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Sir Richard: Arthur had productive tour of duty


Sir Richard: Arthur had productive tour of duty

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The following is a tribute by Sir Richard Cheltenham on the passing of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur.

Arthur passed away on July 27, 2020.

“The recent death of former Prime Minister, Professor the Rt. Hon, Owen Seymour Arthur, has led to a richly deserved and sustained outpouring of tributes both at home and abroad. They were mostly concentrated on his leadership of the country over a 14-year period and of his contribution to regional development as it relates to the Caricom Single Market and Economy.

“Attracting no attention has been Arthur’s contribution to the image of the Barbados Labour Party.

“By the time Arthur entered the House of Assembly in 1983 following two by-elections in St Peter in which he was the BLP’s candidate, the BLP had been persistently seen by some DLP [Democratic Labour Party] spokesmen as a lawyer’ club. It was, they contended, not a party of or for the working class.

“That criticism was made against the backdrop of the leadership of the BLP being passed from Grantley Adams to Bernard St John to Tom Adams, back to St John and later to Henry Forde over a 55-year period. They were all prominent and distinguished lawyers. Arthur’s ascension as leader of the BLP in 1993 silenced the critics and brought an end to that professional middle class image which they tried to force on the party.

“Arthur had a long and productive tour of duty as Prime Minister in which he managed successfully the economy. He was also the foremost champion of CARICOM, providing vital leadership and guidance on regional issues. His most recent assignments in LIAT and in Guyana were continuations of his long-standing commitment to the Caribbean in its entirety.

“Under his Prime Ministership we saw major developments for the better in urban and rural Barbados as those who benefitted from the Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act were assisted in transforming their living conditions. And Government’s role through the Urban and Rural Development Commissions saw to the rapid installation of water and electricity in many homes. He continued the expansion of our road networks in those areas, making for improved living conditions. The distinction between ‘town and country’ as it related to contrasting living conditions was swiftly corrected.

“The debate will continue as to whether Tom Adams or Arthur was our most transformative post-Independent national leader. But that debate is for another occasion.

“Arthur was a man of contrasting moods and behaviours. On serious occasions, he could concentrate and focus for long hours, exercising great restraint in his language. On other occasions, he would be seemingly short-tempered. By the next day, he behaved as though yesterday never was. Such were the contrasting and seemingly inexplicable features of the man.

“He loved to cook as a means of relaxation and did so with frequency, especially since leaving office. Over the years he played card games and dominoes one night a week, provided he was in Barbados. They were, for him, moments of relaxation and energy renewal to which he looked forward keenly. Besides, those occasions brought him much laughter and great satisfaction.

“For now I wish simply to add to Arthur’s rich legacy and express my sympathy to his wife, children and family members.

“May they find comfort in the large contribution which he made to the improvement of life in Barbados.

“And may his memory always be a blessing.” (PR)