EDITORIAL: Sir Harcourt: A fine public servant
THE DEATH of Sir Harcourt Lewis marks, in many respects, the end of an era in the history of this country’s administration.
This man of ordinary beginnings, like most Barbadians of his time was imbued with a high sense of public service and dedication to his country. He was a model public servant whose achievements as an administrator could be held up to the highest professional scrutiny.
Barbados was once said, by Kofi Annan the former United National Secretary General who knew what he was talking about, to punch above its weight. His statement, properly understood, was a compliment not only to the policymaker politicians but also to those, like Sir Harcourt who worked to implement the policy for the overall benefit of the people of this country. As a result, this little nation had made considerable strides in its social and economic programmes and was an example to other small nations everywhere.
Yet, so many of us take the important strides made by our country since Independence for granted and we applaud the politicians for the creation of enlightened policy of one kind or other. Little attention is paid to the efficient administrators who away from the glare of publicity, work hard to implement the policy and make a practical success of the dry bones of the policy as laid out by the politicians.
Sir Lawrence Vernon Harcourt Lewis was an exemplary public servant whose fine administrative skills made him a public figure who was admired within and without the public service. This was an achievement of huge proportions given that he was a man of quiet disposition, and dignified bearing who like most serious administrators eschewed the limelight and simply got on with the job of getting the job done.
One of the frequent laments of modern times is the complaint of an implementation deficit, meaning that we do not seem to be able to follow through and get things done in the public service. It is the highest compliment to Sir Harcourt and others of his ilk that such concerns were not raised in his day as an administrator.
Indeed, long before he became a minister of Government in a DLP administration, his legendary skills at implementing policy attracted the attention of BLP Prime Minister Tom Adams who asked him to accept the task of bringing into existence the Barbados National Bank and the Insurance Corporation of Barbados. The success of these two major institutions owes a great deal to the fine work done by Sir Harcourt in laying the proper foundations and guiding these two entities through the process of formation and early existence.
We have today recognised Sir Harcourt’s public service not only to deservedly honour him, but to serve as a nation-building reminder to all Barbadians and public servants, that the success of this country has been hammered out on the anvil of a public service that puts service above any other consideration, especially political considerations, and that the growth of the economy and the well being of our island depends a great deal on efficient implementation of policy.
The finest memorial that we can all give to Sir Harcourt would be to resolve to follow his example and be the finest workers we can be, whether in the private or public sector. He has earned and deserved the high honour a knighthood and the grant of an official funeral.
The finest tribute that we may each pay to this giant of a public servant would be to adopt his ethic of excellent work, efficiently done and implemented in the interest of our island home.
Sir Harcourt has written his name on history’s page. Especially at this time, each one of us should similarly seek to write our names on that page. His was a fine example.
May he rest in peace.