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Right to privacy


Gercine Carter

Right to privacy

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One year after his dear friend’s passing, Brian Clarke, the eulogist at David Thompson’s funeral, thinks the late Prime Minister was fully justified in keeping the state of his illness to himself.
In his reflections on the first year of Thompson’s passing, Clarke told the SUNDAY SUN: “I could understand that people may think that a Prime Minister’s health is not just the business of the Prime Minister and the business of his family, but because he is a Prime Minister it is the business of the country, and as a result of his office everyone is entitled to know. I understand the force of that argument.
“On the other hand, my personal experience is that if you are struggling with something as difficult as a life-threatening illness and you have to maintain a positive attitude, and you have to convince yourself that this is something that you can beat, you cannot at the same time look at a camera and tell the world that you are suffering from a terminal illness,” he said.
“So I think that he was fully justified in keeping the state of his illness to himself, so that he could maintain that state of mind which he required to carry him through because he never resigned himself to that fate.”
Clarke sometimes finds it difficult to believe that Thompson is gone, and feels “a tremendous sense of emptiness and loss”.
“We used to discuss a lot of nothing, just foolishness. We did not speak every day . . . but he was always available if I wanted him for something urgently. He was good at returning calls, period.”
The two became friends when Brian, then a young Harrison College Cadet, visited Combermere and “met this fellow who was not a Cadet . . . but he seemed to be in charge of everything”. The friendship continued through adult life.
And Clarke admits the experience of his friend’s life has been instructive.
“I think that life is very hard. David fought long and hard to become Prime Minister. There were times when he was not sure that he wanted it. He suffered some tremendous setbacks but he overcame all that.
“There came a point when he decided yes, this is what I want, this is what I want to do. So after going after all that, it is really hard to see the opportunity snatched away from him.”
He added: “I think the story of the cobbling together of the Democratic Labour Party after significant setbacks is the story of real triumph and it required a lot of self-confidence, a lot of confidence in the party, in the country and in the people and also a huge amount of confidence in yourself.”  
Though he concedes Thompson did not do it alone, Clarke credits the late Prime Minister with the responsibility for making it happen, and observed Thompson brought the same determination to his illness.  
“I don’t regret the fact that I did not see him at the end. I saw the reaction of good friends of mine after they visited him and they were in complete shock.”
Though the two spoke on the telephone several times over the entire course of Thompson’s illness – about the old days of school, university, catching up on old friends – Clarke admits not going to see his friend in the advanced stages of his illness, though being kept abreast by Thompson’s wife Mara.
It was by the Prime Minister’s choice never part of the discussion.
Now Clarke says: “I miss speaking to him . . . . I miss the camaraderie, the friendship.”

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