Former Antigua, Barbuda PM Sir Lester Bird dies at 83

Sir Lester Bird -
Sir Lester Bird -

MINISTER of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne said he was deeply saddened at the passing of Sir Lester Bird, former prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, on Monday.

"He certainly left his mark on Caricom and the OECS, and was instrumental in shaping our overall regional identity," Browne said.

"I have directly extended my sincere condolences to their Minister of Foreign Affairs the Honourable Chet Greene. Today (Monday) Prime Minister Rowley will be formally conveying official condolences on behalf of the Government and People of Trinidad and Tobago."

Bird, 83, was prime minister from 1994-2004, following the tenure of his father Vere Bird.

He was a British-trained lawyer and had won a bronze medal at the 1959 Pan American Games and represented the Leeward Islands at cricket.

Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne, who is also Caricom chairman, said, "Sincerest condolences to the family of our National Hero, Sir Lester, who transitioned to the great beyond earlier this morning.”  Browne is married to Bird's niece Maria Bird-Browne.

He added, “Sir Lester was a great son of the soil, who contributed significantly to the socio-economic development of our nation. May his soul rest in peace and rise in glory."

Dominica prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the government and people of Dominica extended condolences to the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda and to Bird's family.

"Sir Lester was an Antiguan National Hero and served as prime minister from 1994- 2004. He also served as the first chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

"May his contribution to the regional integration movement and to the economic development of Antigua and Barbuda be long-remembered and honoured.

"Our prayers are with his loved ones and the people of Antigua and Barbuda. May he rest in peace."

Guyana president Irfaan Ali expressed his profound sadness on Bird's passing.

"Sir Lester was a good friend of Guyana and the Guyanese people. He stood firmly and consistently with us in defence of our sovereignty and territorial integrity, raising his considerable voice in the UN, the Commonwealth and other hemispheric fora.

"Sir Lester opened the doors of Antigua and Barbuda to many thousands of Guyanese at a time of economic decline in our country, and in so doing, cemented his legacy as a true integrationist, which will forever be marked in the annals of history."

Ali said Bird was highly regarded by all of Guyana’s executive presidents with whom he had served, from Linden Burnham to Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.

"We are indebted to Sir Lester and Antigua and Barbuda, not only for the generosity towards our people at a time of need, but for the unflinching support of Guyana on the international stage. "On behalf of the people of Guyana and on my own behalf, I extend sincere condolences to Sir Lester’s family, friends and the people of Antigua and Barbuda. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time."

St Kitts and Nevis's ruling party, the Peoples Labour Party (PLP), mourned Bird's passing.

"Sir Lester is accredited with the modernisation and the diversifying of the Antiguan economy, which was at a time the leader in tourism from the early 1980’s, while he served in his father’s cabinet as minister of tourism and then as deputy prime minister." The PLP said then as prime minister, Bird further diversified the economy into the financial and offshore sector.

He was a strong proponent of Caribbean integration and regionalism, and was a signatory to the Treaty of Basseterre to strengthen ties among member states of the OECS.

"He was and still is the only Caribbean leader to have successfully won a trade dispute against the USA at the International Court of the World Trade Organisation. This is still considered the model for all small developing states to use, to win against larger developed countries."


"Former Antigua, Barbuda PM Sir Lester Bird dies at 83"

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