ST. JOHN’S: The region continues to mourn the death of the first Black South African president and anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, who died at his home one week ago following a prolonged illness at the age of 95.
Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister W. Baldwin Spencer was among several regional leaders who described Mandela as a champion for peace, human equality and freedom.
“In more ways than one, Nelson Mandela has managed to inspire countless individuals around the world through ordinary human actions,” said Spencer. “From his release from prison in February of 1990 he mounted a campaign of service to his people until his illness and subsequent passing. As a trade unionist and politician, I have treasured the lessons from his life and his unquenchable desire to spend himself for the well-being of others.”
In honour of Mandela, Antigua & Barbuda is observing a week of mourning that began last Friday.
“Flags will be flown at half-mast on all government buildings during this period,” said Spencer.
Grenada Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said Mandela was a leader and inspiration to freedom loving people the world over.
“Indeed, Mr. Mandela is arguably the greatest public figure of the 20th century; whose eternal legacy will be about the importance of forgiveness, reconciliation and respect for all people,” said Dr. Mitchell. “Through shear moral conviction he transcended politics, and inspired people of every culture, everywhere.”
Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie said that the world has lost one of its greatest heroes and an inspirational model for the ages.
“Mr. Mandela was, to be sure, the Supreme Liberator of South Africa in its struggle to end apartheid. But of infinitely greater consequence, he was the personification of the timeless virtues of personal sacrifice and perseverance in the pursuit of freedom, racial equality, human dignity and moral truth for all the peoples of this planet. He was also a shining exemplar of the redemptive power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
“Here in the Bahamas we share in this universal outpouring of grief, all the more so because of the warm memories so many of us have of Mr. Mandela from his visit to the Bahamas in the early 1990s. But even as we grieve, we give thanks for the example and personal witness that Nelson Mandela’s life holds for all of us and for generations yet unborn,” said Christie.
In a televised message, Guyana’s President, Donald Ramotar, said Mandela’s death is a “loss not just one for the people of South Africa, but for Africa as a whole, and the world at large.
“Nelson Mandela was a giant in defence of human rights and for a free and just society, not only for his beloved South Africans, but for the oppressed the world over.
“The struggle he led with other distinguished anti-apartheid fighters has entered into the annals of world history as one of the most defining periods in our world. However, it was not only the struggle, but the manner in which it was conducted which will always remain an example and an inspiration for others working for social and economic justice everywhere.”
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said the late South African leader was among the greatest human beings in the history of humanity.
“I convey the heartfelt sympathy of the Government and people of Jamaica on the loss of the father of the South African nation,” she said. “His life will inspire countless generations and his illustrious legacy will endure. He was without a doubt one of the greatest human beings in the history of humanity.”
Former Jamaica Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said the human race had lost one of the finest people who ever walked this planet.
“Nelson Mandela overcame the tyranny of racial oppression to become an apostle for a world where people, irrespective of colour or creed, could dwell together in peace and harmony,” he said.
Another former Jamaican prime minister, Edward Seaga, lauded Mandela.
“He tried to transform the country into one in which people of different races could live together in a multiracial society and he succeeded to a great extent,” said Seaga.
The Antigua & Barbuda Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) said it was taking stock of the life contribution of Mandela to human freedom and dignity.
“The life of Nelson Mandela was also dedicated to eradicating poverty and to lift all workers to a state of dignity and worth. May God bless him. May he rest in eternal peace,” it said.
Mandela, who led South Africa’s transition from White-minority rule in the 1990s after 27 years in prison, had been receiving home-based medical care for a lung infection after three months in hospital. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world’s most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite his imprisonment.
CARICOM chairman and Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Simpson-Miller, Ramotar and Christie are among several CARICOM leaders who will attend Mandela’s funeral in Johannesburg on Sunday, December 15.