“We have a duty to tell the stories of our leaders. Not just within the geographic boundaries of our islands, but across this Caribbean civilization.”
The words of Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, as she paid tribute to former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell at the St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Port Elizabeth, Bequia, on December 18.
The occasion was a second burial service for Sir James, the other being held on mainland St. Vincent.
“I ask all of us in this region to recognize that we have been able to produce persons of great renown, and Sir James stood as one of the Caribbean’s great renaissance men,” Mottley said.
“I say renaissance because you could not know the man without being taken in by his charm and his charisma; you could not know the man without understanding his appreciation for beauty; you could not know the man without understanding the extent to which he could equally be happy with the very basic things of life,” she continued.
Different generations – one bond
According to the Barbadian leader, she and Sir James did not belong to the same generation in politics, they, however, developed a bond that she came to cherish.
She came to know of his political accomplishments only through the media.
And would return to her native Barbados during the time when that country bade farewell to one of its own former Prime Ministers, Errol Barrow, where Sir James paid tribute.
“Little did I know that the man who gave this wonderful tribute at the funeral of Errol Barrow would be a man to guide me on my journey,” Mottley told those gathered at the St Mary’s Anglican Church.
Being there for her
Later, during her own entry into the political arena Mottley said, she got to know Sir James. However, it was during her time in opposition – a time when Sir James would have already retired and she frequented Bequia, that the two got close, she said.
In fact, she said that when there were difficult times during her time in opposition, it was Sir James who anchored her and gave her the courage to go on.
“It was significant for me that his commitment to Caribbean civilization always gave me the inspiration that our generation needed to carry on from that which was built by those who had gone before us,” said Mottley.
The simple truth, they both shared a passion for the Caribbean and the Caribbean Sea.
Mottley reminisced of the afternoon swims and the drinks that often followed and the gingerbread on mornings, which was followed by hours of talk.
Alert as ever
She recalled her encounter with him during his short time spent at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, before his demise.
According to Mottley, she was informed by medical staff that he may not recognize her, but as she walked into the room and touched his foot, he immediately awoke from his sleep and called her by name and they proceeded to speak for almost an hour.
“In this region we have been blessed, we have been truly blessed,” Mottley said.
“And St Vincent and the Grenadines, as have the other countries in the region, has also been blessed to produce great leaders.
We continue to show to the rest of the world that we are contributors to the global story and civilization, and that the size of the islands in the Caribbean shall never define the region,” she said.
“And perhaps in his own way, the power of one and the power of smallness were best represented