I telephoned the Barbados Ambassador to the United States (US) Noel Lynch, an associate of mine, earlier this afternoon to express my condolences at the passing of his dear friend, Owen Seymour Arthur, the sixth Prime Minister of Barbados, which gained independence from Great Britain, November 30, 1966.
Arthur died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Bridgetown, Barbados, about 12:26 a.m. July 27, 2020, according to the Nation News, a daily newspaper I once penned for on the island, my birth land. He died of heart and diabetic complications since being hospitalized in mid-July.
My half-brother, Hilary, of Ontario, Canada, first alerted me to Arthur's death via a WhatsApp message; I had no contact or social media connections with the former prime minister, for although I respected Owen Seymour Arthur, the stark reality remains that his first elected beginning in Barbados was directly and adversely related to my regretful self-exile from the island in 1984, whether or not Arthur was aware of some extremes employed by his Prime Minister Tom Adams, to retain political power.
Whatever the history, I send my sorrow to the family, friends and loved ones of Owen Arthur. And in spite of his ambitions that directly affected my life, I believe he and I could have been friends prior to or post 1984.
The history of Barbados will duly note that Arthur, of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), successfully served as Prime Minister of the island from 1994 to 2008 - three-terms, during which he enjoyed much popularity among the people. I did not live in or visited Barbados in that time. History will also add to Arthur's accolades without any asterisks that he was a Member of Parliament for the Parish of St. Peter from 1984 to 2013. However, as I did back then in 1984, so shall I do again in 2020 to insert a great big asterisk next to actions and events relating to two By-elections and a court annulment of an election in the Parish of St. Peter in 1984.
In 1984, I was a young journalist in Barbados. I was a cipher - coming from a family void of land or influence, but a cipher with a pen having the skill of reason and of sound political and social thought. Prime Minister Tom Adams understood the dire political implications of his ambition to retaining power in Barbados from losing a By-Election in the parish of St. Peter, upon the resignation of long-term parliamentarian Burton Hinds. Amid my reporting of bad employment data across Barbados at the time, Tom Adams disagreed, summoned me to his office in the cycle of the By-election and he ridiculed my writings.
In the July 19, 1984 By-election in the Parish of St. Peter pitting Sybil Leacock, a teacher, for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Owen Arthur of Tom Adams's BLP and Independents Glenroy Straughn, Martin Cadogan and Everton Green; Sybil Leacock, a well respected woman, pulled off the victory by one-vote with a tally of 2,765, to Arthur's 2,764, Straughn 32, Cadogan 29 and Greene 20. Adams and Arthur did not accept such a close defeat at the hands of a woman and the election was thrown into the Courts, where the High Court ruled on September 6, 1984, that errors by electoral officials made the election null and void and a re-By-election was ordered for November 22, 1984. Adams and Arthur received an accepted result in that second By-election: Arthur 3,145; Leacock 2,907; Martin 24 and Everton 20.
Owen Arthur took his historic seat in the Barbados House of Assembly and the rest is history. I left Barbados on Christmas Day 1984, returned briefly for a Knighthood ceremony for my Godfather, Sir James Cameron Tudor in 1986, and for vacation 30-years later with my family in the Summer of 2017.
So I wish goodbye to Owen Arthur with the hope that he travels well. And I hold ever conscious the events that benefitted him and affected me to the core.