Dr. Douglas, in his message to Montserrat’s Chief Minister, Reuben Meade, expressed the profound sadness of his Government and the people of St. Kitts and Nevis and extended deepest and heartfelt sympathies to the Government and people of Montserrat, and in particular to the family of Dr. Osborne, who died last weekend in the United States.
“John Osborne’s long and distinguished career, where he sought to ensure that the people of Montserrat could stand proudly with their CARICOM Colleagues and make a positive contribution to the debate on the direction of the Caribbean, was an inspiration, not only to the people of Montserrat, but to the entire region…As your country mourns the passing of a Caribbean son, be comforted by the fact that we share in your moment of bereavement,” said Dr. Douglas.
CMC in a profile on its website said as Chief Minister of the tiny British colony of Montserrat, Dr. John Osborne had regarded his island as being just as important as any of the 15 member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping. In fact, at one point, he walked out of a CARICOM meeting after the name plate for his island was incorrectly spelt.
Osborne, who died in the United States on Sunday after a prolonged illness, had sought desperately in the 1980’s to push for political independence from Britain.
Osborne’s proposal was rooted in his anger over the British veto of Montserrat’s participation in the Caribbean Peace Force dispatched to Grenada where earlier, United States forces had intervened to end that country’s brief flirtation with a government that came to power by the bullet rather than the ballot.
But Montserratians never really supported the idea of breaking ties with London and “John Bassie”, as Osborne was popularly known, promised that no decision on independence would be made until a referendum was held.
In a statement announcing his death, family members said that they had suffered an “irreplaceable” loss as a result of his passing.
“John A. Osborne, the father with whom we have shared the most intense love and affection, has died. He left us peacefully early Sunday morning…We have lost the irreplaceable centre of our family and an incomparable presence in all our lives, but his wisdom, courage, and irrepressible spirit will live with us forever,” the statement added.
Osborne, who was 74, first became the head of the island’s government in 1978 when he led the People’s Liberation Movement (PLM) to victory at the polls. He served for 13 years in Montserrat’s highest political office until his party’s electoral defeat at the hand of the National Progressive Party (NPP) in 1991. It was a sobering defeat for Osborne, who also lost his legislative seat.
Osborne reclaimed his seat at the 1996 election and sat as an opposition member as the leader of the short-lived Progressive People’s Alliance. In 2001, he made a triumphant return as Chief Minister after leading the revamped New People’s Liberation Movement (NPLM) to a resounding victory over the NPP. Despite suffering a number of defections from his government, Osborne held on to power until the 2006 polls.
He then served as a government minister in a coalition government headed by his former NPLM deputy Dr. Lowell Lewis after no party won an outright majority.
Osborne retired from active politics ahead of the last general election in 2009, but his legacy lives on in the form of his son, David, who is a parliamentary secretary in the present government.
The Gerald’s Airport was renamed the John A. Osborne Airport in 2008.