St. Lucians pay respects to Sir John

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, September 19, 2007 – The United Workers Party has been called to honour the legacy of the late Sir John Compton as thousands of St Lucians and dignitaries around the region and the world said final adieu to the “Father of the Nation” Tuesday.

The call came from the former Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Sir James Mitchell, who was one of the thousands of high level dignitaries who attended the four-hour funeral service for St Lucia’s first prime minister yesterday.

Sadness was the order of the day as Mitchell called for the government to follow in the footsteps of the man who led the island into independence. His call came as thousands who were unable to get into the 2,000 seat Minor Basilica that was intricately decorated with flowers. Outside, thousands lined the city streets to watch a motorcade carrying the casket of the late leader, decorated with pink lilies and leaves from fruit trees, pass by. Hundreds more watched the service on a large screen TV as the St Lucian flag, strips of black and or yellow fabric and photos of the late Sir John were prominently displayed.

“Sir John was a simple man. He preferred to live in his home rather than in the prime minister’s official residence. He has now carved for himself a unique place in Caribbean history retiring and abandoning politics for several years only to return and capture government in his eighties,” said Sir James. “His mission is now complete (but) his legacy is a gift to his successors in office and I pray that they and their successors will cherish it.”

Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur, insisted that Sir John should always be remembered for the service that he rendered to the Caribbean.

His widow, Lady Janice Compton, told funeral goers that to her, Sir John will “always be my great love.”

“I know that I will forever be searching the universe and its tickling stars for some sign of you,” she said. “I thank you for the great honour and privilege of sharing your life and walking besides you when you gave your best and you gave your all to this country.”

Outside many added their own sentiments on the 82-year-old politicians. “He was a great man. The papa has done so much for de island. There will never be another man like him,” a middle aged woman almost inarticulate with tears pointed out.

After the service, Sir John’s body was taken to a funeral home for its cremation with only family members.

Meanwhile, amid suggestions that Sir John’s death could throw the island into political uncertainty, Organization of American States Ambassador, Albert Ramdin, reiterated that, “The important thing is that political stability remains in the country.”

“Once you have such a dynamic period followed by elections, it is important to go back on track and get back to business,” added the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, while insisting it is now up to the newly appointed Prime Minister, Stephenson King to concentrate on developing the island.

Prime Minister Sir John Compton passed away on September 7th after a series of strokes in May. He began his political career in 1954 and came out of retirement last year to lead his party to victory. –