Barbadians from all walks of life paid their respect to the late former Prime Minister Owen Arthur as his body lay in state in the well of the House of Assembly on Wednesday.
Even though the viewing was opened to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., scores gathered at the gates of the Parliament Buildings well before the start time, braving overcast skies and intermittent showers as they waited patiently to be able to file past the closed casket draped in the Broken Trident and sign the condolence books.
Before heading to Arthur’s hometown of Benn Hill, St Peter, to open the privately owned Mount Pleasant Memorial Gardens cemetery where the late Prime Minister will be the first to be laid to rest on Friday,
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, fellow Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians, viewed the funeral bier and briefly met with Arthur’s wife Julie and daughters Leah and Sabrina.
An honour guard of Barbados Coast Guard officers stood sentry around the casket, their bowed heads wearing masks in silent vigil through the day.
Some members of the public shared with Barbados TODAY why they wanted to be a part of the historic occasion.
Cytomia Worrell said though the occasion is a sad one, she is satisfied that she was present. Worrell, a member of the governing Labour Party for the last 44 years, said while she has many memories with Arthur, she recalled various conversations on a number of topics and entailed fun and light banter.
“I would say he was what you would say is a normal person. People might see it from a different perspective from time to time, but you know, we all have our ups and our downs,” Worrell said.
Rhonda Walcott declared that in her opinion, Arthur was one of the greatest prime ministers the Caribbean has had. She said while the atmosphere in the House of Assembly where Arthur’s casket lay has hit her hard, she knows that man must go at some point in time.
One man who gave his name as Stephen from Benn Hill said he met Arthur as a child growing up in their hometown.
“He was really respectful and everything. We played cards and dominoes together, sometimes I beat him and sometimes he beat me. All I could tell you is that he was a good guy,” Stephen said.
Wilma Trotman: “I am glad that I had the opportunity that I could come and view his body and give my sympathy to his wife and his two daughters.
“One good thing I could remember about him is a few years back at the November gathering at Ilaro Court when I was entering he was there talking and shaking a lady hand, so I go to pass around and he said, ‘excuse me young lady, come back here,’ just to shake my hand and I had felt proud about that.
From early in the morning, Aidan Mr Barbados Taylor was in line waving his national flag. Taylor noted that the solemn occasion was marked by overcast skies across the island.
“And it is also very solemn upstairs as you file past the body and also meeting with the family. But this is part of our journey in life. A man that is born of a woman is of a few days,” Taylor said.
For Maureen Gamble, even though she was unable to see Arthur’s face, she just wanted to be in his presence to thank him for running a successful economy and for a policy that helped her personally – the $1,300 reverse tax credit.
“I was very happy in his time, things were good for me and I want to thank him for the 1300. He gone down good,” said Gamble.
One man said he had to be there because Owen Arthur was the first prime minister to come to his Gemswick, St Philip community.
“Owen Arthur is the first Prime Minister that come to my community when he won the government. He was a down to earth man and he was a good prime minister,” the man said.
The state funeral for Arthur will take place on Friday, with the service set to be held at the St Peter’s Parish Church, beginning at 2 p.m. and will be followed by the burial at Mount Pleasant. ([email protected])