A tribute to David Thompson
The Editor, Sir:
Despite having knowledge of his prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer, the passing of my friend David Thompson, former prime minister of Barbados, was a blow to my solar plexus. Why?
1. David was always a fighter, a perennial fighter, and I genuinely thought, despite the debilitating and potentially fatal consequences of the disease, that he would have pulled through.
2. He was only 48 years of age, two years-plus into his stint as prime minister, and as a young Turk who had so much more to offer to his country, his party, and the region.
3. David meant well and was exceedingly humble in his ways. No arrogance, no frills, but those who crossed swords with him did so at their own peril.
I met David Thompson in 1991. He was then the member of parliament for the St John constituency, which he won in 1987 as a result of a by-election caused by the untimely death of his mentor, former prime minister, Errol Barrow. On the first occasion we met, we chatted about everything under the sun, including a comparative discourse regarding Errol Barrow and Michael Manley - two heavyweights in their time. We were to have many more rounds of discussion in later years.
Having assumed the leadership of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 1994 at the age of 32, David was extremely demoralised when the DLP lost the election to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in 1994 and 1999. He figured it was time for someone else to lead the party, and so he resigned in 2001 at the ripe old age of 39.
Despite his resignation as leader of the party, the fighter that he was, he never gave up, and by 2004, at the age of 44, he was re-elected to lead the party. He spent the next two years reorganising the party, recognising that in the next election he would once again be facing his nemesis, the wily Owen Arthur, who had previously dealt him two crushing election defeats.
David remained steadfast and brought his considerable intellectual weight and organisational skills to the fore, resulting in the victory of the DLP in 2006.
During his two years-plus as prime minister, he never wavered in his commitment to his country and region. Those of us who know David were not surprised that he grasped the nuances of government so quickly, and that he was able to adequately articulate his vision of his much-beloved Caribbean community, resulting in the avalanche of regrets and commendations which have emanated from his fellow prime ministers and leaders.
David will physically no longer be with us, but his positive impact and influence in Barbados and the wider Caribbean will be perpetually etched in our minds.
I am, etc.,