CARICOM chairman and Trinidad and Tobago PM reacts to Mandela’s death

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Thursday December 5, 2013, CMC – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Thursday joined world leaders in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon, who died at his home following a prolonged illness. He was 95.

CARICOM chairman and Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, said the world has lost a freedom fighter and statesman.

“The world has lost democracy’s most loyal friend and advocate. Nelson Mandela was the 20th century’s icon of freedom and liberty. He inspired us to believe that no obstacle is too large; no walk is too long, and no enemy of freedom is so powerful, that we should ever consider giving in.

“His life will surely become one of the most epic stories in world history, of the true depth and strength of the human spirit. He inspired us with his life, his words, his work and his triumph. “

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar said Mandela would forever be remembered as a man who fought for freedom and won it for millions around the world, without once compromising his beliefs or his principles. 

“The legacy he has left us is one we shall always celebrate and we shall always thank God for Nelson Mandela.,” she said, adding that she Mandela was now resting in peace “knowing that he leaves behind many who will continue his fight”.

St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas said the Caribbean had played a role in ending the apartheid system and Mandela had ensured that despite his long years in prison all  South Africans had to commit themselves to ensuring that stability, rather than chaos become the hallmark of post-apartheid South Africa. 

“For this, the name of Nelson Mandela will live throughout the ages.  Through this, he gave to leaders everywhere a governance model worthy of emulation.  And from this, the people of the new, democratic South Africa have benefited greatly.”

“On behalf of the Government and people of St. Kitts & Nevis, I extend deepest sympathy to the family of Nelson Mandela, and to the people of South Africa, whose now-non-racial democracy will be forever indebted to the great man, and the great spirit, the world has come to know as Nelson Mandela.

We are humbled by his example.  We are most thankful for his life,” Douglas added.

Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said that the “world is now a poorer and darker place for his passing.

“We in Barbados share the grief and sense of loss which has suddenly enveloped not only his native South Africa but the world of which he was so unique and so distinguised a citizen.

“ Over the next few weeks we will all have cause to reflect on a life courageously lived and selfishly given in service of the freedom of all mankind and we will all have occasion too to pay tribute to his memory. “

“May He whose glory the heaven declare extend to Nelson Mandela that warm embrace reserved for those who have fought the good fight, finish their course and kept the faith. and may light perpetual shine upon him,” Stuart added. 

Mandela, who led South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison, had been receiving intense home-based medical care for a lung infection after three months in hospital.

In a statement on South African national television President Jacob  Zuma said  Mandela had “departed” and was at peace.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world’s most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.

He had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004.

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves,” Zuma said, adding “fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell.”

Caribbean leaders were joining world leaders in paying tribute to Mandela, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, but was released in 1990 as South Africa began to move away from strict racial segregation.

Former Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Shridath Ramphal told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the region should seek to emulate the life of the South African, who had been given every possible award from regional governments.

“What we could do best in honouring his memory is to follow his example,” Sir Shridath said.

Sir Shridath said that Mandela was aware of the role played by Caribbean countries in seeking his release from prison and the fight against apartheid.

“He was aware of what we had done in the Caribbean within the Commonwealth. He knew we had helped,” said the former Guyanese-born diplomat.

“I think the Caribbean has endowed him with every honour they could think of,” he said, adding “tomorrow’s children will not be able to say, as we can with pride and a deep sense of privilege, that we lived in the time of Nelson Mandela, a unique and memorable human being.

“‘Madiba’ has gone from us; but he is part of eternity and will always belong to the entire world. His indomitable spirit will forever inspire people in pursuit of freedom and justice; his humanity will be a beacon for all who are wronged. He made our troubled age less shameful by his own nobility,” Sir Shridath said.

He said that Mandela had enriched his own  life “by the small part I played, as Commonwealth Secretary-General, in restoring him to freedom – even though he showed that truly “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage”.

“That my official Commonwealth residence was the one he came to when first he came to London, after his release from prison, to meet those who fought with him against apartheid and the injustices of the apartheid regime, will forever be a badge of honour for the Commonwealth,” Sir Shridath added. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample