The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. Wednesday, July 29, 2020. The following statement is issued by Sir George Alleyne, Chancellor Emeritus of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), in tribute to the late Rt. Honourable Owen Arthur.
I cannot claim to have known the late Rt. Honourable Owen Arthur very well, but I certainly knew enough of his seminal contributions in the several spheres in which I moved to admire him and be proud that he was my Prime Minister. I admired him for his forthrightness and lack of can’t; for being an illustrious Pelican whose brilliant flight bore testimony to the value of The UWI in creating the human capital needed to guide the scattered peoples of the Caribbean to better lives and greater unity in our dividing sea. He was an indefatigable champion of The UWI, for which legions of past and future students will be eternally grateful.
Amidst the natural and welcome outpouring of grief for the passing of a national statesman of iconic stature, I know that there are hosts of Barbadians throughout the world who will recall with pride not only what he did at home but also his standing in global and regional affairs. He argued persistently that the common vulnerability and volatility of small states such as Barbados merited particular attention. I warmed to his impeccable logic as he evoked Aristotle’s proportionality and argued for special treatment of such states in the face of the “pervasive influence worldwide of the legitimizing ideology of liberalization”.
When the international community speaks of the vulnerability of small states and the index by which it should be measured, the name of Owen Arthur will always be recalled with gratitude. I admired him for his ability to be at once a fiercely proud Barbadian and simultaneously be a constant and dogmatic champion of the regional ideal which had no doubt been if not forged, certainly fortified in the Mona Valley. I admired him for the persistence with which he abjured jingoistic nationalism and put his shoulder against the Sisyphean rock of integration. I applauded his frequent, brilliant exposition of the value and virtue of functional cooperation as the glue to bind the Caribbean people more closely together and be a platform for the more difficult areas of cooperation. He was the architect of the Needham’s Point declaration of the CARICOM Heads of Government in 2007- “A community for all, a declaration on functional cooperation”. He believed that functional cooperation should indeed permeate the work of every council and institution of the community.
I know very intimately of his firm and unshakable commitment to such cooperation in health. It was Prime Minister Arthur who convened the first meeting of Caribbean leaders in Barbados in 2001 to address the scourge of HIV in the region and he was one of the original signatories to the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS which has been recognised as an international best practice. Its success over the years and the progress the region has made in combatting this disease collectively is another one of the tributes to his memory.
Owen Arthur as Chair of CARICOM presided over the historic meeting of CARICOM heads of government in Port of Spain in 2007, which recognised and emphasised that the Caribbean should address vigorously, the scourge of the chronic non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory illness. He was acutely aware that these diseases could possibly unravel the development gains made in other areas. The Declaration of that meeting stands as a milestone in the international cooperation to prevent and control these diseases.
It is particularly ironic one of these diseases connects two of our greatest Prime Ministers. The last time I saw the late Errol Barrow was in 1979 in Barbados when we spoke of many things including how diabetes could debilitate and diminish a man. He was prescient. The last time I saw the late Owen Arthur was last year at an alumni function when we spoke of many things, but he also be referred to the problem of diabetes and its complications. He too was prescient.
When the tears have dried and the laudable pomp and ceremony to mark his passing have receded into history, there will be many important accomplishments of his public life that will be etched into the annals of Barbadian history. It would be inappropriate for me to suggest the ways in which this great man’s many achievements should be memorialised. But I will venture to propose that he also be remembered fittingly by a firm and unshakable Caribbean commitment to ensuring that the functional cooperation that is needed to reduce the toll of these diseases and make our health span equal to our lifespan, never flags or fails.
I offer my condolences especially to his wife and daughters and trust that the knowledge of how much he was loved and appreciated as evidenced by the many tributes to him, go some small way towards dulling the pain and assuaging the grief that is yours.
About Sir George Alleyne
Sir George Alleyne served as Chancellor of The UWI from 2003 to 2010 and then 2010 to 2017. His years of distinguished service in the office have left an indelible mark in the history of The UWI. In addition to his service as Chancellor, he spent a total of 23 years working at the regional University. He was given the honorary title of Professor Emeritus after leaving The UWI in 1981 to assume the position of Chief of the Unit of Research, Promotion and Coordination in the Division of Human Resources and Research at PAHO/WHO and ascended to the position of Director of PAHO in 1995. Also a son of UWI soil, he is a proud alumnus, having graduated in 1957 as the gold medallist with the degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS), from the then University College of the West Indies.
About The UWI
For over 70 years The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has provided service and leadership to the Caribbean region and wider world. The UWI has evolved from a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948 to an internationally respected, regional university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and an Open Campus. As part of its robust globalization agenda, The UWI has established partnering centres with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe including the State University of New York (SUNY)-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development; the Canada-Caribbean Institute with Brock University; the Strategic Alliance for Hemispheric Development with Universidad de los Andes (UNIANDES); The UWI-China Institute of Information Technology, the University of Lagos (UNILAG)-UWI Institute of African and Diaspora Studies; the Institute for Global African Affairs with the University of Johannesburg (UJ); The UWI-University of Havana Centre for Sustainable Development; The UWI-Coventry Institute for Industry-Academic Partnership with the University of Coventry and the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research with the University of Glasgow.
The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science & Technology, Social Sciences and Sport.
As the region’s premier research academy, The UWI’s foremost objective is driving the growth and development of the regional economy. The world’s most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education, has ranked The UWI among the top 600 universities in the world for 2019 and 2020, and the 40 best universities in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2018 and 2019, then top 20 in 2020. The UWI has been the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists. For more, visit www.uwi.edu.
(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)