By Makeda Mikael
As we mourn the loss of our beloved LB during these turbulent times, we remember how he loved young people, listened to them, encouraged them to gather, to have an opinion, and to talk their mind courageously. During the Lester Bird era, the festive atmosphere pre-empted the type of wrangling now prevalent among young people.
Recognizing that youth must be engaged and enlightened in order to prevent boredom and the consequences of irrational behaviour, the Ministry of Economic Development which formed part of LB’s portfolio, started a grassroots upwardly mobile program to develop and train prospective employees for the many projects which were being introduced on the island.
Youth Skills was introduced to build youth for the workforce, and at its height enrolled young people in work experience in hotels, private business, and some government agencies where teaching experiences made skilled workers presentable for the active work arena.
Antigua’s young people were an active happy bunch who were learning and earning a little stipend from the Government, then moved equipped with skills to the business outlet to which their skills were directed. Entertainment and Sports were also not just encouraged, youth leaders were supported in their missions to uplift the consciousness and athletics and participatory sports of football, basketball, cricket both on the beach and at the wicket, volleyball, swimming and parties.
Lester Bird was accused of hanging out at young people’s parties and occasions, but he just loved to dance, and the kids taught him all the new moves which he was not embarrassed to learn as he skanked, and boogied, twisted, and self-danced as all the youth did then, he was the life of the young people’s parties.
The youth arm of the Antigua Labour Party was most loyal and active under LB’s watch. They had their Government time with him every week where their leaders were given time in his Government Office to deal with concerns of young people with their Government.
This encouraged all young people’s organizations to follow suit and it was not abnormal for LB to excuse himself from meetings which were handled by his competent officers in order to make himself available to young people.
What happened to the people of Antigua and in particular the young people of our country on Sunday August 8 2021 could never have happened under the administration of Sir Lester whose modus operandi was one of consultation and conciliation, and proper governance of Police who would never have dared to tear-gas the young people – especially on police personal decision. Sir Lester would have embarrassed the Commissioner into resigning.