Caribbean Community (Caricom) chairman Dr Ralph Gonsalves has described the late former Prime Minister of Barbados Owen Arthur as a “titan” who was “deeply committed’” to the deepening of the regional integration movement.
“Our Caribbean, our hemisphere and our world have lost a statesman and intellect of the highest quality. We shall miss him. I shall miss my dear friend, Owen, a progressive soul who applied his heart to wisdom,” said Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Arthur, 70, an economist, had been hospitalised earlier this month at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after suffering heart related complications.
He served as prime minister on three occasions: between September 1994 and January 2008. He was Leader of the Opposition in Barbados from August 1, 1993 to September 6, 1994; and from October 23, 2010 to February 21, 2013.
He led the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to victory in the 1994 general election and won general elections again in 1999 and 2003.
Gonsalves said that Arthur was the architect of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the 15-member grouping.
“He was deeply committed to making our union in the Caribbean more perfect, the best practicable institutional political and economic expression of our Caribbean civilisation. We owe him an immense debt of gratitude,” Gonsalves said.
He said he was pleased that after Arthur quit active politics, the University of the West Indies (UWI) “conferred upon him the title and role of Professor of Practice: Economic of Development” saying Arthur was “a top notch student and contributor to the history of ideas and economic thought in our Caribbean.
“He was possessed of a towering intellect and a masterful use of language which he deployed in his economic and political praxis.
“Owen Arthur was a true Caribbean man with a deeply-rooted Barbadianness steeped in our culture and way of life, devoted always to the future ennoblement of our Caribbean civilisation, while at the same time learning from the universalism and well-springs of world civilisation,” Gonsalves said, noting that Arthur came from humble beginnings and retained the “humility and unfussiness of the folk from whom he sprung”.
He said prior to his death, Arthur “deeply agitated about the imminent threat to democracy in Guyana and he reserved some of his finest and most biting barbs against those in that Caricom member state, who without right, reason or principle verbally abused Mia Mottley and me because of our stance in defence of free and fair elections”.