Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has challenged Caribbean leaders to follow the example of fighting for the interest of ordinary Caribbean people set by former prime minister Owen Arthur.
She was speaking during the state funeral for Arthur on Friday.
Mottley said she knew many people shared the sentiment that Arthur was the best thing that ever happened to them.
“There’s no one who met Owen Arthur who could ignore his presence. His intellect was large and his personality complex. He was fiercely competitive, whether at politics, hearts, dominoes, or cricket. Owen was consumed by politics and policy, anchored by a strong love of country and a keen sense of duty.”
She said he embodied the Barbadian tradition of courageous leadership in the international arena.
“He spoke truth to power, fought for fairness and fair treatment and he stood firm on principle. His advocacy for our rights and interests extended far beyond Barbados, to embrace small states everywhere. This was perhaps exemplified in the way that he responded head-on to the unwarranted OECD challenge to our financial services centre and to our parliamentary sovereignty.”
Mottley said Arthur understood the power of the strategic alliance and politics of inclusion at its best.
“He taught us so many lessons in public policy and fiscal discipline. He believed in preservation of sanctity of office, and the rule that one must protect office at all costs. He believed that politics without policy was the cruelest cut of all. for it flattered to deceive in every respect and threatened to destroy people’s faith in public figures and the public space. And how could policy be derived expect through a belief in rigorous research and a keen grasp of history?”
Mottley said it was Arthur’s passion, love and respect for history that allowed him to introduce legislation for the implantation of Emancipation Day, Independence Day and the naming of Barbados’ national heroes.
She said he loved simplicity and privacy and avoided medals and accolades. But plans will shortly be announced to honour Arthur posthumously in a way he would not accept in life, but which would respect his wishes and give him the recognition he deserved.
She said he was a consummate storyteller and teacher who made complex subjects understandable.
“Most of his teaching was done in public through speeches which are still accessible to the public, and still relevant as part of the long arc we need to travel as small island states. His tongue was a tool and a weapon of mass destruction. He was a firm believer of reading outside of one’s discipline and of reading great literary works to keep him knowledgeable of the human condition.”
She said he had a strong passion for public causes and even after he left Parliament in 2018, he remained active in advocating for the people.
Mottley acknowledged Arthur’s family, especially his wife Julie, his daughter Lea and Sabrina, and his granddaughter Isabella, who she said was the apple of Arthur’s eye.
An emotional Mottley thanked Arthur personally for allowing her to grow, challenging her constantly and toughening her for the journey.
Tributes to Arthur from representatives from across the Caribbean were read, including one from TT's High Commissioner to Jamaica Deryck Murray, who said,
"Condolences to the family of a true Caribbean gentleman, who served well and is a credit to his homeland Barbados."
The state funeral service was held at St Peter's Parish Church, after which Arthur was buried at Mount Pleasant Memorial Gardens.
Arthur, who was Barbados' fifth and longest-standing prime minister, died on July 27 at 70.