By Sir James Mitchell
It is with a deep sense of loss that I speak of the death of the honorable Parnel Campbell QC VC. St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has lost one of our most capable sons and a brilliant Minister. He was the longest serving elected Attorney General and only holder in SVG of the rank of Commander of Victorian Order, personally presented by Her Majesty the Queen. He was the Chairman of our New Democratic Party and the first representative of the new constituency of Central Kingstown. He was dependable.
PR was a good strategist and always meticulous in the execution of his duties and could be relied on to put in the hours to ensure the job was done on time and to perfection. He was prepared to work all night to do so. With engineer Rudy Matthews and Commissioner Toussaint he ensured that the royal visit on HMY Brittania was an outstanding success.
He came to office on the sudden death of our tireless Minister of health, Eddie Griffith.
The first complete revision and compilation of our laws into a series of volumes, which made life easier for the legal profession, was done under the leadership of Parnel as Minister of Justice.
It was always a pleasure to travel with Parnel. We had a great time together working on my speech, well into the night, for the opening session of the Commonwealth heads of government conference in Vancouver. I had to calm him down in Bogota, Colombia when we attended the inauguration of the president amidst all the security military operations, including in the corridors of the hotel and over the rooftops in the procession. I had a good laugh when we returned home and he presented his bouquet of flowers to his wife Julie and she told him he should have brought an orchid plant as I did. He represented us at the swearing in of President Cheddi Jagan at the successfully reorganized democratic path we had established in the famous Mustique meeting.
Attending the theatre in London’s West End, at the end of the play he made his way backstage to get the signature of Rex Harrison on the program.
When we brought together the 33 persons to go to Italy for training on the Ottley Hall Marina he brought along bibles for every participant, pointing out that bibles in English would not be available in Italy.
PR held no grudges. In 1989, his passion for democracy induced him to propose after we successfully won all 15 constituencies that Opposition senators be appointed. In this he shared opinion with others and presented a letter with legal reference from UWI. I did not agree. When I presented constitutional opinion out of a respected expert in London and guidance from the Palace, he graciously accepted the view that in our constitution no one could be appointed in the Opposition. Ours was a unicameral legislature.
Our victory with all seats was largely due to his strategic thinking. He suggested that we send all bills we proposed to the Law Association for comment, but we received no reply. Like others in my Cabinet, he endorsed the guidelines I outlined that we do nothing with the power given us that we could not face without it.
PR was firm on hostility to apartheid. Our closure of schools on the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison gave him great satisfaction which he further celebrated with naming his next daughter after this iconic leader.
We had an amicable relationship in diversion of opinion on constitutional reform. Nationalism for me did not embrace abolition of appeal to the Privy Council. He recognized from the experience of our campaigns together that the scenario of change had been altered. Putting my name on the Bequia Airport was PR’s idea. After I objected, he suggested I leave the room as it would not be good for the record that Cabinet voted against me. He did the necessary instrument.
As I extend my condolences to Julie and all the Parnel Campbell family I wish to thank him for his help in laying the foundation of our New Democratic Party and his loyalty over the years.
His death is a great loss to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.