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Owen Arthur: The Activist Prime Minister

The following statement is issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, in tribute to the late Rt. Honourable Owen Arthur.

Arthur was authorised by the elders of his era to lead the economic development charge of the region. As a consequence, there was no other passion that competed with his commitment to the economic advancement of Caribbean people.

At The University of the West Indies (The UWI), he was schooled beyond the theories of scholarship to embrace the practical and pragmatic dimensions of this mission. While his feet were firmly planted in the urgency of post-plantation economic reforms, his intellectual sophistication kept him focused on the simultaneous need for social inclusion and justice. This was the nature of his centre of gravity.

As a young academic he erupted as a development activist and never lost sight of the role economics could play in serving all sections of the communities within the archipelago. With this philosophy in hand, he grew rapidly to professional maturity. The youth from a marginalised village in plantation Barbados became an activist Prime Minister who master minded the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market. He lived and died dedicated to the vision of the single economy.

As a political leader in a fragmented region, he respected the constitutional consequences of the indigenous diversity that was endowed by history and geography. But as a development economist, his life project was putting together that which God had put asunder. It began and ended with his sense of belonging to a unified cultural space, and membership of a cohesive civilization that transcended and dialectically defied the political fractures and fissures fomented by superficial features.

Arthur had no time for Caribbean divisiveness that lacked intellectual integrity. He was a man for his region, and for this reason he stood in defiance of those that sought to subvert the dignity of its sovereignty. Shipriders without approval were told they could not enter and he denied automatic access to the waters that constituted the boundaries of Barbados. This controversial commitment constituted evidence of the consciousness he displayed in the heat of an imperial moment that tested the tenacity of his authority.

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Article from: The University of the West Indies, Mona

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