Tribute Sir Vincent Beache – A Towering Political Figure
By Honourable Robert Theodore Luke Vincent Browne
Parliament on August 22, 2019
We are here paying tribute to Sir Vincent Beache. Sir Vincent was literally and figuratively a towering political figure on our landscape. He served in this hallowed Chamber for an extended period of time dating back to the early 1970s. I have paid him the respect of writing out my remarks for this occasion (in consideration of his esteemed stature) and I therefore crave your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, in allowing me to read them into the record.
I must first of all confess that I always felt a special sense of closeness to Sir Vincent, and this may have had something to do with the fact that we had a name in common. One of my names is also Vincent. I was born in 1985 to a father who was a strong supporter of the Labour Party. It is probably hardly a coincidence, then, that I ended up with the names of 2 very prominent Labour Party leaders of that day: Robert (from Robert Milton Cato) and Vincent (from Vincent Beache). I was saddled with 4 names in all: Robert, Theodore, Luke and Vincent. I suppose that this is a burden I am constrained to carry for the rest of my life. More importantly, it seems that a tribute to Vincent Beache is reflected in my names.
Sir Vincent would go down in history as a stalwart of Labour. He contributed immensely to the good fortunes of his Party. He served the government in several capacities and transcended political generations having worked with Prime Minister Milton Cato at the time of Independence, and much more recently with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at the dawn of the 21st century.
The summer programme I have going on right now is being conducted under the theme: “We Have a Nation to Build.” I described Sir Vincent in a conversation with the children participating in that programme as a Nation Builder. Those were not idle words.
- Sir Vincent was building St. Vincent and the Grenadines when, as Minister of Agriculture, he either spearheaded or pioneered many special initiatives, projects and activities that redounded to the benefit and advantage of our farmers and the wider society.
- Sir Vincent was building our nation when he helped to expand the Campden Park Industrial Estate into what it is today.
- The Prime Minister has announced that the Republic of China/Taiwan will make an initial contribution of 150,000USD to the Sir Vincent Beache Memorial Scholarship Fund. We welcome this as an appropriate gesture since it was Vincent Beache who stood alongside this country’s first Prime Minister, the Honourable Milton Cato, God bless his memory, in establishing diplomatic relations with the Republic of China in 1981. This relationship blossomed into a wonderful and mutually-beneficial partnership for development. This speaks to an act of nation building.
- Sir Vincent, as Minister of National Security, led the restructuring of the Royal SVG Police which saw a de-linking of the Immigration Department. Mr. Godfred Pompey, former Permanent Secretary in that Ministry, paid eloquent newspaper tribute to his former boss whom he said “believed in the development of people.”
- This belief in the development of people, and his overall commitment to nation building, must be what led him to recommend the establishment of the SET Programme as a step towards curing the problem of unemployment among young people and to giving them opportunities to train or gain experience while earning an income.
Vincent Beache was simply a supreme Nation Builder par excellence.
There was more to Sir Vincent than politics and government. He was a trained electronics and electrical technician, and he used his skills in this area to good effect when he wired the first Drive-In Cinema to be built in this country located at Diamond. It has also been said that Vincent Beache helped a man by the name of Joe DaSilva with a difficult problem. Joe had apparently bought a modern and sophisticated stove from overseas. The trouble was that he could not get it to work when it arrived here. Joe tried many different experts without success, before Vincent Beache came to the rescue. Mr. Beache, as he was known then, fixed the stove and got it working. I am told that the stove is still working today.
I believe that Sir Vincent genuinely cared about people. One of the things I appreciated about him was that he always enquired about how my father was doing, even long after daddy had become somewhat withdrawn from the public domain. He still felt the need to check-in on his old friend from time to time. Sir Vincent by virtue of his extensive experience also had a long memory. When the Argyle International Airport was completed, he showed me a thick book entitled Development Plan for the Colony of St. Vincent 1930. He then gave me the book on loan for a couple weeks (mind you, I had to sign out the book and when the return date arrived Sir Vincent promptly called me to indicate that it was time to bring it back). He certainly had an organised book management system that rivalled any library.
In the book, there is a passage which shows that from that early part of the 20th century the powers that be were already considering building an airport at Argyle. It was clear to me that Sir Vincent, having been born in 1931, had lived with the dream seeing an airport built at that site. He was delighted that the dream had come true before he closed his eyes. In many ways, it was like a story of his life.
Earlier this year, I asked Sir Vincent to be the featured speaker at our Unity Labour Party East Kingstown Annual Conference, but he told me he could not make it. I knew something had to be wrong. He would ordinarily jump at every opportunity to share his knowledge and political wisdom. I subsequently learnt that he was not well at all and sent him a handwritten note wishing him a speedy recovery and expressing my respect and admiration for him. This is what I said:
I stand by these words. We have laid to rest a beloved veteran politician and statesman. He has a strong legacy that will be protected. He is gone, yet he is still with us. He remains a towering political figure on our landscape. Thank God he lived.