My first encounter with Sir James – Saboto Caesar
ONE of Saboto Caesar’s prominent memories of Sir James Mitchell is when he, as valedictorian of the St Vincent Community College graduating class of 1998, chose to use his speech to debate Mitchell’s presentation at that same event.
“…This speaks to my innocence with politics at the time, at the 1998 graduation ceremony of the A Level college, I was given the opportunity to present the valedictory speech,” this country’s agriculture minister recalled as he stood in Parliament on December 13 to pay tribute to the former prime minister. “ And Sir James was present and he spoke before me…In true debating style, I decided to debate his presentation, after which he returned to the podium and did a wrap up. Of course, you could just imagine what the wrap up was like and I had to sit and listen.”
Caesar, whose childhood spanned most of Sir James tenure as this country’s second prime minister, walked away from that experience with a mantra that has been ever present throughout his adult life.
“…A statement that he made in his wrap up was that ‘there is always room at the top, so keep rising’,” he said.
Before he served as minister of agriculture, Caesar was appointed as tourism minister in 2010.
He recalled that Sir James called to congratulate him and offer advice in what was “a very long conversation, which almost turned into a day’s work”.
“In my capacity as Minister of Agriculture, we did significant work together regarding the cocoa sub-sector. He was an advocate for diversification in agriculture and particularly so, post the ruling of the WTO in the banana case. And he preached diversification; not as successful in convincing the farming population at the time as much as he would wish because he was preaching it at a time when persons could not see beyond the excellent state of the banana industry then and many did not envisage the vagaries of the impact of the WTO case that the nation would grapple with and we have grappled with over the years,” Caesar said.
He added: “I had the opportunity to work closely with him as well and his daughter, Louise on issues touching and concerning conservation. He served his country, his region during his life. May his soul rest in peace”.