Funeral in PoS

After the funeral, they saw Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the majority of the members of the People’s Partnership Government walk from the NAPA behind the gun carriage bearing Sir Ellis’ body to his final resting place. Persad-Bissessar and Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner were the only members of the Government who were cheered as they joined the funeral procession from NAPA to the cemetery.

From as early at 10.20 am, several dignitaries began arriving at NAPA ahead of the 11.30 am start of the State funeral. Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and his wife Sharon; Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Orville London; Opposition Senator Pennelope Beckles Robinson; Speaker Wade Mark and former prime minister Basdeo Panday and his daughter Mickela were among the first to arrive. Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs and other members of the Police Service’s top brass arrived 20 minutes later, all dressed in their ceremonial white and blue uniforms.

Chief Justice Ivor Archie arrived at NAPA at 11.05 am and was escorted inside by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. At 11.20 am, the Lydian Singers arrived at NAPA aboard three PTSC buses. A minute later, Persad-Bissessar and her husband Gregory Bissessar arrived at NAPA. Wearing a black hat, sunglasses, a gold and black top, black skirt and black leather high heels, Persad-Bissessar walked over to greet some schoolchildren who had gathered outside of NAPA for the funeral. However her interaction with them had to be curtailed as President George Maxwell Richards and his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards arrived at NAPA three minutes after the Prime Minister. While the dignitaries made their way into NAPA for the State funeral, members of the Regiment, Coast Guard and the Boy Scouts assumed their positions outside the building in preparation for the arrival of Sir Ellis’ body.

The hearse carrying the body arrived at NAPA at 11.35 am under police motorcycle escort. The body was taken to the rear entrance of NAPA on Keate Street and taken inside by six soldiers clad in white and green ceremonial uniforms who acted as pallbearers. Archbishop Edward Gilbert, the chief celebrant at the State funeral received the body at the entrance and led the soldiers bearing the casket inside.

While all of this was happening, schoolchildren and other citizens were gathering outside of NAPA at Memorial Park where a large screen had been set up to allow them to view the funeral. The funeral ended at about 1.15 pm and the casket bearing Sir Ellis’ body was slowly carried out of the NAPA, towards a waiting gun carriage that was being towed by a Regiment jeep. The carriage was flanked by a contingent of the Regiment soldiers and ten members of the Police Mounted Branch. One police officer performed the ritual of the “riderless trooper” which is accorded to deceased Heads of State. This ritual involves a rider leading a saddled horse which has a rider’s boots turned backwards in the saddle grips and a sheathed sword hanging from the saddle. Richards and other dignitaries watched as the casket was placed on the gun carriage. Persons assembled at Memorial Park jostled for position on the pavement as they tried to take pictures of the casket with their cellphones or cameras. A horse and some persons were startled by the thunderous boom of a 21 gun salute from the park in honour of Sir Ellis. As the gun carriage departed, four former TT Defence Force Chiefs of Staff - Major General Ralph Brown, Brigadier Carl Alfonso, Brigadier Edmund Dillon and Commodore Anthony Franklin- marched solemnly alongside it.

They were followed by members of the Clarke family. Then came the President and his wife, who were driven in their car to the cemetery. Flanked by heavy security, Persad-Bissessar and other government members walked behind the President’s car. The Prime Minister changed her high heel shoes for flat ones before she joined the procession. As they walked along Frederick and Park Streets under a blazing midday sun, school children and some adults cheered for Persad-Bissessar. “She’s looking nice...She’s a princess..Look Kamla..”, were some of the compliments which the Prime Minister received. In response, Persad- Bissessar smiled and waved at the crowds. However there were strong cheers also for Warner. “Uncle Jack...Jack, I’m flying my flag for you... Mr Warner..” were some of the cheers for Warner. “Thank you, thank you,” Warner replied with a wave of his right hand. The procession paused briefly outside of St Mary’s College, Sir Ellis’ alma mater, as the bell of the school’s chapel tolled in respect of the former president. St Mary’s students lined the pavement outside of the school, with two of them holding the national flag and the school’s flag aloft as Sir Ellis’ casket passed by.


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