DLP, BLP politicians, trade unionists recall impact of Sir Lloyd’s work for Barbados

Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford was Barbados’s fourth Prime Minister from 1987-1994. (BGIS)

By Jenique Belgrave

Barbados on Monday began three days of national mourning following the death of the country’s fourth Prime Minister, Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, who was remembered by politicians on all sides of the divide as a true statesman, a gentleman, a patriot, and a nation builder.

Sir Lloyd, who led the Government between 1987 and 1994, passed away at 7:05 a.m. at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Monday at the age of 86, marking the end of a life of service.

Both supporters and political opponents of the veteran Democratic Labour Party (DLP) politician who in 1991 took the unpopular decision to cut public servants’ salaries by eight per cent – a move later heralded as being critical in helping to stave off the devaluation of the Barbados dollar – recalled his contribution to the country as a trade unionist, teacher and leader.

As tributes poured in throughout Monday, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said Sir Lloyd, affectionately called Sandi by many Barbadians, was “a true statesman and, without doubt, a through and through gentleman of post-Independence Barbadian politics”, never displaying “a single instance of bad behaviour or using any of the robust language and colourful metaphors so common to Caribbean politics”.

“Indeed, I recall the period of the early 1990s, during what must have been the most traumatic and dramatic period of his political career, when he faced strong opposition both within and outside his party over the economic and social policies that culminated in his virtual impeachment. Sir Lloyd never lost his spirit of calm and respect.

“In fact, those who knew him well might argue that the only feature of his personality that could have possibly rivalled his ever-gentle spirit was his capacity to take a position on any matter and remain resolute and unmoved, even in the face of the most unrelenting pressure. Sir Lloyd was what Bajans would respectfully describe as ‘his own man’ at all times,” she recalled.

The Prime Minister, who is currently in China where Sir Lloyd served as this country’s first resident Ambassador from 2010-2013, said his willingness to take on the role and once again perform duties for the country demonstrated the magnanimity of his character.

Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford being sworn in as Prime Minister in 1987.
(https://www.chatinmanhattan.com/)

“As was the case with those political leaders who preceded him, and certainly those who followed, we did not always agree with his decisions, but it is certain that none of us can ever question the fact that his motivation was what, in his judgement, served the best interest of Barbados and Barbadians.

“To his widow, Lady Sandiford, I say thanks to you and your family for sharing him with Barbados for more than three decades,” she said.

Touching on Sir Lloyd’s role as a political leader, Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw underlined his role as a mentor for the youth.

“For me, he will always be remembered as Sir Lloyd, the teacher – not of the formal classroom type that he also was, but a teacher of life, a teacher of politics, a teacher of humanity, a teacher of respect. I will always remember him as the gentleman who never raised his voice, who never had time to be impolite, who understood that a word spoken in the right way and at the right time could make all the difference to another labouring under the weight of his or her circumstances. He was not perfect, as none of us is, but he possessed a gentleness of spirit that endeared him to others.

“That is the Sir Lloyd I wish to commend today to younger Barbadians, in particular, whose only knowledge of him might have been fashioned by the comments of politicians on the campaign trail or calypsonians on the Crop Over stage. He possessed gentlemanly qualities we would all do well to emulate,” she said.

Dr Ronnie Yearwood, President of the DLP which Sir Lloyd led for seven years, called him “a Barbadian patriot to the core”.

“Many things will be written about Sir Lloyd’s passing – his tenure as Barbados’ fourth Prime Minister; his role in shaping the Democratic Labour Party, in modernising education, reforming Barbados’ economy and, in his later years, opening doors to China as the country’s first Ambassador to China. However, what must be powerfully stated and remembered about our statesman, Sir Lloyd was a Barbadian patriot at his core. He left public life with an unblemished character and reputation, always putting the country first. If you look up a definition of patriot and nation builder, you will find his name and his picture,” Dr Yearwood stated.

Saddened by the loss, former Tourism Minister Richard Sealy sought to assure fellow DLP members and the wider public that the former St Michael South representative’s legacy was safe.

“He is a prime example of what leadership is about. It is about doing what’s right for the country and not seeking popularity, and the reason why history is so kind to him after the fact, shows how much of a difference he made by doing what the country needed at the time it needed it. He put politics and popularity second to the national well-being,” he pointed out. 

Friend, DLP stalwart and former deputy general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Robert Bobby Morris recalled that while Sir Lloyd had suffered politically after the controversial salary cuts for public servants, his courage and foresight had ensured that Barbados remained on a path of development.

“He was a pleasure to work with. He was a consummate trade unionist and paid his dues even when he was Prime Minister as a member of the BWU. I have total respect for the gentleman and wish condolences on his family on his loss,” he reminisced.

It was because of his belief in the trade movement, BWU General Secretary Toni Moore said, that the late PM had been the first to sign onto the Social Partnership which continues to serve the country to this day.

“His commitment to the principles of social partnership significantly improved the working conditions and welfare of Barbadians, thus impacting the lives of thousands nationwide,” she added.

During his public life, Sir Lloyd served as a senator, a Member of Parliament, and a Minister of Education – a position in which he was hailed as being a pioneer in transforming the sector, most notably with the creation of the Barbados Community College (BCC) and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, now the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology.

Appointed in 1986 as Deputy Prime Minister under Prime Minister Errol Barrow, Sir Lloyd ascended to the island’s highest political office one year later, following Barrow’s death.

Winning the 1991 elections, Sir Lloyd, as Minister of Finance during the global economic crisis, entered the island into an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and introduced the controversial salary cuts, triggering national protests and a no-confidence motion which he narrowly lost.

Calling for an election two years before it was constitutionally due, Sir Lloyd’s DLP was defeated by the Barbados Labour Party led by Owen Arthur. He left active politics in 1999 before becoming a tutor at the BCC.

Sir Lloyd is survived by wife Angelita Lady Sandiford, and son Garth, daughter Inga.

The June 26-28 period of national mourning for Sir Lloyd will resume on the day of his State funeral, the date of which is to be decided after consultation with the family. In addition, all flags will be flown at half-mast until he is laid to rest.

Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan will be the coordinating Minister for the funeral arrangements. 

jeniquebelgrave@barbadostoday.bb

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