On behalf of the Government and people of Barbados, I extend sincere condolence to the family of Sir James Mitchell and the Government and People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the passing of a distinguished Caribbean statesman.
Without a doubt, Sir James has served well the people of his country, as well as the people of this region, as a Member of Parliament, Premier and Prime Minister.
In fact, it ought not to be lost on us today as we reflect on his life, that Sir James was first elected to the Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1966, the same year that Barbados became independent and very early in a period when West Indians began with earnest to assert their right to sovereignty.
As Premier from 1972 to 1974, and Prime Minister from 1984 to 2000 Sir James was an integral part of the regional leadership that did so much to shape the Caribbean we know today.
For all his regional recognition though, Sir James knew well the meaning of the phrase “all politics is local”. Just six years after becoming an MP he ran as an independent candidate representing the Grenadines constituency and won — in an election that ended in a 6-6 tie.
By the time the negotiations were concluded Sir James was the premier of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Even though it has been more than three decades since Sir James contested his last election, he remained a towering figure in the affairs of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean.
At the personal level, I visited Sir James while he was being treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and was warmed by the fact that, despite his illness, the personality and spirit I have known for so long were still there.
I have always been fascinated by his ever-present charm and wit, qualities that were equalled only by his knack for storytelling. I will always treasure my many years of travelling to Bequia and the privilege of communicating with him. We shared a passion for the Caribbean Sea and together recognised that with the right vision it was more of a cord that bound us together than a gulf that separated us. I will forever cherish the moments we spent together.
So long, Sir James. You have served us all well. Rest in peace.