The thanksgiving service for the life of Andrew Felix Baptiste attracted people from all walks. Baptiste had left a trail of family, friends and colleagues who in his death tried to celebrate his life. The way he died left a bitter taste in the mouths of many and even throughout the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception there were very quiet rumblings about who could have shot and killed the banker and why. The tone of the funeral was clear: Baptiste was gone too soon, cut down by the many bullets that seem lately to continuously rain on St Lucia as the crime situation worsens.
According to the official police statement on January 5th Baptiste was found dead at his Sunny Acres home about 7pm by his common-law wife. At the service there was a tone in the tributes that the 51-year-old’s death might yet become one of Saint Lucia’s many unsolved mysteries, another stain on a police force seemingly unable to handle not just preventing crime but solving cases and bringing criminals to justice. Some shook their heads in disbelief as Baptiste’s coffin was carried to the front of the church.
Julian Charles of ECFH, where Baptiste worked as corporate account executive, was the first tribute of the afternoon service. He noted the horrifying way his friend was killed and described us all as a nation of sitting ducks. Baptiste’s niece, Cheryl Jules cried out for justice saying that her uncle did not deserve to die in such a cruel and violent way.
The tribute by the members of the Kiwanis Club, of which Baptiste was a member, was delivered by Peter Alexander.
“In his own quiet affable way Andrew served his club diligently, proudly and with distinction,” said Alexander. “During his tenure as a member of our club Andrew served as President for the Administrative year 2001/2002,Chairman of the Youth Services, Sponsored Youth, Young Children Priority One and Community Services Committees for many years. At the time of his passing he was the Chairman of the Membership Growth Education & Retention Committee and a long serving member of the Board of Directors.”
Alexander noted Baptiste’s great sense of humour and recalled some jokes he told two days before they were told of his shocking death.
Tribute was also paid to Baptiste in song by Vanesta Nervais of ECFH who sang “Be still My Soul” and Nicole David doing a rendition of “A Moment Like This”.
The adept Eulogy was delivered by Mr Wilbert King, former permanent secretary in the public service and Baptiste’s brother-in-law, who had some serious questions about the state of the country.
“Is it just that a man’s life can be terminated so callously, with an air of ruthlessness and seemingly a sense of contentment by the perpetrators of such a heinous act?” King began.
“Andrew, the pacifier that he was, could not have envisaged that he would have been cut down, cold bloodedly, changed from a subject to an object, and silenced in such a despicable manner. He never had a chance to say good-bye or share a last thought with those who were close and dear to him. His spirit was separated from his physical existence in a fraction of a second.”
King expressed that Andrew “was fond of discussing political and economic issues of local, regional and international relevance.” He noted that Andrew sometimes expressed his views in local newspapers, in fact he could be termed a regular contributor to the STAR.
King went on: “He was never afraid to express his views on some contentious issues, as he felt it was his right as a citizen of this country to freely express his thoughts on matters of socio-economic relevance to the general populace. In this regard, one could not pin on him any permanent political colour.”
That was surely evident in the fact that both Prime Minister Stephenson King and Leader of the Opposition Kenny Anthony were present at the service, albeit seated in opposite pews.
efore Mr Wilbert King turned to Baptiste’s biography he spoke more about his discussions with his brother.
Said King: “In our many conversations and debates on socio-political and economic issues, the subject of security and the state often occupied our minds. He was very much aware that in a state like ours with a liberal democratic orientation, the state agency with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force on the citizenry is the police. What perhaps he was unaware of, is that there is a growing perception in our country today that this monopoly is being challenged, as some persons have decided upon themselves to launch a series of acts of aggression against the citizenry and he, unfortunately, falling victim to that evil scheme. The fact that executions have become so common place here today and the apparent decrease in the level of sensitivity being demonstrated by the general public to such tragic events, together with the relative ease with which criminals appear to be escaping punishment, have all created the impression that the criminals have acquired a form of quasi legitimacy on the use of lethal force against the citizenry. Regrettably, Andrew may have met his death under this very erroneous concept.”
King was not prepared to accept that those “who have ascribed unto themselves the powers of gods, who believe they can determine the terrestrial existence of citizens at will” would escape with what they had done.
He had a message for criminals: “They ought to know that everything on this earth is temporary; today it is Andrew, tomorrow it shall be their turn. They too shall face their waterloo at the appropriate time. St Augustine has told us that God granted us the freedom of mind and spirit to do good things and not for committing wicked acts. However, there appears to be an obsession for doing evil on the part of some, who perhaps bask in the fallacy of believing they possess some form of supremacy over lesser mortals. Have no fear Andrew, for they too shall be called to account.”
King told those gathered that Andrew Baptiste was “an angel on earth to Rosenise and Robinson Baptiste of Garrand, Babonneau, on the 21st of February, 1959— the last and only boy of a family of seven siblings.” He told of Baptiste’s school days at the Babonneau Infant and Primary Schools and then on to St Mary’s College. Followed by which
Baptiste got his first job at 16 at the St Lucia Electricity Services and then on to what would be his career, banking at various institutions in Saint Lucia. King described Baptiste as having a keen sense of humour and strong family ties and also as a man who practised the virtues of patience and tolerance inculcated in him from childhood.
I for one will remember Baptiste for always asking that I please put the commentary pieces he wrote in the weekend STAR because he wanted to get our widest readership. And to be sure of that he would send me his articles on a Thursday after the publication of weekly issues.
Andrew Baptiste was buried at the Choc cemetery. May he rest in peace.