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‘Too much’ asked of Thompson

John Sealy

‘Too much’ asked of Thompson

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THE DEMOCRATIC LABOUR Party might have asked too much of late Prime Minister David Thompson at an early age.
So said Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Owen Arthur as he delivered a tribute in the House of Assembly yesterday.
“One saw him (Thompson) grow and evolve and mature but it might well be that the Democratic Labour Party asked too much of him at an early age; at too difficult a time in its history.
“He assumed the leadership of the Democratic Labour Party in trying circumstances that would have tried even a Job. The party had just split in two, with the evolution of a wing of it as a new party . . . I saw an evolution. There are things that he did then that the David Thompson of 2010 would not have done.”
Arthur made specific reference to the election of 1994, “a young adventurous David Thompson put the DLP fortunes on a very high wire, when he had said that I entered a secret deal with the International Monetary Fund”.
“I was delighted when he said that because I knew it was a difficult case to prove. The mature Thompson of  2008 – 2010 would not have done anything of that nature.”
Arthur also recalled that in 1999 he “heard of a relationship with a Republican-type consultant. I heard disparaging remarks about the Barbadian society that he, as a nationalist, we were expecting him to disassociate himself from and he didn’t, [and he] put the fortunes of the party in some jeopardy. And we on this side were glad to take advantage of it”.
 “I’m not going to spoil the minutes,” Arthur added, “but there are a few things he did that I hope will never happen again”.
He also referred to the appointment of Chief Justice Sir David Simmons, noting that contrary to the view that had been put forward, he and Thompson had held “intense consultation” on the matter.
Present were Thompson’s wife Mara, two of  three of the Thompsons’ daughters and the late Prime Minister’s mother Margaret Knight.
Arthur said he was not there “to tear down or detract”  from those who knew Thompson differently.
“. . . My name and his name are joined. There was no enmity to the relationship but the nature of our politics requires that we were opponents,” he told the House .
“ He and I sat opposite, Sir, so we were not friends in the sense the Honourable Prime Minister [Freundel Stuart] can remember him, but we were political opponents who valued what each of us had to do for the tribes (words used almost in the best African sense) that we had to represent them. That is the perspective that I would like to bring to the House.”
Arthur said he and Thompson led political parties that were in relative turmoil and he would like to think that Thompson made a significant contribution to democracy in Barbados.
He said Thompson was one of the most gifted and remarkable politicians of his generation, “perhaps of any generation of Barbadian politician because I do not know another person who was engrossed in the politics of politics and used it to such tremendous effect”.
“He was a pragmatist above all. There are some who come to Parliament and seek to wrap their political message in philosophical and conceptual and ideological terminologies but he spoke for himself. He said he did not believe vin intellectualising politics. For him it was a pragmatic matter and he never got into the false rhetoric, the philosophical raves and rants. You are dealing with a straightforward man who saw things in a very political way but had no difficulties in representing politics in that form.”
Arthur, at times in a sombre mood, said: “(Thompson) was a child of Independence and even though as we sat on opposite sides we may have differed in respect  of the means and the strategies, I never doubted for one minute the deep nationalist instincts that were in him and that had inspired him and that sometimes on the regional stage caused him to take positions that other people in the Caribbean might not have appreciated.
“He was in every sense a child of Barbadian Independence.”