WHEN Senator Julian Francis thinks of Sir James Mitchell, he thinks of a man who was “never afraid to speak his mind”.
“He’s very blunt. You can hold it against him if you wish to, but the man that he is, he says something and you remember he said it but it never affected your relationship,” the minister of Urban Development said in Parliament on December 13, where he chronicled a few of the encounters he had with the late politician.
He credited Sir James for having served St Vincent and the Grenadines well as the first premier and the second prime minister — in fact, the second longest serving prime minister of this country.
Francis noted that the founder of the New Democratic Party won four consecutive elections before retiring in 2000, undefeated.
He was also knighted in 1995.
“I just loved the way he carried himself. When he won in 1984, I was the assistant manager of the National Commercial Bank. Claude Samuel, who was then the manager was on vacation and the usual changes that take place after an election is held, the management of the National Commercial Bank was changed,” Francis said.
“I sought an audience with him early in an official capacity and he entertained me in his office and we chat for a while and then…seven months later in February 1985, when the bank itself made the decision to change the management, he met me on the street one day and say…Francis you must come and see me.”
The parliamentarian also remembers joking with Mitchell years later, that “maybe that’s the mistake you made in 1984… when you removed me as the banker, and today, I joined the political race and contributed to the change in government in 2001”.
“We had a big laugh about it. We never had any animosity towards each other. In fact, we have been pretty personal on a one on one,” Francis said.
Francis also shared that when his father died in 2011, Sir James sent him a personal sympathy card to express condolences “with some nice, soft encouragement and kind words about my father and his contribution to agriculture in St Vincent”.
“We shared a personal friendship and we never got politics involved. We argued and discussed politics from time to time when we met but we have never been enemies. Sir James had his work to do, I had my work to do, and he did his well. I believe I did mine well, my own purpose, well,” the parliamentarian said. “…I always enjoyed his company whenever we got together and I wish to express my personal condolences for myself, on behalf of my family to the family of Sir James Mitchell and may God have mercy on his soul and may perpetual light shine upon him.”