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BC’s BARBADOS: After public life


BC Pires

BC’s BARBADOS: After public life

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THE BARBADIAN PRIME Minister died over the weekend. People all over this little island and the planet itself will be in sorrow. When I googled the words David Thompson Dies on Saturday morning, the first three responses were all foreign media reports, including one from Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota – who knew there were Bajans there?
Because he was the Prime Minister of a nation, albeit a tiny one, his death is newsworthy, around the world. But what matters most, now, is not that he has left Barbados without a permanent prime minister or his political party without a leader – for those positions will be filled, if they are not already. The only thing that really matters is he has left his wife and daughters.
There is no subtraction quite like that of your father. “My father, God, is dead” wrote Derek Walcott in the line that packs more punch per syllable than any other he ever penned (that I have read). The people of Barbados, among the most kind-hearted in the world, will feel Mr Thompson’s death personally.
They would never collectively exaggerate another’s misfortune for the sake of drama as they would, say, in Trinidad or Jamaica. When Aldwyn Roberts, the Lord Kitchener, died, his children couldn’tget to h is graveside because of the massive crowds jostling “to see”.
It wasn’t that Trinidadians are heartless people, far from it – but their involvement in the life and death of a public figure is different.
I am the last person anyone should turn to for advice on manners; I have been rushing into places where angels fear to tread for as long as I can remember. But it seems to me that, however much we, the people of Barbados, the West Indies and the world may miss him, it is as nothing compared to the agony of blankness his family now confronts.
The life of a public man is different from that of a private citizen. The death of a prime minister translates into a particular kind of sorrow for his family. The perhaps great achievements of the public man are underwritten, often, by failures of equal measure in private life.
Once, I asked former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, if his daughters didn’t suffer from his absence at home. He replied that, doing the work he did, he helped everyone’s children, not just his own.
The Barbadian public knew very little about Mr Thompson’s illness. In other parts of the world – indeed, in other Caribbean islands – that would not have been accepted.
In Trinidad, the media would have been chastised for failing to inform the citizenry of the state of health of its top public official. Mr Thompson’s path to death was far more private than any leader of Government should have expected; but it was right.
Before he was anything else, Mr Thompson was a husband and father. As a public figure, his private life must have suffered; it was fitting that his last days should have been for his family alone. If the people of Barbados feel his loss heavily, they should direct all their good wishes and prayers to Mr Thompson’s family. They gave him to us; it is time to repay that psychic debt.
• BC Pires is in mourning for all sad families.
 

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