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Barbados mourns for PM David Thompson

Barbados mourns for PM  David Thompson

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Barbados is now in a period of official mourning, which will continue until the State Funeral of late Prime Minister David Thompson has taken place.{{more}}

Thompson died at 2:10 a.m. on Saturday, October 23, at his private residence in St. Philip surrounded by his wife Marie-Josephine Mara and three daughters: Oya, Mischa and Osa-Marie.

His death came just over five months after his May 14, announcement that he was ill. He disclosed then that he had been experiencing stomach pains since early March. On September 16, his personal physician Dr. Richard Ishmael informed Barbadians that Thompson was battling pancreatic cancer.

Even though Thompson’s death was not unexpected, the announcement that he had passed threw Barbadians into a state of shock, and within hours, tributes from around the region and the world began to pour in for the man who had given all his adult life in service to his country.

His wife Mara, a native of St. Lucia, in a statement said, “Barbados has lost its loyal son and faithful servant before he had the time to realize his lifetime dreams. Our family has lost the person who was central to all we did.

“We enjoyed and endured his public service experiences. He was always indebted to the people and the party for affording him the opportunity to see the mountain top.”

She asked the Barbadian people to continue to pray for her family.

A mere five hours after Thompson’s death, his parliamentary colleagues met and selected Queen’s Counsel Freundel Stuart, the former Deputy Prime Minister as his replacement. Three hours later, Stuart, who is the representative for St. Michael South, was sworn in as the nation’s seventh prime minister at Government House. Member of Parliament for

St. Phillip South, Adriel Braithwaite, was also sworn in as Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs.

Barbados’ new Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has called on Barbadians to display dignity, discipline and restraint during the period of mourning for the death of the late leader David Thompson.

In his first televised speech to the nation as head of the country on Sunday, October 24, Stuart noted that Barbados had lost two previous prime ministers who died while they were serving in office.

Tom Adams died in office in 1985 and Errol Barrow in 1987.

“We brought then all the resources of a resilient national character to bear on our circumstances…. These resources remain undiminshed and are still available for the nation’s reinforcement,” Stuart said.

He added that while Barbadians grieve their leader’s passing, it was another occasion to put on display “our national maturity for all to see.”

David Thompson was born in the United Kingdom on December 25, 1961, to Barbadians Charles Thompson and Margaret Knight. He was born the same year his mentor Errol Barrow became premier of Barbados.

Thompson, a past student of Combermere, first came to prominence and public attention as the leading panelist for his alma mater in the then popular secondary schools’ television debates – Understanding. That forum and his active membership in the youth arm of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) catapulted him into national limelight.

He won a Barbados Exhibition in 1979, and is a graduate of the University of the West Indies. He was called to the Bar in 1986 and took over the practice of his mentor Errol Barrow in that same year.

Thompson’s life of service began in 1978, while still a schoolboy, when he joined the DLP. He was first elected to parliament in 1987 when he won the St. John seat in a by-election occasioned when Barrow died in office on June 1, 1987. Thompson was the president of the DLP’s youth arm, and Assistant General Secretary of the DLP.

In 1991, he was appointed Minister of Community Development and Culture in the Erskine Sandiford administration. In 1992, he was appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance. In 1993, he became Barbados’ youngest Minister of Finance. In 1994, he led the DLP in election and became Opposition Leader after Sandiford lost a no confidence motion brought against him by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).

Under Thompson’s leadership, the DLP suffered defeats in the 1994 and 1999 general elections. On September 24, 2001, he resigned as leader of the DLP after that party suffered a third defeat in the St. Thomas by-election a few days earlier.

In 2006, he took back up the positions of Opposition Leader and DLP president and led the DLP to victory in January 2008, when it won 20 of 30 parliamentary seats. Thompson was sworn in as Prime Minister on January 16, 2008, as sixth prime minister.

He has been described as an avid reader, with an appetite for literature on people, politics and international affairs. His hobbies were cricket, football, music and community activism.

He and his widow Marie-Josephine Mara, nee Giraudy, had been married for more than 20 years.