Owen Seymour Arthur: ‘One of the Greatest Statesmen of 20th Century Caribbean’

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Owen Seymour Arthur

UWI Celebrates the Life of Former Barbados Prime Minister

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jul 28, CMC – The University of the West Indies (UWI) says the late Barbados prime minister, Owen Arthur, is “without a doubt, is one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century Caribbean.

“Emerging from the second generation of nation builders he was a successful champion of the most important discourses of his time. We knew him as a quintessential regionalist and a leader in development economics. He was also a humanist with deep commitment to social justice,” said UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.

Arthur, 70, died Monday after he had been hospitalised earlier this month at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after suffering heart related complications.

Arthur, 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.

He led the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to victory in the 1994 general election and won general elections again in 1999 and 2003. Arthur is survived by his wife, Julie and two children.

The UWI said that the University community, of which Arthur was a “vibrant part” is saddened by his death.

In 2018, Arthur was appointed Professor of Practice: Economics of Development at The UWI Cave Hill Campus and served until the time of his passing.

The UWI said that after his political career, Arthur remained connected to his alma mater and continued to nurture an intimate relationship with The UWI.

It said he had since 2016, served as one of the eminent patrons of the annual UWI Global Giving Week, which has been dedicated to cultivating support to strengthen The UWI’s capacity to drive regional development.

“As part of his academic life, he delivered several distinguished lectures, on topics such as “Caribbean Regionalism in the Context of Economic Challenges”, “The IMF and the Caribbean: New Directions for a New Relationship,” and “Brexit and the New Caribbean Trade Agenda.”

In 2017, he was a lead participant at the first major public event for the SUNY-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development hosted in New York—a Symposium titled “The Crisis in Correspondent Banking and its Impact on Sustainable Economic Development in the Caribbean.”

In 2018, he was among 70 alumni honoured as part of The UWI’s 70th anniversary celebrations and he also donated his Cabinet papers collated during his 14-year tenure in office to The UWI Cave Hill’s special collections.

“The UWI he empowered in his role as Prime Minister, and from which he was proud to be a graduate, researcher, and lecturer, Professor of Practice, and Honorary Distinguished Fellow, celebrates his legacy. Condolences are offered to his family, and government and people of Barbados,” Professor Beckles noted.

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‘Our Hemisphere Has Lost a Statesman and Intellect of the Highest Quality’, Says Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves

Owen Seymour Arthur, the distinguished former Prime Minister of Barbados, a titan of regional integration, and a most esteemed son of our Caribbean civilisation, passed away in the early minutes of July 27th, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Barbados. He was 70 years old.

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.  I am personally enveloped in profound sadness, grief, and pain at his death, yet full of fond and uplifting memories of him.  It is only one month ago, to the day, that we were together in a Zoom meeting on LIAT; he was there as Chairman of LIAT’s Board of Directors, an assignment which he had assumed with much energy, realism, and hopefulness.

Owen Arthur, as head of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), led Barbados as Prime Minister for an unprecedented three consecutive terms from 1994 to 2008; he was the long-standing member of Parliament for his beloved constituency of St. Peter for 29 years, from 1984 to 2013.

Owen Arthur was the chief architect, advocate, and intellectual guide of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). 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.

Fittingly, after he demitted active politics, the University of the West Indies, of which he was an outstanding graduate, conferred upon him the title and role of Professor of Practice: Economics of Development, as a scholar in residence at its Cave Hill campus.  Owen 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 further ennoblement of our Caribbean civilisation, while at the same time learning from the universalism and well-springs of world civilisations.  He loved our Caribbean and its manifestations in cricket, dominoes, food, music, literature, poetry, and joyous living. He loved our people and strove to make their lives better.  He came from humble beginnings and retained the humility and unfussiness of the folk from which he sprung.  He was a devoted family man.

Prior to his brief hospitalisation, he was 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.

Owen has gone to meet his glorious ancestors. He was among the best of our generation. I feel certain that our mutual friend, Patrick Manning, former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago will great him in Beulah land. May he rest in peace.

On behalf of the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on behalf of the Caribbean Community, on behalf of my family and myself, I extend sincerest condolences to his widow Julie, his daughters Sabrina and Leah, his family, friends, and the people of Barbados and the Caribbean.

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‘Professor Arthur Has Been an Unstinting Champion of the Region and of Integration,’ Says CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque

It is with deep regret that I learnt of the passing of Professor Owen Arthur, the former Prime Minister of Barbados.

During his tenure as Prime Minister for an unprecedented three consecutive terms from 1994 to 2008, Professor Arthur used his considerable intellect and economic skill to further the development of Barbados and the Region. His devotion to his native Barbados resulted in his tenure being the longest among Barbadian Prime Ministers.

He was a strident regionalist and a relentless advocate for the advancement of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). As then CARICOM Lead Head of Government for the CSME, he worked very closely with the CARICOM Secretariat in efforts to advance the process. In that regard, he was instrumental in the establishment of a Secretariat Office in Barbados dedicated to the initiative. He also worked assiduously to encourage the private sector to become more engaged in the work to make the CSME a lived reality.

CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque (left) shares a light moment with former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur in one of their many encounters. (CARICOM PHOTO)

Professor Arthur was a strong advocate of functional co-operation which he viewed as fundamental for the success of the integration movement. As Chair of CARICOM, he was the driving force behind the Needham Point Declaration of 2007, which positioned functional co-operation both as a priority and one of the principal means of distributing benefits among the Members of the Community.

Professor Arthur continued his interest in the development of CARICOM and the integration process after demitting office. In 2010, he produced a major study for the Community on the “Integration of Belize and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) into the CSME”.

During his mission to Guyana to observe the Elections last March, he found the time to visit the Secretariat Headquarters, where I engaged with him once again. Our discussions about the Community and the CSME demonstrated his on-going passion and concerns for the Region.

His commitment to regionalism has been maintained with his work at the University of the West Indies (UWI), as Professor of Practice: Economics of Development and more recently as Chairman of the Board of LIAT.

From his student days at the UWI to his untimely passing, Professor Arthur has been an unstinting champion of the Region and of integration.

On behalf of the Community, its Secretariat and on my own behalf, I extend heartfelt condolences to his wife Julie, his children, and to you Prime Minister, and the Government and People of Barbados. The country and the Region have lost a most eminent son.”

— CMC

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