Former Prime Minister of Antigua Sir Lester Bird has died.
He passed away this morning at the age of 83.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne described Bird as a “great son of the soil” who was a distinguished leader.
Bird was Antigua’s second prime minister.
A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said that all flags in the country will now be flown at half-mast.
Bird will be accorded a State funeral.
Five things about Sir Lester Bryant Bird:
1. Began his political career in 1971
2. Was first a Senator
3. Served as prime minister from 1994 to 2004
4. Was chairman of the ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party from 1971 to 1983
5. Won a bronze medal for the West Indies in long jump at the 1957 Pan American Games
Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders, said, beyond any doubt, Bird was the architect of modern Antigua, responsible for successfully transitioning the country from an economy dependent on a defunct sugar industry into one of the leading tourism centres in the world.
“Under his stewardship, Antigua and Barbuda became a high-income country, transforming the quality of jobs and housing and introducing high-end tourist resorts. When he lost the general elections in 2004, Antigua and Barbuda had the lowest rate of unemployment in the Caribbean of five per cent. Many people had the luxury of two jobs.”
In his later years, Bird played golf but his passion was cricket.
“At a different time, he might have been selected to represent the West Indies,” said Sanders.
He also said the former prime minister was a committed regionalist, who was highly instrumental in establishing the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States serving twice as its Chairman – the first time he was not yet Prime Minister, but such was the confidence that leaders of the Eastern Caribbean reposed in him.
He strongly influenced the decision to turn the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority into a Central Bank that serves its member states.
Sanders said that in the wider Caribbean, Bird was a giant.
It was under his leadership as chair of CARICOM that with Jamaica’s P J Patterson and Barbados’ Owen Arthur that the Regional Negotiating Machinery was established for collective bargaining with the European Union.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF DEATH FROM OPM
Please be advised that Antigua and Barbuda has lost one of its most distinguished and heroic sons.
The Honourable Sir Lester Bird, National Hero and Former Prime Minister, has died.
The sad event took place this morning at about 6:00 am.
The acting Prime Minister, in consultation with the Prime Minister who returns to the state today, has ordered that all flags be flown at half mast, beginning immediately.
It has also been ordered that planning commence for a State Funeral at an agreed-upon date.
May his soul join the ancestors in glory.
More to come…
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RIP Sir Lester.
The sight of police tear gassing Antiguans, under directions from on high, must have been deeply troubling and painful to LB. What a dreadful last memory the ABLP gave a man who led them, and the country, for decades.
Hmm I said the same thing. Seeing what took place yesterday was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
…Though few the numbers – theirs the strife
That neither spares nor speaks for life!
But love itself could never pant
For all that beauty sighs to grant
With half the fervour hate bestows
Upon the last embrace of foes,
When grappling in the fight they fold
Those arms that ne’er shall lose their hold:
Friends meet to part; love laughs at faith;
True foes, once met, are joined till death!
Condolences to all, friend and foe alike
Joined in grief at this parting stream
As we say our farewells to one of our National Heroes, Sir Lester Bryant Bird.
RIP lester… you where loved. May God have mercy on your soul
He was a great leader and a great friend to the church. We mourn his passing, but KNOW he is in the hands of a loving God, and there is no better place to be. – Rev. Terry Miller, Sharon Gospel Hour.
With deepest sympathy to the Bird’s family and the people of Antigua and Barbuda. At at time like this we all have extend a word of sympathy. May his soul rest in eternal peace. 🙏
I am very much saddened by receiving the news this morning that our National Hero and former Prime Minister, Sir Lester Briant Bird, has passed away. He was my former Parliamentary Representative and I voted for him twice.
Sir Lester Bird was a good man of unrivalled character. I can remember in the old days when Papa V. C. Bird was Prime Minister, and my entire family supported the Opposition, one night in the early 1970’s Sir Lester drove all the way from St. John’s to Hideout at Mamora Bay to tell my brother, Operator of the club, that the Mafia was planning to come and kill him that night, so to prepare. So, he actually saved my brother’s life. At the time, Government Ministers like Mr. Lester Bird and Mr. Adolphus Freeland occasionally patronized Club Hideout.
I first new of Lester Bird, when as a student of the St. John’s Boys School, I went up to the Antigua Grammar School’s Sport’s Day one year, and I saw the Bird’s boys winning all of the races. I subsequently lived in Ottos, not far from the Bird family house. But, my first direct contact with the National Hero was when one day in the 1970’s I visited his law firm and asked him to represent me in court because a bailiff had seized a vehicle I had bought from my brother. On the day in Court, he went into the judge’s chamber and came out and told me that I am going lose the case on account of the fact that the vehicle was still registered in my brother’s name. So, I told him: “fight the case man”. He replied to me: “you think this is a debating society”. My next interaction with him was when we ran into each other on Market Street in 1976. He asked me to vote for him. I voted against him that year, and instead voted for Attorney Gerald Watt.
In more recent times, he was canvassing in St. John’s Rural East around 2009, he called at my house and I invited him inside, and offered him a seat. He asked me what I thought about Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). I voted for him that year and also in 2014. I voted against his successor in 2018.
The Honorable Sir Lester Bryant Bird had made a very significant contribution to national development, over several decades, as he was our country’s defacto leader during the latter years of his father’s ‘reign’ and during his own two (2) terms as Prime Minister. His main contribution was the development of the Heritage key area, the building of the Royal Antigua Hotel, the acquisition of several other hotels, including the former Mamora Bay, Halcyon Cove and Jolly Beach.
The saddest part in his record of achievements is that the National Hero never saw the transfer, ownership and management of the hotels, and other projects he acquired (accomplished) as a matter of national priority. This is unfortunate for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, because at some point in time it will be quite fitting and most honorable for the people who live on these islands to have a significant stake in the ownership of the wealth of this country. Otherwise, all the achievements and accomplishments of our past leaders, and all the sacrifices made by the people of this nation will be in vain.
Let us hope that current and future leaders will correct this travesty in the sharing of equity in this country.
My condolences to the Bird family.
Hero? What stinking hero?
At least he was not as bad as Gaston Browne.
It is appointed unto man once to die, and after death the judgement. May his soul Rest In Peace if he left in his will that any assets stolen from the people be returned to them.
Very sad, now Antigua people will know how good we once had it. Antigua has gone nothing but down since he gone.
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