St Lucians pay tribute to the late Sir James
St Lucians have joined Vincentians and Caribbean people the world over, paying tribute to the late Sir James Mitchell, the former Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
But while many mourn the loss of the veteran Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leader, few are fully aware of how relatively close Sir James was (in real terms) to St Lucia – and especially its first Prime Minister, Sir John Compton.
Sir James and Sir John both hail from the Grenadine islands – the former from Bequia and the latter from Canouan – and both played leading roles in their islands’ national development after Independence in February and October 1979, in the case of St Lucia and St Vincent respectively.
They were also each founders of their respective political parties — and the two Grenadine islanders were also avid sailors, both spending as much time at sea as in politics, yachting between St Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines for sport and pleasure.
But Sir James also had a very personal connection in St Lucia, where his brother and mother were associated with Lafayette’s – one of St Lucia’s early retail stores and supermarkets, located on Bridge Street.
Sir James’ mother – popularly referred to as ‘Ma Mitchell’ — also ran the popular Flamingo Restaurant on the William Peter Boulevard in Castries.
The Mitchell family’s St Lucian extension is still very much alive, as is Lafayette’s, which is now located on Micoud Street, opposite Derek Walcott Square, where Flamingo also still operates.
The two Prime Ministers were also of the same political and ideological ilk, conservative in outlook but radical in their mobilization of support for their respective parties. Sir James more than once addressed UWP Conventions in St Lucia.
Sir James, the second Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, died on November 23 at age 90, closing one chapter in the multi-island nation’s history as the last surviving parliamentarian in office since the islands gained political independence from Britain on October 27, 1979.
He was the Founder-Leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and served as Prime Minister from 1984 to 2000 – and before that as Premier of St Vincent and the Grenadines (from 1972 to 1974).
His peers say he led St Vincent and the Grenadines in the right direction, providing economic stability and improving housing.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) once said of his economic leadership: ‘There’s much to please and little to fault.’
The NDP said in a statement: “He was the embodiment of a true statesman and a nation builder, much loved by everybody who knew him…”
(St Lucia Online)