CARICOM leaders hail former colleague as a regional giant

By Sandy Deane, Barbados Today,

“Regional titan”, “Caribbean champion”, and “giant” were some of the accolades CARICOM leaders have used to describe former colleague Owen Arthur.

CARICOM Chairman and Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves who had a long and close friendship with Arthur, the chief architect of the CARICOM Single Market, said the former Barbadian leader was deeply committed to regional integration and the Caribbean owes him a debt of gratitude.

It was as prime minister with lead responsibility for the CSME in CARICOM’s quasi-cabinet that Arthur led the inauguration of the advancement of the community’s free trade area and customs union into a single space for the free movement of goods, jobs and capital from January 2006.

Dr Gonsalves said: “Owen Arthur was a true Caribbean man with a deeply-rooted Barbadianness, steeped in our culture and way of life, devoted always to the further ennoblement of our Caribbean civilisation, while at the same time learning from the universalism and well-springs of world civilisations.

“He loved our Caribbean and its manifestations in cricket, dominoes, food, music, literature, poetry, and joyous living. He loved our people and strove to make their lives better. He came from humble beginnings and retained the humility and unfussiness of the folk from whom he sprung. He was a devoted family man.”

Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell reflected on meeting Arthur at the Cave Hill Campus where they played together on the University of the West Indies cricket team.

Describing his former regional colleague as a close friend, Dr Mitchell said: “Barbados and the Caribbean have lost a great son. He was one of the brilliant and best political minds of the region. A brilliant economist as well. I had tremendous respect for his insight into political and economic issues.”

Just before his passing, Prime Minister Owen Arthur was again sharing his expertise with the region as head of the Commonwealth Observer Mission monitoring the conduct of Guyana’s March 2 elections, the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley recalled.

In his tribute, he noted that Arthur’s death came at a time of great challenges for the region.

“Having seen him at work in Guyana recently, this Caribbean statesman gave us no hint of an imminent demise because we had become so accustomed to his resilience, grit and wisdom,” Rowley said, describing Arthur as a Caribbean giant who would be remembered in the annals of history.

Former Prime Minister Arthur shared much of his economic genius with Jamaica, and today Prime Minister Andrew Holness highlighted his passion for Barbados and the region.

“Today I pause to pay my respects to a man who served Barbados and the Caribbean with distinction, former Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Seymour Arthur. I am truly saddened by his passing,” Holness said in a Twitter message.

“In the 1990s and early 2000s, he helped to shape the political scene in the region. I extend sincere condolences to the family of Owen Arthur and the people of Barbados,” Holness wrote.

Premier of Nevis and St Kitts-Nevis Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Brantley likewise extended condolences to the Arthur family and the people of Barbados.

He described the late Barbadian leader as a regionalist whose political prowess was recognised and celebrated even outside of the Caribbean region.

Said Brantley: “Today we learned that our region has lost one of her most illustrious sons. Owen Arthur was Prime Minister of Barbados but he was much more than that.

“His politics transcended the four corners of Barbados and embraced the entire Caribbean region. He was a committed regionalist and did much to strengthen the voice of our region on the international stage. We know not when we shall see such a giant again.”

Main photo: CARICOM Chairman and Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves

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