World leaders hail Patterson on his 80th
Jamaica's longest-serving prime minister, P.J. Patterson, on his 80th birthday, has been credited with being the rudder, through the rise of Caribbean integration, by some of the most powerful leaders in the region.
In a string of glowing tributes from one United States president, an African president, prime ministers, premiers, opposition leaders, academics, and musicians, the statesman, who turned 80 on Friday and who celebrated his milestone with a number of events on the weekend, was lauded as a titan in the vineyard of regional integration.
"His commitment to nationalism, regionalism, and internationalism is legendary," said Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Gonsalves' comments were bolstered by St Lucia's Dr Kenny Anthony, who stated that the Caribbean owed the larger-than-life Jamaican statesman a debt of gratitude.
Anthony said Patterson played an integral role in helping Haiti with its many challenges, and even nearly a decade after his departure from elective politics, remained steadfast in his commitment to the region.
"In St Lucia, we have always admired your stern, yet calm sensibilities. We have revered your willingness to speak your mind while being wisely economical with words," said the St Lucian prime minister.
Former US President Bill Clinton said throughout the 80-year-old politician's career, he has been a strong advocate for cooperation and shared growth in the Caribbean.
Opting not to dwell on Patterson's many years of impeccable service to politics, Perry Christie, current chairman of CARICOM and prime minister of The Bahamas, in his reflection, pointed out that "P.J. appreciates and fully grasps that we are a talented people in so many aspects - intellectually, culturally, athletically, and so forth. He is a firm believer that smallness does not matter, but we can emerge from the circumstances of our history".
An advocate for human development, Patterson was lauded by Jamaica's own Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller - who was away at the Summit of the Americas in Panama during the celebration - as a sage of no ordinary proportion who grows more erudite, astute, and perceptive with age.
"His legendary skills in political organisation have been an inseparable part of the foundations of the People's National Party for many years since the tenure of the late Norman Manley, our first party president," said Simpson Miller.
The man who he went to the polls against three times, Edward Seaga, said Patterson had earned his respect as a politician's politician.
"He is clearly understandable, a rarity among colleagues," said Seaga, also a former prime minister, adding that none of Patterson's four victories at the polls were by chance or luck.
Leader of the Opposition in Antigua and Barbuda Baldwin Spencer, who was in Jamaica for the celebrations, said when the history of Patterson's work is recorded, it will undoubtedly portray him as one who has demonstrated how to rub shoulders with royalty without losing touch with the common man.