History refutes Owen Arthur’s comments

Mrs Mara Thompson: What did her nationality have to do with her seeking office in Barbados?

I would be surprised if the very distinguished Owen Arthur, has not, by now, regretted the very un-Caribbean statement made by him, in respect of the candidacy of Mrs Mara Thompson, a native of St Lucia, but resident in Barbados for over 20 years, and married to a Barbadian, as distinguished as Mr Arthur himself, and with children born there. What more rent or taxes, therefore, is she to be required to pay, before she can seek their suffrage, when her destiny and that of her family have been so well interwoven with that of the Barbadian people?
Prime Ministers King and Gonsalves acted properly in referring to the statement as “unfortunate”, but one is not to infer from the silence of the other Caribbean Prime Ministers any support for it.
The Constitution of Barbados does not, and wisely so, bar any citizen of a Commonwealth country, resident in Barbados, from holding even the highest political office within the gift of the people. Happily, it is so with us, as it is also with our other Commonwealth Caribbean brothers. Oh, what a wonderful and sweet inducement to Caribbean unity!
The main aim of this article is to draw to the attention of our people and to our next door neighbour that, contrary to Mr Arthur’s assertion that St Lucians would not have permitted such. In fact, two Barbadians have contested elections in St Lucia: one as a St Lucia Labour Party candidate (SLP) and another, as a candidate of the United Workers Party (UWP). So the two parties that have governed St Lucia since adult suffrage have both embraced Barbadians heartily and unreservedly.
In 1969, the political leader, Kenneth Foster and I, were chiefly instrumental in causing the St Lucia Labour Party, to select the well known Barbadian wholesaler, John Goddard, as the candidate for the Gros Islet constituency. The only criticism of him was that he had hardly been able to say two words in creole, the language best understood by most of the people, our mother tongue. Goddard lost only by a slim majority, despite his inability to communicate effectively in creole.
In 1972, the Barbadian, Hugh Crick, a respected mechanic, was one of nine UWP candidates, and I was also one of nine SLP candidates seeking election to the Castries City Council. Crick, the Barbadian, with seven other UWPs, and I alone of the SLP, were elected.  This means that everyone of the other eight SLP candidates was rejected in favour of the Barbadian, Hugh Crick. We have never criticized Crick’s nationality. He had played cricket for St Lucia and that was enough. And it is well known that both Prime Minister Compton and his deputy for 30 years, Sir George Mallet, were not of St Lucian nationality.
I salute you, St Lucia, my country, for being so welcoming and accommodating.
Further, between 1991 and 1992, St Lucia had the best chance of gaining the Presidency of the United Nations. In return, however, for their support on the next occasion, and as a mark of close friendship, with the blessings of Prime Minister Compton, and the Minster for Foreign Affairs, which I then was, St Lucia supported the very distinguished Dame Hilda Barrow for the post. By so doing, we strengthened the relations between Barbados and St Lucia and paved the way nicely, for the election of Julian Hunte.

Editor’s Note: Neville Cenac is a former foreign affairs minister of Saint Lucia.

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