BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: In his first address to the nation as Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart pledged to continue in the steps of his late predecessor, David Thompson.
“Upon my shoulders has now devolved the responsibility of leading the struggle in pursuit of those ideals for which he stood,” the 61-year-old Stuart said in the televised address last Sunday evening. “With God going before me, I accept this responsibility with humility and a keen sense of duty, ever conscious not only of the pressing needs of our nation but also of his oft expressed confidence in me.”
Stuart thanked Thompson’s widow and daughters Misha, Oya and Osa-Marie for “the sacrifices they were prepared to endure while he was on loan to the rest of us”.
“A compelling sense of appropriateness dictates that I thank them on behalf of the nation for the selflessness of which their sacrifices were so resplendent an example. To them, as well as to his mother Margaret and his father Charles, to his siblings and all those countless others gladdened by his life and now saddened by his death, I should like to extend on behalf of my family and myself, and the government and people of Barbados, along with the family of the Democratic Labour Party, heartfelt condolences,” said Stuart.
Stuart said that while it is human to regard Thompson’s passing as a national tragedy, the real tragedies consist not so much in the misfortunes which a country suffers, but in the opportunities which that country misses.
“While we grieve at our leader’s passing, therefore, yet another occasion has presented itself for us to put on display our national maturity for all to see,” he said.
Stuart added that as Barbadians did when they lost two other leaders in office – Tom Adams in 1985 and Errol Barrow in 1987 – they should bring all the resources of a resilient national character to bear on these existing circumstances.
As of press time, the country is officially in mourning until after Thompson’s state funeral, which has not been set.
Arrangements for the funeral are being coordinated by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, in collaboration with the Cabinet Office and in consultation with Thompson’s family.
Stuart said the public would be kept informed about those arrangements.