Two Labour Party stalwarts have described Owen Arthur as standing out from the crowd the moment he joined the party and destined to lead.
Sir Henry Forde, who gave up leadership of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and made way for Arthur’s ascent in 1993, today joined retired Chief Justice, former Attorney General and former St. Thomas MP Sir David Simmons in paying tribute to Barbados’ longest-serving Prime Minister.
Sir Henry, a key member of the Tom Adams administration from 1976 to 1985 who retired as MP in the Christ Church West BLP stronghold, said: “Owen Arthur became the leader on the vote of the parliamentary party… and he had been recognised earlier by Tom Adams and Bernard St John as perhaps one of the most outstanding young people that had come into the party with tremendous knowledge and a desire to serve. The parliamentary party therefore, when I gave up the leadership, decided we would vote on the matter and he was unanimously selected.
“His passion in politics was… to lead in the country and to make sure that we built it back to the stage that it would be able to serve the people of this country and his service was outstanding in every respect.
“We recognised that he had the qualities that we needed in the party that had achieved so much for the people of Barbados and the Caribbean. He was very much liked by Bernard St John and Tom Adams and he has not let us down.”
Speaking during the Down to Brass Tacks radio call-in programme, Sir David described Arthur as his “very good friend” though the two had drifted apart in recent years.
Recalling the massive electoral loss which the BLP suffered at the polls in 1986 to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Sir David said it was a particularly trying time for the only three BLP members to retain their seats in the House of Assembly – he, Arthur and Sir Henry.
Sir David said: “We were in the Senate together in 1984 as a result of by-elections and in May 1985, I followed him out of the Senate and back in to the House of Assembly because I won the by-election in St Thomas and we worked very closely in the year leading to the 1986 general election.
“In that election, the BLP was decimated. But we were determined. Sir Henry who was leading the party at the time, Owen and myself, started to rebuild the party and to work closely. We committed ourselves to working almost like brothers.
“I know that Owen always said that those years, 1986 to 1994, were the hardest for us. After we were left with three members [in the House of Assembly] you couldn’t find the others who had run in the election and we had to carry not only the political burden but also the financial burden of rebuilding the BLP.”
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