoured to have borne witness to her effortless blend of strength, poise and humility in pursuing her mission for Jamaica’s progress and for the enhanced social welfare and well-being of her fellow human-beings everywhere”.
“Jamaica has lost a champion for safer working environments and for labour market reforms. The Jamaica Labour Party has lost a true patriot and defender of democracy who fought an excellent fight. The people of North East St. Ann have lost their queen and shining star who stood with and for them since 2001 with her victory in that unforgettable bi-election,” she said.
In his recollections of the late MP, Government Senator Kavan Gayle, shared that Shahine Robinson, who was an outstanding servant of the people, was one-of-a-kind.
“You will meet some persons in life and they (will) demonstrate traits or characteristics of another person… (but) make no mistake, there (were) no two Shahine Robinsons,” he emphasised.
Senator Gayle pointed out that one of the things he appreciated about the late Minister, was her relentless promotion of the well-being, safety and health of the country’s workers.
“(There) is not a doubt in my mind that is why today we are dealing with in the Parliament the Occupational and Safety and Health legislation. I commend her for bringing that piece of legislation that has been languishing for decades to the nation’s Parliament,” he said.
In the meantime, Opposition Senator Lambert Brown, said he admired Mrs. Robinson for her courage in continuing to perform her duties though she was in pain due to her illness, “but she felt she needed to be there for the people of the country and the workers.”
In the meantime, Opposition Senator Floyd Morris, also spoke fondly of Mrs. Robinson, describing her as a “special person’, with whom he shared a good relationship.
Noting that as Minister of Labour and Social Security, Mrs. Robinson catered to the most vulnerable in the society, Senator Morris recalled working with her to put the necessary structures in place to facilitate the implementation of the Disabilities Act, 2014.
“I know that she was extremely committed to realizing that objective of getting the appointed date set for the legislation,” he said.
Other members who paid tribute, were: President of the Senate, Tom Tavares Finson, who shared a humorous memory he had of Minister Robinson; Government Senators Matthew Samuda, Ransford Braham, and Dr. Saphire Longmore.
The Senators also paid tribute to the late Member of Parliament for South West St. Ann, Dr. Neville Gallimore, who passed away on May 28, at age 81. He served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs from 1969 to 1972, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade between 1980 and 1984, Minister of Social Security from 1984 to 1986 and Education Minister from 1986 to 1989. Additionally respects were paid to former Mayor of May Pen, Milton Brown, who died on May 25.
The Senate also observed a moment of silence in honour of all the deceased.