Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
In this my first regular column, Outside the Box, for Barbados TODAY, I find it fitting that the column is a personal reflection on Prime Minister, Professor The Rt. Hon Owen S Arthur.
On hearing of the passing of the former Prime Minister, some people reached out to ask how I was ‘feeling’. They asked because they knew of the relationship that I have had with Prime Minister Arthur since my mother nominated him and campaigned with him in the second by-election in 1984 to bring home the Boscobel box.
It was a relationship that extended to my teenage years after I showed a keen interest in elected political public service, receiving from him the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Millennium Youth Award for my youth work, including the Youth Parliament. This relationship continued while working at the campaign house in Speightstown during elections, sitting in on BLP manifesto meetings at Roebuck Street and extended to him introducing me to the St. Peter BLP branch as part of the future of politics.
One of my first jobs after completing my undergraduate at The University of the West Indies (UWI) was as his research officer in the Prime Minister’s Office. We would finally become colleagues again, this time at The UWI in the final chapter of his life.
Like most significant relations, it was simple yet complex. He was serious and expected the best. Yet, he was easy going in some instances – from greeting me with much surprise, “Yearwood, what are you doing here?” on the fringes of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (in Scotland, 1997) to quick catch ups in the supermarket where he often told my wife in his usual jovial style that he was not sure how she managed to cope with a political obsessive.
My most recent memory is of sitting in Prime Minister Arthur’s office at UWI with a colleague as we talked about CARICOM, regional air transport, the UNCTAD conference he was chairing and industrial policy. It was hard not to be called back to the days and energy of working in the Prime Minister’s Office, drafting notes for speeches, papers, and being part of a dynamic office and being inspired by his commitment to make the lives of Barbadians better within an integrated Caribbean.
He reminded me of a paper I wrote with some colleagues at the Prime Minister’s office in 2003 on restructuring CARICOM. I think it was the first and perhaps the only time a research unit of a Prime Minister’s Office presented a paper to a heads of government meeting. This was one example of many, of him nurturing young minds. This was Prime Minister Arthur at his best. A believer in giving space to new ideas, using the intellect around him and taking every opportunity to enjoy an intellectual challenge.
For me, Prime Minister Arthur, though important for being the longest serving Prime Minister in Barbados, master of the economic universe he surveyed in Barbados, brilliant mind, political strategist, regionalist, was important more on a personal level.
He was a St. Peter boy done good. He represented that your birth in a lower economic bracket did not have to define you. He showed that through education, determination and tenacity that you could become the best of yourself. The best not just for yourself but for family and for country. This is the Arthur that for years has been important to me coming from a similar background in St. Peter. Watching him over the years blaze a trail for the rest of us boys and girls from St. Peter to do good is, for me, the key to his legacy. We cannot forget the significance of him becoming Prime Minister given his start in life.
His season has now ended and for having him, we are thankful. We should thank his family for giving him to contribute to a parish, St. Peter and to a country, Barbados.
St. Peter has produced many outstanding sons and daughters in all professions and practices. Sir Hilary in a recent lecture, “From Cuffie to Owen” on the history of St. Peter as part of the recent We Gatherin’ events perhaps said it best, that St. Peter has always provided leadership for Barbados and though not bigger than the whole, it has led the whole from the early slave revolts, cricket, arts, music, law and recently, in the form of Prime Minister Arthur.
Rest well Arthur, and may you join the full communion of the brotherhood and sisterhood and all the saints. You have done good. We can ask no more of you. It is now time for us to step up to do good.
Dr Ronnie Yearwood holds degrees in Political Science, Sociology
and Law. He is currently a lecturer in law at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. He is a Chevening Scholar, National Development Scholar and Overseas Research Scholar.
He is called as a lawyer in Barbados, England & Wales, and the British Virgin Islands. His areas of interest are varied and include finance and banking law, general commercial law and international trade, politics and law, education and governance. Email: [email protected]