Trinidad and Tobago
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Speaker, MPs pay tribute to Jennifer Johnson

Sean Douglas Former Government minister and MP, Jennifer Johnson. FILE PHOTO -
Former Government minister and MP, Jennifer Johnson. FILE PHOTO -

SPEAKER Bridgid Annisette-George recalled former MP/minister the late Jennifer Jones, 76, as a courageous woman who pioneered a path for girls and women, in a tribute in the House of Representatives on Friday.

"She was a true exemplar of a strong female trailblazer who paved the way for other women to break systemic barriers that restrict the advancement of women and girls.

"Mrs Johnson fervently encouraged higher education for women and young girls.

"Her aspiration for having a more educated and empowered female population in TT was evidenced by dedication to the Girl Guides Association, an organisation that strengthened the lives of many women in our society." Johnson had joined the association in 1957, becoming president in 2012-2021.

Annisette-George said Johnson had been "a woman of courage and compassion" in the face of terror.

"She was one of two female MPs held captive during the July 27, 1990, attempted coup.

The Speaker hailed Johnson's "brave and caring nature." She said the late former MP was devoted to the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies.

"Her unshakeable faith and ambition during times of uncertainty and turmoil were a source of inspiration to all who knew her."

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath gave the Opposition tribute.

"I join in paying tribute to Jennifer Ursula Johnson, a fallen hero who stood for this country at a time when our nation was brought to its knees, at that time she lived to tell the story.

"Jennifer Johnson's life is a lesson to all of us as Members of Parliament that despite how long or short out stay in this august hall might be, we should always remember what matters most and that is the people we were elected to serve."

Padarath said despite serving just one term as Princes Town MP, Jennifer Johnson remained a household name throughout the constituency, even as he now stood on her shoulders as the area's youngest ever MP, to build on the foundation she had left.

"Her work in the spheres of women's empowerment, child advocacy rights and a penchant for youth development continued fervently beyond her presence as an elected member of this house.

"Her legacy and hallmark is the impression she has left on the many lives she has touched and the many young men and women who she paved the way for through her activism and service."

Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings delivered the Government's tribute.

"Heroes walk among us, many of them, unsung. Jennifer Ursula Johnson is an unsung hero of this here land. For more than half of a century, she steadfastly and diligently committed her time and talent toward the development of her beloved nation of TT."

He said Johnson had an unparalleled passion based on her firm belief in fuelling the country's fortunes by harnessing the power and potential of the nation’s youth.

"Long before she entered active politics; long before she was elected as the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Princes Town on a NAR ticket in 1986; before she was appointed Minister of Sport, Youth and Culture; she was involved in activism and advocacy through her involvement with the Girl Guides Association (GGATT)."

In 1957, as a pre-teen, she enrolled as a junior guide, advancing through the ranks to President of the Girl Guides from 2012-2021.

"She firmly believed in the magic of the guiding promise, and did all in her power to make sure that that magic touched and shaped every single one of the thousands of young girls who enrolled in the various units of GGATT.

"It was those lessons learnt as a girl guide that prepared Mrs Johnson for the world of political representation."

In the 1970s, she served with ANR Robinson as a senior strategist for the DAC, and later the NAR which won the 1986 general election.

Cummings said Johnson was passionate about her constituents whom she advocated for at every opportunity in the third Republican Parliament.

"Her tenure as a Cabinet Minister saw her make significant transformations within the spheres of youth, culture, sport and the creative arts. She was simply a perfect fit." He said he parliamentary colleagues spoke fondly of her warm, caring and genuine nature, and also her steadfastness during the 1990 insurrection.

"Her courage and her steely grit helped all affected to withstand those tumultuous times."

Cummings said Johnson joined the PNM in the late 1990s.

"She stood on the side of the young people, fiercely championing spaces for their voice and their energy.

"In 2001, she was appointed to serve as the chairman of the board of directors of Ytepp Ltd."

With a clear vision, she set out to destigmatise Ytepp and make it more relevant for youngsters.

"That transformation was a massive success. Ytepp expanded its program, improved its accreditation, widened its intake, included business management elements, and produced more talented, skilled and contributing young nationals than before.

"That is Jennifer’s legacy. One of nation building and youth development."

Cummings said the country was poorer for losing Johnson, dubbing her "a national hero."

He offered commiserations to her husband and three children.

"Thank you good and faithful patriot. Your work here is complete. May the angels welcome you into paradise."