Former prime minister and national hero Sir Lester Bryant Bird has officially announced his departure from politics while throwing his support behind his niece Maria Bird-Browne as the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) candidate in St John’s Rural East.
Sir Lester made the announcement moments ago during a sitting of the Lower House.
Sir Lester, who has served the nation for over 40 years as a senator and a parliamentary representative, said he will not seek re-election based on his age and for health issues. Bird will be 80 next February.
He has been a minister of government for 18 years and served as the country’s prime minister for 10 years.
The former prime minister has represented the St John’s Rural East constituency for his life in politics, which he called a modern and vibrant society in which the roads and housing stock have been improved and there are utility services in every home.
Sir Lester was proud of several facilities which he was instrumental in having erected in the constituency, including the YASCO Sports Complex and other national projects such as the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) and the Heritage Quay duty-free shopping complex.
“It is the people of St John’s Rural East who opened the door through which I proudly walked; but now I am approaching my 80th birthday next February and I know in as much as my brain has much to contribute, age has taken its toll on my physical capacity…
“It would be unfair to impose upon the readiness of the people of Rural East to maintain me as their representative. The time has come for younger legs and more agile hands, that is why I announce today, in this honourable House, that I will not seek re-election and that at the end of this term I will leave representative politics,” the national hero said.
Sir Lester said he will, however, make himself available to the nation for any advice that is sought from him.
He has promised his former constituents that he will continue to be there for them even though he is not in active politics and asked that they throw their support begin the newly selected candidate Maria Bird-Browne, whom he said is a good fit for the constituency and dynamic and eloquent.
“…my successor is someone who I believe will be good for each of its residents, good for the constituency and good for the country, that is why I recommend to the people of St John’s Rural East Maria Bird Browne. I do so not only because she is my niece, I do so because she has shown the humility and the compassion to be a people’s representative.
“I do so also because she has shown a passion for Antigua and Barbuda’s development and a resolve to lift up its young people to a higher level of accomplishment and advancement. I am convinced that she will care for the people of Rural East and will stand up with them and for them,” Sir Lester noted.
Sir Lester thanked the people of Rural East for the faith, trust and confidence reposed in him over the many years.
The former prime minister was a cricketer and athlete, bringing home a bronze medal after competing in the high jump at the 1959 Pan American Games. He was the first chairman of the OECS.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has suggested a special sitting of the House to honour and celebrate Sir Lester’s political contribution to the nation.
Browne suggested that an appropriate monument be to named in his honour, which he said he will announced after consultation with his Cabinet colleagues.
PM Browne said he would want Sir Lester to serve as a senior minister in the next term of his government.