Submitted by the People’s Democratic Congress (PDC)
It is with deep sadness and sorrow that the members of the People’s Democratic Congress (PDC) learned last Saturday morning of the passing of the late former Prime Minister, David John Howard Thompson, at his Mapps, St. Philip residence, at 2.10 am in the morning. His finally succumbing to pancreatic cancer at 48 years old, after a brief courageous battle against it, has truly created a giant wave of emotion sympathy anguish and mourning across the island from thousands of Barbadians – many of whom saw Thompson become the first young person to be fore-knighted by the people as a prime minister of Barbados – PDC
Such a remarkable fore-ordination must be seen by esp. political historians as an unforgettable chapter in life and times of the late Mr. Thompson. So, indeed, Barbados has lost one of its illustrious sons ever. He was a student, scholar, teacher, lawyer, community person parliamentarian, husband, father, humanist, among other things. Most endearingly, in every role that he played he seemed to give his all – give his best.
As a matter of fact, this quality seemed to be one that was identified by many Barbadian people from very earlier on in his life, and seemed to have been underpinned then by his high intelligence quotient, his relentless pursuit of knowledge, his excellent argumentative skills, and his fondness for people of all walks of life.
Of course, many stories have been told by many persons of his years at the Combermere School – where he honed many of his life skills, and fashioned many of his future life chances and social relationships.
We are aware of the circumstance that later on in his life, Mr. Thompson would often remark about the fact that, when he was a school boy at the Combermere School at the age of 16 years, he became a member of the Democratic Labour Party. We remember too that in one of the DLP Annual Conference documents, as General Secretary of the party in the 1990s, he made mention, then, of that fact, and what that truly symbolized to him.
One of our most memorable recollections of the then young, articulate, studious but stiff David Thompson was the many times we used to see him in the front passenger seat of the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow’s yellow Mercedes. In those times it was clear that he was a protégé of Mr Barrow – who at the time was the Political Leader of this once great party.
So, it was no surprise then that – consequent upon the death of Mr. Barrow, Mr. Thompson – who then had become a lawyer – was to be chosen as the natural political replacement for a national political titan, who himself had been for so many years representing the beautiful parish/constituency of St. John in the House of Assembly, and who today has been named a national hero of Barbados and has acclaimed by many as the Father of Independence of our country.
We also remember that one of Thompson’s first major parliamentary acts was to move a resolution in the House of Assembly – to signal the establishment of Errol Barrow Day in this country – in honour of the outstanding contributions of this late great Barbadian statesman to the development of our country.
Such was his capacity to recognize and honour the great achievements of many other outstanding Barbadian people (And we must not forget that recently the Sherbourne Conference Centre was renamed the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre).
Throughout the 23 years that Mr. Thompson represented the constituency of St. John in the House of Assembly of the Parliament of Barbados, it was seen ever so often how he demonstrated a passion and a flair for organized parliamentary debate, and exhibited a profound knowledge of parliamentary procedure.
We remember the role he played some years ago in making sure that there was a reconstituted Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament. We also recall him in his youthful forthrightness in the late 80s rightly criticizing the policy of some magistrates to send persons down to the psychiatric hospital without publicized reason.
And also recollected him toying with the idea of Republicanism for Barbados during the early 90s. We and some other persons recall now the times when he stuck manfully – esp. as Minister of Finance – to the task of helping to stabilize and restructure much of the affairs of the Barbados economy and government in the said difficult period of the early 1990s. And we remark about those times – in the early 2000s – and the events – e.g. three successive electoral defeats - that help led to his resigning the presidency of the DLP on about two occasions.
And what we will also never forget is a time, in 2004, when the SMFD/PDC had their public relations poster campaign going, and had the occasion to be out on a certain Sunday afternoon on the My Lords Hill Main Road conducting a particular aspect of the program, and the members, who were there that time, saw that – as he drove by in his blue Vitara – he had observed what they were doing, and saw that he had smiled wonderfully at what they were doing – handing out posters to many people and sticking them up, and since big and bold on some of the posters were “VOTE THE BLP OUT”, and with that these members had promptly acknowledged his awareness of what they were doing at the time by waving him on. Perhaps he had sensed at the time that the SMFD/PDC members were laying part of the foundation for change in government, and sensed that he had to quickly rejuvenate and reposition himself in time to help lead his party to eventual victory in 2008.
Well, towards the end of his political life, the PDC would have taken careful note of the fact that – since his having become prime minister in January 2008, he was never afraid to tackle some controversial issues, indiscipline on many privately owned mass transit vehicles, the immigration issue, the firing of 3S SRL, etc. Such was the stuff that made it clear to us that he was growing into his own as a political force to be reckoned with – until yes he was so unfortunately cut down by that illness. Too what we wish to say is that neither was he hesitant to put his personal stamp on programmatizing of certain social affairs in Barbados, e.g. via his promulgation that families were the bed rock of society, via his being the only parliamentarian of his generation to be frequently found at many young people gatherings – football, fetes – even if it meant unwarranted criticism from certain quarters.
Such an emboldened liberated spirit must have been a reflex of the fact that Thompson was the only parliamentarian – that we have ever known of – in the recent politics of this country that was so outwardly hardened by the vagaries of opposition politics in Barbados that – by the time he became prime minister – he may have been softened terribly on the inside by those pressures.
We must say that now is the right time for plans to be drawn up to propose a fitting national memorial to be dedicated to the perpetuation of the memory of the late David John Howard Thompson in Barbados and beyond.
Finally, on the behalf of the respective families, friends, supporters and associates of the members of our party, we extend deepest sincerest condolences to his wife, Mara, his children, Oya, Misha, Osa-Marie, his mother, Margaret Knight, and to other family members, friends and loved ones of the late Prime Minister of Barbados.
May he rest in peace.