‘Independence has worked for us’, says Barbados PM
In the summer of 1966, Sir Garfield Sobers almost single-handedly led the West Indies to a convincing 3-1 series cricket win over England.
He was the series’ leading run producer in the five Tests with 722 (average 103.14) and catcher with 10, and the third-leading wicket taker with 20 (average 27.25).
Of his five tours to England, that was his most satisfying and dominant and it led England to switch captains three times.
Barbados’ Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, contends that Sir Garfield’s commanding performance on that tour psychologically prepared Barbadians for independence attained a few months later on November 30.
“I suspect he was saying to the nation, ‘Look, you are contemplating independence from Britain, so go right ahead because I am demonstrating to you that we can handle them and any problem in the world’,” Stuart said in his keynote address at the ninth annual Errol Barrow Memorial dinner last Saturday night in Scarborough. “We drew considerable inspiration from what happened that summer.”
The only surviving national hero, Sir Garfield celebrated his 80th birthday last July 28.
A celebrity cricket match, an invitational golf tournament and a gala reception were held to celebrate the milestone.
“We didn’t have those events because he’s a national hero or it was his birthday,” said Stuart. “It was done because of the unprecedented show of form in England just months before we started our independence journey.”
This is the sixth straight year Stuart has attended the dinner organized by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Canada chapter.
He said it’s fitting that Barbados is celebrating its golden jubilee during the DLP reign.
“In the 1961 manifesto to the DLP which brought Barrow to office, it was made very clear that the road to Barbados’ destiny was their own independence and from that ideal we should not retreat,” said Stuart. “There is an indissoluble connection between Barbados, Barrow and independence. That is why it is also very important that the party that Barrow formed and led should be in office at the time that the country is celebrating 50 years of independence.”
Stuart, who was sworn in as Barbados’ seventh Prime Minister in 2010 following the death of David Thompson, said the faith Barrow placed in Barbadians 50 years ago is justified.
“Independence has worked for us and we can look forward to the next 50 years,” he said. “We have not been perfect, but on any objective evaluation of Barbados’ journey over the last 50 years, it has to be conceded that we have been a successful nation.”
In its 50 years since ending 339 years of British colonialism, Barbados’ economy has been revolutionized and its society transformed.
In 1966, Barbados was a one-crop sugar economy producing 175,000 tons. Today, the Eastern Caribbean country is struggling to generate 10,000 tons.
“So fundamentally has our economy being transformed from one that is sugar to service-based led by tourism, international businesses and financial services and a large number of those tourists come from right here in Canada,” said Stuart. “That’s why that relationship between the two countries is so especially important.
“Canada occupies a very special place in the affections of Barbados and in the history of Barbados having regard to the fact that not only do large numbers of Canadian visitors come to Barbados, but our international business and financial services sector is largely a Canadian patronized sector. Outside of the United States and the United Kingdom, Canadians invest in no other country as much as they invest in Barbados.”
Stuart thanked nationals for their contributions to Barbados in the last 50 years and urged them to continue to be ambassadors for the country.
Several special awards were presented at the event that honours the memory of Barrow who co-founded the party, trained with the Royal Air Force in the Maritimes and was conferred with an honorary doctorate of Civil Law by McGill University in 1966, the same year he led his country to independence and became his country’s first prime minister. He died in 1987 at age 67.
Retired Toronto Police Service deputy chief, Keith Forde; former Barbados Davis Cup team player, Lionel Eli who is the director of tennis and head professional at Banbury Tennis Club; Reverend Canon Stephen Fields who is the incumbent pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Thornhill and Montreal resident, Phillip Alleyne who founded Jeunesse Caraibe, a non-profit organization that uses academics and athletics to unite youths of Caribbean heritage were the recipients of the Maple Leaf Award.
The Trident Award was presented to retired banking executive and former Black Business & Professional Association president, Hugh Graham, who is the vice-president of Barbados Ball Canada Aid.