Ex-NAR minister Jennifer Johnson dies

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Jennifer Johnson.

WINSTON Dookeran expressed regret that his former colleague Jennifer Johnson died without realising her dream for a national commemoration of the 1990 coup attempt and for compensation to be paid to the families of those killed when insurrectionists invaded the Red House, TTT and bombed the old police headquarters on St Vincent Street.

In 2020, when the nation marked the 30th anniversary of the coup attempt by Yasin Abu Bakr and members of the Jamaat Al Muslimeen, Johnson – who was held hostage for several days – in a televised interview, publicly called for a memorial, similar to the way the US commemorates 9/11, and some kind of monument to mark that dark day in TT’s history.

Johnson who served in different capacities in the ONR, NAR and PNM, also pleaded with the Prime Minister to implement one of the recommendations coming out of the commission of enquiry (CoE), and compensate the surviving families of those who died in the coup attempt.

Johnson died at her St Joseph Village, San Fernando home on Wednesday night. She was a former Minister of Youth, Sport, Culture and the Creative Arts (1986-1991). She would have celebrated her 77th birthday on February 17.

Colleagues from across the political divide remembered the contribution of the former MP for Princes Town, at the same time expressing sadness.

Dookeran, a Cabinet Minister in the then NAR administration, said he was deeply saddened by her passing because she was much more than a political colleague. He said he considered her as a friend and family.

“I remember her vividly in the 1990 event and she sat next to me, or rather lay down right next to me in the Parliament with both our hands tied behind our backs.

“We had to console each other. I remember she was in extreme pain, because her hands were tied together.

“That apart, she has always been a person who had a big smile and that smile reflected her calmness, her approach and in Cabinet she would always come to the conclusion of what is the right decision in the interest of the nation.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Johnson was a fierce patriot and a true daughter of the soil.

“Having started her career in public service at a young age she has given the majority of her life to the service of our nation.

“We all remain grateful for her endless contributions and we pray that her friends and family find strength at this time. May she rest in peace,” Persad-Bissessar said.

The PNM’s Women’s League also extended condolences Johnson’s husband and children Nadine, Nicolette and Raymond.

The League lauded Johnson for her quiet courage when she was held hostage. It said Johnson also served as the PNM Youth Officer Female from 2003-2005 under the leadership of former political leader Patrick Manning.

PNM’s Laurel Lezama Lee Sing said she had the privilege of sharing a unique bond with Johnson for almost 25 years.

“She first shot into my consciousness when, as a very young girl, my very PNM mother sharpened her focus on and keenly studied the non-PNM women who formed part of the then NAR government. Names such as Gloria Thomasos Pollard, Pamela Nicholson, Gloria Henry and Jennifer Johnson were regularly mentioned in our home.

Lezama Lee Sing said Johnson was adored by all the young people, without exception, when she was appointed as the PNM National Youth Officer (female).

Another former Cabinet colleague, Dr Bhoe Tewarie said he had fond memories of Johnson with whom he worked very well with.

“She was a good and decent person.”

He said they remained in touch, post the NAR and People’s Partnership days, but had lost touch recently.

Former Education Minister, Dr Tim Gopeesingh said he worked with her in the early 1990s on the national unity team in 1994. And almost 30 years later, her decisive actions are still having a positive impact on the youths.