Tribute From The Hon. Bruce Golding, Prime Minister Of Jamaica And?? Chairman Of The Conference Of Heads Of Governmant Of The Caribbean Community, To The Hon. David Thompson, Late Prime Minister Of Barbados
Ever since we became aware of David’s illness, we hoped and prayed that this day would not come – not now, not so soon.
The entire Caribbean Community has been left much poorer for the loss of one of its distinguished leaders.
We restrain ourselves from asking why, for we dare not question God’s will. Still, we are deeply grieved that someone with so much promise, someone who represented so much hope, should have been taken from us so soon.
Those of us who have followed David’s career – his election to Parliament at the tender age of 25, his service as a Member of Parliament and Minister of Government over more than 20 years, the dignity with which he rode the waves of political triumphs and disappointments, his emergence as Prime Minister of Barbados and the courage and serenity with which he faced his own death – all recognize that this was no ordinary man.
David assumed the leadership of Barbados at a time of great challenge, a time when the world was entering the worst economic crisis of our lifetime. It has had a severe effect on Barbados as, indeed, all the countries of the region and, like others of us who came to office around the same time, he swam against the currents to preserve the commitments he had made to the Barbadian people which formed the mandate he had been given. In the face of these difficulties, David led Barbados with a clear mind and steady hands.
He made a significant impact in the short space of time that he worked with us among Caribbean Heads of Government. He brought a sharp, refreshing and engaging perspective to issues affecting CARICOM. He was a realist and a pragmatist, qualities that so often misrepresented his commitment to regionalism – for he was passionately a Caribbean man dedicated to regional development and the attainment of prosperity throughout the region.
As we worked together – he as the lead Prime Minister on the implementation of our flagship programme, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, and I with responsibility for external trade negotiations – I developed great admiration for his clarity of thought and his profound understanding of the issues affecting Caribbean development. He was a man who could always be taken at his word – he said what he meant and meant what he said.
All of us, CARICOM leaders, will miss his wise counsel, his timely and effective interventions, his calmness even in contentious debates and that frankness that was so often tempered with his inimitable dry humour.
Today, we bid him farewell and, even though we mourn his passing, we celebrate his life and give thanks that he honoured us by sharing so much of that life with us, giving so much of that life to us. Abraham Lincoln said it well:
"Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who knew me best that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow."
On behalf of my colleague Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, I extend to Mara, their three lovely daughters and the other members of his family not only our heartfelt condolences but our love and prayerful support at this time. We know that over these past several months you have had to endure many anxious moments when you fought to keep hope alive in the face of despair. We know that after the ceremonies have ended and the glowing tributes have been paid, after we have all returned to our separate routines, you will have to come to grips with the reality that someone who was so important a part of your lives, someone whom you loved as much as he loved you, is no longer with you.
We will continue to pray for you and ask God to place his powerful, comforting arms around you to ease the pain and fill the emptiness that is in your hearts. But even as you grieve, I ask that you take heart and be uplifted in the knowledge that your husband, your father, your family member was a good man who meant and did well, who touched so many lives, who inspired the hearts of so many people and who will never be forgotten.
To the government and people of Barbados we offer, as well, our profound sympathies and our support as you continue the work that he had started and pursue the dreams that he had shared with you.
As we pay our last respects and take David to his final resting place, we recall the words of John Donne:
"When one man dies, a chapter is not torn out of the book; it is merely translated into a better language."
John Donne also wrote:
"Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.
For, those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow die not, poor death,
Nor yet canst thou kill me."
Death cannot kill David Thompson for he will live in our hearts for as long as life shall last.