(Trinidad Guardian) A tearful St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, was one of the first Caricom leaders to pay his respects to former T&T prime minister Patrick Manning, as his body lay in State at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) yesterday.
From 10 am yesterday, citizens, led by President Anthony Carmona, said their final farewells to Manning, who died last Saturday at the San Fernando General Hospital after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Gonsalves arrived around 2 pm but no Government Minister was on hand to meet and greet him. Hazel Manning was also not there at the time. He was then escorted to the body, where he remained for more than two minutes paying his respects. The tears emerged within moments of viewing Manning’s body.
Gonsalves was the last regional prime minister to visit and speak with Manning before he died at hospital. He visited Manning days before he passed away. During that visit, Gonsalves and Manning were heard laughing loudly as they shared a few moments together.
But yesterday, he could not hold back the grief as the tears flowed. He had openly described Manning as a friend. After viewing the body, Gonsalves proceeded to sign the condolence book. Gonsalves is expected to speak during Manning’s State funeral at the Holy Trinity Cathedral this morning.
University of the West Indies medicine student Ayeshia Spencer, who was among thousands who paid their final respects to Manning, said the University of Trinidad and Tobago should be renamed in his honour as a tribute to him. Establishment of the UTT was the brainchild of Manning.
“I think they should give him some honour within the University of Trinidad and Tobago,” Spencer said, adding she benefitted from advice given to her by Manning while he was prime minister.
She said he played a critical role in her decision to successfully do her advanced level exams after completing her O’ levels.
Spencer, from Laventille, said Manning was a very caring man and she will miss hearing him talk, adding that he had charisma. She admitted to frequently looking at You Tube videos to hear Manning’s speeches over the years.
She said she was not shocked to hear of his passing after he was diagnosed with AML, but insisted that she “did not expect it to happen so quickly.” Spencer said she felt like Manning “was my own dad.”
There was still a long line of people waiting to say farewell to Manning, who served as prime minister from 1991 to 1995 and from 2001 to 2010, outside NAPA yesterday afternoon.
Former health minister Jerry Narace was among those who did so yesterday afternoon. Employees from the banks, stores and government ministries were among the many who were at NAPA yesterday.
But not everyone got a chance to view Manning’s body yesterday. Due to the huge turnout, some members of the public gave up after waiting in line for several hours.