The world has seen its fair share of great men. Men who have made outstanding contributions to improve the lives of their people, with the primary aim of developing their societies, countries, and even the world at large; the very few who seem to be distinct in nature but immense in character. Dedicating their skills, time, efforts and energy to serving their country until their very last breath. In Saint Lucia, we are fortunate to have had a few worthy of bestowing this level of accolade upon, and one who is no least deserving of such mention is Sir John George Melvin Compton.
Sir John Compton dedicated his life to serving the people of Saint Lucia. Many saw him as a humble man who devoted over fifty years of his life to politics. Compton is largely seen as the architect of developing the small dependent state, Saint Lucia. Leading the country into independence in 1979, Compton became the first and eventually the longest serving Prime Minister. His name is etched into basically every major development that has transformed this country into the ‘Fair Helen’ that it is today. It would be only right as a people to honor him in the best way possible; one of those- creating a monument that would symbolize the contributions of this colossus of a man.
Despite all of his remarkable achievements, Sir John was never one who was opulent and luxurious. Regardless of his stature, he never came across arrogant and egotistical like many politicians appear to be. Nearly impossible to associate him with extravagance, Compton was always humble and was always associated with the common folk, spending as much of his time at his property at Maho, in his beloved constituency of Micoud. So if we were to ask him, in what way would he want to be remembered? And would he share the sentiments of his daughter Janine Compton
At the House of Assembly during the Budget Presentation in 2009, Jeannnine Compton, said that the 1.2 million dollars air marked for a monument in memory of her father should be used to improve the lives of the people of Micoud. While delivering her presentation, she made it clear that this was not what her father would’ve wanted.
“ I can hear Sir John in the back of my head saying, ‘are you people crazy? You are not giving anything to the people of the constituencies of Micoud North and Micoud South, but you want to build a monument to me?” said the then Micoud north MP.
She continued by suggesting a much more deserving preposition for the use of the allocated sum of money.
“When we are ready, when we have money we can see about a monument to Sir John, or if the corporate citizens and citizens of Saint Lucia want to put money together for a monument to Sir John, let us do it together. The government cannot afford and the constituencies need the money allocated for the benefit of those people”.
Despite the plea of Jeannine Compton, the then United Workers Party government decided to go through with the initiative. Then Prime Minister Stephenson King, claimed that it was a cabinet decision and that the 1.2 million dollar project would not be financed solely by government.
“The monument-when we decided to proceed- there is now an agreement to be signed even before we decide to go ahead. When it is decided upon, the monument will be done within the confines of government’s ability to participate in this joint venture. It is a joint venture between the private and public sector” stated King.
The monument of Compton was then built by renown artist and sculptor Ricky George. The completed statue has been in government’s possession for over two years and is finally going to be unveiled at the soon to be reconstructed Constitution Park in Castries. The unveiling will be in tune with the celebration of Saint Lucia’s 35th anniversary of independence, as the focus will be on remembering the one who marshaled the cause and lead this little land of ours from a dependent island to a UK associated state and then to an independent nation.
During an interview, that we carried in last weekend’s edition of the STAR newspaper, we were assured by the Cabinet Secretary Darrel Montrope, that the family was involved in the final decision as to the location of the unveiling of the monument.
“The Sir John monument has been completed for two years now. So there was obviously the need once it was constructed to have it erected. Of course the issue as to its location and or even date of unveiling needed to be determined. We considered several options as to where it could possibly be located, whether at the John Compton Roundabout, whether in Micoud, the Boulevard, or Constitution Park. Different persons had different view points, of course the family’s view also had to matter.”
With this assurance from Montrope, it is obvious that the family of the late prestigious Prime Minister played some part in determining the most appropriate manner of celebrating the accomplished life of Sir John.
As for Sir John’s reaction to this artistical replica done in his honor, that we will never know. But it would be interesting to find out how Jeannine Compton now feels about the monument and the fact that it will finally be unveiled next month. Is she awaiting the event with a new sense of optimism and high anticipation? Or is she still adamant about opposing the decision taken, hoping and praying that her father is not rolling over in his grave?