BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The Barbados government on Monday praised former prime minister Owen Arthur for his significant and meaningful contributions to the political as well as the socio-economic development of the island as well as the wider Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
In an address to the nation, marking the death of Arthur at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Mottley said her late colleague’s passion for the development of the region “coincided with his responsibility as the lead prime minister in CARICOM for the single market and single economy.
“I was with Owen in Jamaica when he signed in 2006 with tremendous pride the instruments that brought the CARICOM Single Market into existence. He was brimming with pride,” she said, recalling also how the former prime minister had ‘set out to and did master the art of politics.
“But he never in so doing compromised his economic training and his commitment at all times to sound policy. It was his hallmark. Owen from the earl 1990s moulded a new class of politicians in this country, and changed in many ways how those representatives would serve to better meet the changing needs…as they served their constituencies”.
She said he worked assiduously “to make this the new standard for political mobilisation and representation for all and we all followed”.
Arthur, an economist, had been hospitalised earlier this month after suffering heart related complications.
He served as prime minister on three occasions between September 1994 to January 2008. He was Leader of the Opposition in Barbados from 1 August 1993 to 6 September 1994; and from 23 October 2010 to 21 February 2013.
Arthur lead the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to victory in the 1994 general election and won general elections again in 1999 and 2003.
In the 2008 general election, his party was defeated by the Democratic Labour Party .Arthur stepped down as party leader, but remained the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Saint Peter. He subsequently returned to lead the BLP in 2010, but he was replaced as party leader after the BLP lost the 2013 general election.
Mottley said Arthur was indeed the “man for all times” who never lost the thirst for public policy and that his counsel, especially on the Barbados economy “was rendered to all governments.
“Indeed it was on this platform where duty met politics and policy in the national interest that he and I, we would anchor our most recent relationship and I thank him for meeting me here in the last 18 months.
“I asked him to serve in a number of key areas including in a jobs and advisory council, this came in the last year after he helped this government in the forging of a new industrial policy and in a review of the international trade options small island developing states as we prepared ourselves to be the smallest country to host an UNCTAD Assembly.
“His work will continue as we continue those preparations and will be built upon,”, Mottley said, adding that the coronavirus (COVID019) had severely affected his last assignment as the chair of the board of directors of the financially-strapped regional airline LIAT.
“It was with a heavy heart that he and his board recommended the liquidation of LIAT (1974) Limited. Owen was conscious that he made the decision to increase Barbados’s participation with LIAT at the turn of the century…but that the scale of the impact of COVID and the state of the company as it is today would make that task virtually out of our reach and certainly as Barbadians given all that we now had to face with COVID.”
Mottley said Barbados, and indeed the Caribbean is poorer for Arthur’s death, adding “his intellect was larger than life, his love of country as constant as the Northern Star,” she said.
She told the nation that the late prime minister had discharged his duty “with distinction,” adding “he shall remain in that pantheon of Caribbean leaders and on behalf of the government and people of Barbados, we say thank you to Owen Seymour Arthur and to his family for service to a grateful nation and to a proud people”.
The main opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in extending condolences, noted “as the longest-serving leader, who presided over a period of expansion for Barbados, he deserves his place rightfully alongside other noted nation-builders.
“Despite being associated with party politics, in the last two years he freely offered advice and direction across the political divide,” the party added.
Barbados is observing three days of national mourning in his honour.