The statue had been ‘lying in state’ for more than two years. The discourse and planning had already taken its course. The Constitution Park reconfiguration project which began in earnest in January 2014, had come through. February 21, the day of promise. Finally the Sir John Compton monument would be unveiled.
The most talked-about and anticipated subject of 2014 thus far was finally a reality. Last Friday Saint Lucians came out in their numbers from late afternoon and it was not for the customary Friday night lime. Persons occupied any vacant space around Constitution Park in order to get as close as possible to the action and to be part of the momentous, historic occasion. Invited guests on the other hand took their seats under the wide tent lodged between the Boulevard and Laborie Street with a view of the park that had been chosen as the ideal site to house the monument.
The area, which in the past was merely an unattractive shortcut for persons moving through the heart of the city, a haven for vagrants and a place of recreation for elderly men, is now transformed into an attractive, modern park.
“I’m sure you would agree that this new park is lovely. It has a cosmopolitan feel to it,” exclaimed Barbara Jacobs Small, hostess of the illustrious event.
The event drew ministerial and government officials from the country and across the region. Dignitaries such as the honorable Dr. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada; Sir James Mitchell former Prime Minister of Saint Vincent; and Honorable Dr. Kennedy Simmons, former Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis were in attendance. There were tributes from Ex-General Secretary of the UWP Gertrude George, former cabinet colleague Ira d’Auvergne and Adrian Augier in the form of poetry.
Childhood friend and political ally of Sir John, James Mitchell, after speaking about his family and political ties to Sir John as well as their friendhip, then directed some words at the party Sir John formed.
“Now the legacy of the United Workers Party moving on and democracy has to continue to thrive. John’s statement about adversarial politics rather than enemy politics is what is relevant,” said Mitchell.
“Sir John led you to where you are today. You young people don’t only look back at the past that Sir John brought you, but where would Sir john want to see you in the future that is what you’ve got to consider and understand his legacy and understand where he would want to go,” he added.
“For those of you in the UWP like Allen Chastanet, you have got to understand clearly where the foundation is and where you are going to go,” Mitchell exclaimed to much applause.
Wife of the late Prime Minister, Lady Janice Compton gave a solemn presentation of the life and times of her husband. And like her daughter, reiterated Sir John’s (probable) resistance to the honorable gesture.
“These past few days, there has been one question turning over and over in my mind. What would John think of all of this? My first thought was that he would’ve been horrified as Ira (d’Auvergne) would testify to, that you have spent so much on him to pay him this respect. True to his nature he would’ve said, “do you know what you could’ve done with that?
“By now looking down and seeing all the hard work and effort that has been made by so many, seeing the end result, seeing all the familiar faces gathered here and knowing that his friends Kennedy and Keith have gone to great lengths to be here just to witness this moment, he must be smiling down. Perhaps nudging Dame Eugenia and saying, “look at that!” There would be a tear in his eye and he would struggle to say “thank you all, God bless you.”
And, when Lady Janice noted that not only she and her family miss Sir John, but also the entire country; this produced a huge cheer from the crowd.
Prime Minister Kenny Anthony did not venture into giving a true description of the man that Compton was, but rather, seemed very general in his remarks.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this evening I have reason to recollect that all great civilizations edify their greatness through monuments of one kind or another. In this instance, this statue which we will unveil is part of the story that is our history,” Anthony started by saying.
“That long road from discovery to self-determination, of our achievements from colony to independent statehood, of our progress from under development to a developing and diversified country, of our character from a politically tribal to mature in democracy. This unveiling is helping define a new Saint Lucia which is at peace with its past,” he added.
“Saint Lucians are also cognizant that this monument does not indemnify or repay the untiring, unyielding will that this soul from Canouan carved into the landscape of Saint Lucia and in the psyche of it’s people” said Dr. Anthony.
He asked the audience not to perceive themselves as a member of the SLP or the UWP, or of any political group, but to declare on this occasion that we are simply Saint Lucians gathered to celebrate one of our heroes. “Indeed, this applies not only for today, rather on all days we should think first of our country and its well being before political hew,” Anthony affirmed.
Students of the Mon Repos Combined School and reigning Calypso Monarch Menell, who hails from Micoud, the area Sir John represented for so many years, also paid tribute in song. A plaque presentation was made to artiste and sculptor Ricky George.
And the unveiling ceremony would not be complete without a surprise act, as our very own ‘daughter of Carnival’ the irreplaceable Patra, made her untimely presence felt during Lady Janice’s presentation. Perhaps she too wanted to portray her patriotism and that she had a genuine love for Sir John. The unveiling itself received resounding applause, cheers and even a few tears from those in attendance.