Robinson said it was his experience working with Panday under the NAR Government of 1986-1991 that persuaded him to choose Manning.
“I had had a lot of experience of Mr Panday. I had had no such experience of Mr Manning. The experience with Mr Panday convinced me that I would be destroying the country if I appointed Mr Panday as prime minister.”
This and more were candidly discussed by the well-respected politician during the inaugural ‘‘Conversations with Prime Ministers’’ featuring Robinson, held Tuesday evening at the Daaga Auditorium at the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine Campus.
During the nearly two-hour long interactive session, 84-year-old Robinson also shared memories of his early life and education in Tobago, his time as finance minister in the 1960s under the People’s National Movement (PNM), serving as prime minister under the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) from 1986 to 1991 and as president from 1997 to 2003.
Talk of the attempted coup by Yasin Abu Bakr and the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen came about as Robinson explained why, upon entering government in 1986, the NAR cut ministers’ salaries by ten percent and reduced the wages of approximately 18,000 public servants rather than dismissing them, even as it introduced the Value-Added Tax (VAT).
“The Treasury was empty. Our external balances had been depleted. Not only did we have to meet the expense for current activities in the public service and in the protective services, we had to service loans that had been entered into with foreign countries,” Robinson said.
Noting the public servants’ salary cut “was one of the measures that created the greatest discontent” among the population, Robinson denied that it in any way led to the decision by Abu Bakr and company to attempt a coup on July 27, 1990.
‘‘Conversations’’ is a four-part series organised under UWI’s ‘‘Distinguished Open Lecture Series’’ to celebrate Trinidad and Tobago’s 50th anniversary of Independence. The other three prime ministers who will take part are Basdeo Panday, Patrick Manning and current Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.