Region reacts to death of Barbados Prime Minister
Caribbean politicians were expressing deep regret at the death of Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson, who passed away at his private residence following a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer.
Barbados Opposition Leader and former prime minister Owen Arthur is a “tragic and staggering loss” describing Thompson as “one of the most remarkable Barbadians of his generation and whose whole life from very early was devoted to public service and politics.
"He was able to pursue his work with what can only be described as a distinctive vibrancy, a passion and a panache which truly set his apart. His death at the height of his intellectual….powers unfortunately means that we will truly never get to know the full extent of his contribution to the development and transformation of the Barbados society,” Arthur said.
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who is also the Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Caribbean has lost one of its youngest and most vibrant leaders who remained “strong, determined and focussed to the very end”.
Golding noted that in the short space of less than three years, Prime Minister Thompson had demonstrated strong leadership within the counsels of CARICOM and was firmly committed to the region’s goals.
‘He fought…a brave fight to the very end demonstrating the unconditional love for his country and a commitment to the people of Barbados. His will be a great loss to the region’, Golding said extending condolences to Thompson’s wife Mara, his three children, his family and the government and people of Barbados.
The Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said he was “deeply saddened” on learning of the death of “my friend and colleague". “Like all of his friends and colleagues I had hoped that this day would have been postponed. David has been a valued member of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community and his voice will be sadly missed in future deliberations,” he said, noting that Thompson had “ much to contribute to his country and to our region.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar expressed “deepest condolences” on behalf of her four-month administration and that of the people of this oil rich twin island republic.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who said he knew the late Barbados leader for more than 20 years, and had been an inspiration to him even before his active involvement in politics.
“We knew he was not well but we continued to pray that he would have overcome the illness. It is a very sad day for all of us,” Skerrit said, while his Grenadian counterpart Tillman Thomas described him as “a friend, a Caribbean visionary and a leader whose wisdom was beyond his years.
“His leadership in building and deepening with the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) and the wider CARICOM (Caribbean Community) level will be greatly missed. He understood the need for need for all to work together to build a Caribbean identity,” Thomas said.
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas described the death as a great loss.
“A day of incredible sadness for Barbados and the member-states of the Caribbean Community,” he said, adding “the loss is great…our sadness, indescribable”.
He said that in the complex and challenging 21st Century chapter of the Caribbean’s political evolution, “Prime Minister Thompson repeatedly proved himself to be especially well-suited to the demands of this era.
“Chosen by his people to lead them and Barbados through this perilous period of global instability, he had the vision, the character, and the wherewithal to precisely this, and was indeed totally immersed in meeting these awesome responsibilities when he was mercilessly struck down in the prime of his young and outstanding life,” said Dr. Douglas in a statement.
He said late Barbadian leader “was a valued colleague and friend to me and my Government.”
Premier Ewart Brown, who steps down later this month, said that he had enjoyed working alongside Prime Minister Thompson saying he was also a friend of Bermuda.
“David Thompson was a personal friend, an ally of Bermuda and a major figure in Caribbean politics. I will cherish the memories of working beside him at CARICOM Heads of Government meetings.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Opposition Leader and former prime minister, Lester Bird, said while he knew Thompson was gravely ill, “the news of his death was still hurtful.
“David Thompson was a good personal friend of many years standing. It is a matter of great regret to me that after the years of working so diligently for the Prime Ministership, he was not able to fulfill his potential as an outstanding head of government of Barbados and as a Caribbean leader”.
St. Lucia’s Opposition Leader Dr. Kenny Anthony, who studied law with Thompson at the University of the West Indies (UWI), said his friend “wanted an opportunity to shape the future of his country, to make a difference to the lives of Barbadians. “He finally got that opportunity to make his mark but death just snatched him away,” he added.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley said that “even though we knew of his very serious health challenges, we still held out hope for some form of recovery. It is in this context that his passing has come as a shock to us here in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We know that his death will bring a feeling of grief and great loss to the people of Barbados. In this time of sadness we extend our deepest sympathy to our brothers and sisters in Barbados and will like to let them know that we too share your pain and any feeling of un-fulfillment for one gone too soon.
“We specifically extend our condolence to the Thompson family, in the acknowledgement that another gentle son of Barbados has made his contribution, left his mark and have moved on in the satisfaction of knowing that we are all better off for having had him for that period of time that we knew him. The Caribbean is a poorer place without David Thompson.”
Grenada’s Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Mitchell described Thompson as “ a true public servant who provided outstanding leadership to Barbados and the wider Caribbean Community.
“He always displayed a calm temperament in the face of tough challenges and the strength of his personal convictions was made manifest in his deep sense of duty and commitment to the people of Barbados and the Caribbean region.
“He was a true gentleman and he will be greatly missed by all,” Mitchell added
The main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) also expressed condolences “on the sad passing” of Thompson.