Tributes to late MPs take Lower House sitting into late night

THE House of Representatives yesterday spent hours paying tribute to former Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson, and former Education Minister Dr Neville Gallimore — both members of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) — who died late last month.

“She was more than a political colleague, she more was like my sister and a friend,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness said of Robinson, who lost her battle to cancer, while he hailed the contribution of Gallimore who served in the 1980s Cabinet of Edward Seaga.

Holness also had some kind words for three other public servants who were also honoured for their service to the country and the public service and who have died since May — former Mayor of May Pen and chairman of the Association of Local Government Authorities Milton Brown; former Deputy Mayor of Lucea and Councillor for Lucea division Audley Gilpin; and former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and head of the Child Development Agency Alison McLean.

The long process of paying tributes lasted for several hours eating into the time for other Government business, including the review of the delayed supplementary estimates for 2020/21, which has been stalled for the past two weeks, and a possible debate on two bauxite/alumina ministerial orders which were scheduled to be taken, as well, by Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke.

The debate on the process of approving the supplementary estimates began close to 7:30 pm.

Holness, who led the tributes to the public officials, was joined by Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips and several Cabinet ministers, junior ministers and backbenchers, all of whom were full of praise for those who were being honoured. The tributes ended with the MPs and their guests in the public galleries standing for a minute’s silence at the end of the contributions.

The prime minister recalled his visit to Robinson at her home in St Ann, days before her death, and told the House of their meeting in the late-1990s after the JLP had suffered a severe beating from the People’s National Party (PNP) at the polls, and highlighted how she went on to win the St Ann North Eastern seat in a by-election, restoring confidence in the party’s ability to win elections, laying the foundation for its return to power in 2007.

Holness noted it was a period of great frustration with the political system, generally, but the by-election in St Ann North Eastern, prompted by the sudden resignation of PNP MP and businessman Danny Melville, had opened the way for her to enter representational politics as the candidate for the JLP, eventually winning the seat which was only won once before in the JLP landslide of 1980

He attributed the victory to Robinson’s “fresh and enduring personality”, noting that she had gone on to transform the constituency into a JLP stronghold, which has continued to vote “Labour” in every election since then.

In his presentation, Dr Philiips said that in much the same way that the name Gallimore had become synonymous with St Ann South Western through service to the community from Dr Gallimore and his father, G Abuttnot Gallimore, whom he succeeded, St Ann North Eastern had adopted Robinson because of her service and dedication to the people of the area although she was originally from St Ann South Eastern.

“In much the same way, I think that it is worthwhile to recognise this outstanding quality in Shahine Robinson. She was a formidable politician. She came to politics more than 30 years after the scene had changed and she gave service her St Ann community needed,” Dr Phillips said.

“What struck me most about her was this quality of goodwill that she extended to all. She did this in a personal relationship and that personal relationship was not restricted to the people of her own political relationship. She extended it,” he added.

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