July 27, 2020 Barbados -I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Owen Arthur, my friend and former colleague prime minister in the Caribbean Community. Owen first came to the office of the prime minister as Barbados’ fifth prime minister two years following my own election to the post here at home.
I had known him previously when as the new Leader of the Opposition I observed general elections in Barbados in 1991.
Owen was intellectually inquisitive, quick-witted, and an economic powerhouse with a terrific sense of humour.
We became fast friends while we both served in high office in our respective countries. During those years we met frequently and regularly at Caricom and other regional and hemispheric gatherings of heads of governments. I recall travel to some of those meetings in Barbados where my delegation was always welcomed warmly.
Owen attended my eldest daughter’s wedding in 1997 and then attended the Opening of Parliament the following week.
In 2001 we travelled together to Quebec to attend the 3rd Summit of the Americas Conference. Later, he joined other Caricom leaders at a Caricom Heads of Government meeting in Nassau followed by a visit to Grand Bahama and attendance by a number of them at the Government House reception marking the 28th anniversary of our independence.
And, I remember fondly, his travel with me to my Constituency in North Abaco where we engaged in my favourite pastime – fishing Abaco’s waters and visiting several of its cays. At different times he visited Harbour Island, Long Island and Exuma. Later still, he visited our capital to speak on and promote regional integration and on other occasions, to view hurricane damages.
The Bahamas and Barbados have a common history as former British colonies with shared democratic traditions and common economic aspirations. Owen and I discovered that we held many views in common. That made our collaboration and cooperation on regional matters smooth – in tourism, financial services, health, education, and regional security. He was especially wedded to Caricom and to regional integration, a front on which we sometimes agreed to disagree.
Always a champion of Barbados he also held a special affection for the English-speaking group of countries that made up Caricom. He will long be remembered for the energy and leadership he lent to efforts to realise regional integration.
His was an important voice and he will be sadly missed.
I and Delores and my entire family offer condolences to the Government and people of Barbados, to Julie, Owen’s wife and their daughters Sabrina and Leah and to all his extended family.