Former SVG PM Sir James F. Mitchell dies at age 90

Former Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sir James Mitchell. Mitchell died at the age of 90 on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021.
Reuters Photographer

Sir James Fitz-Allen “Son” Mitchell, former Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and former Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines, died on Tuesday, Nov. 23, the government of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves said in a statement. He was 90.

The Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported that Sir James died five days after he was discharged from the Intensive Care Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in neighboring Barbados, where he was taken after falling ill at his home in Bequia, the largest and most northern of the Grenadine islands, on Oct. 30.

“He was initially diagnosed, in Bequia, as having a gallstone, but was brought to the capital, Kingstown, where doctors said he had an infection,” CMC said.

The Office of Prime Minister Gonsalves said Sir James, who represented the Grenadines for a total of 33 years, was the multi-island state’s second prime minister, serving in that capacity from 1984 to 2000.

He also served as premier from 1972 to 1974, and was the founder and President of the New Democratic Party (NDP).

“Sir James will be accorded a State Funeral, details of which will be provided in a subsequent announcement,” the Office of Prime Minister Gonsalves said.

“As a mark of respect, all flags throughout the State will be flown at half-mast from Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021 to Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, and on the day of the funeral,” it added. “The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines takes this opportunity to extend sincere condolences to the family of the late Sir James Fitz-Allen Mitchell.”

The NDP said in a statement that it was “saddened to hear the news that the founder of the New Democratic Party, Sir James Mitchell, has passed away.

“He was one of the founding fathers of our nation,” the NDP said. “During his time serving our nation, he achieved huge amounts in steering St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the right direction, by providing economic stability and improving housing across our islands.

“The IMF (International Monetary Fund) once said of his economic leadership, ‘there’s much to please and little to fault,’” it added. “Sir James is, undoubtedly, to be credited for numerous developments in our country. He was the embodiment of a true statesman and a nation-builder.

“Sir James was much loved by everybody that knew him, and we pray for his family during this difficult time,” it added. “May he rest in peace.”

Born in Bequia on May 15, 1931, Mitchell was educated at St. Vincent Grammar School.

He continued his university education at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago and at the University of British Columbia in Canada, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1955, according to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.

It said Mitchell initially entered politics in 1966 by winning a legislative seat as a candidate of the St. Vincent Labor Party, and was Minister of Agriculture from 1967 to 1972.

After serving as premier from 1972 to 1974, he founded the NDP in 1975.

In July 1984, Mitchell became Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs, and was re-elected for a fourth successive term when the NDP scored an 8–7 victory in the Parliamentary Elections of Jun. 15, 1998, Wikipedia said.

It said Mitchell retired as prime minister and NDP president in 2000 but stayed on as senior minister until 2001.

Mitchell was also foreign minister from 1984 until 1992 and a Privy Councillor beginning in 1985, Wikipedia said.

In addition, it said Mitchell was co-chair of International Democrat Observer teams in the first democratic elections in Nicaragua in 1990 and Hungary in 1991. He also led the Commonwealth observer team at the election in Lesotho in 2002, Wikipedia said.

The Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, on Tuesday expressed deepest sympathy at the passing of Sir James.

“Prime Minister Browne telephoned Dr. Ralph Gonsalves this morning to convey the condolences of the Caribbean Community’s Heads of Government to the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the death of one of their iconic figures,” said the Office of Prime Minister Browne in a statement.

“The CARICOM chair recalled that Sir James has served for 16 years as prime minister of his country and, during that time, was an active regionalist, promoting several initiatives for the deepening of integration in the region,” it added. “Prime Minister Browne also noted that Sir James had been an active advocate of the idea of a political union of the countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States in the early 1980s.”

“The region has lost a true champion of our CARICOM integration and a significant figure in advancing the region’s causes in the global community,” Browne said. “We join the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, especially the people of the island of Bequia where he was born and in which he spent his happiest times.”

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