Former Antigua PM Sir Lester Bird passes

Former Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Lester Bird, 83, died on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021.
Associated Press/Andres Leighton/File

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda announced on Monday the death of former Prime Minister Sir Lester Bryant Bird. He was 83.

“The Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda expresses deepest condolences to Mrs. Patricia Philip Bird, children and extended family of the late Sir Lester Bryant Bird, KNH, on his untimely passing,” the statement said.

“Sir Lester Bryant Bird, KNH, has served Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) with distinction,” it added. “He has served the people of Antigua and Barbuda for over 45 years, making him the founding father of modern-day Antigua and Barbuda. We have lost one of our most precious sons.”

Konata Lee, secretary to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda, said that Cabinet has established a special committee, comprising Ministers Sir Molwyn Joseph, Dean Jonas and E.P. Chet Greene to organize final arrangements to honor Sir Lester.

The Cabinet also announced that, as a sign of respect, all flags on public buildings in Antigua and Barbuda will be flown at half-staff from Monday and continuing, until the day of the funeral.

Linda Taglialatela, US Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS, expressed deepest condolences on the passing of Sir Lester.

“We extend our sympathies to the Bird family and to the people of Antigua and Barbuda who are mourning his loss and honoring his memory,” she said. “As the first chairman of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Prime Minister Bird understood the importance of regional integration, and with roots in New York City, the friendship the United States shares with the people of Antigua and Barbuda. May he rest in peace.”

According to loopnewscaribbean, Sir Lester was ailing for some time.

In a statement, President Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali described Bird as “a good friend of Guyana and the Guyanese people.

“Sir Lester was a good friend of Guyana and the Guyanese people,” he said. “He stood firmly and consistently with us in defense of our sovereignty and territorial integrity, raising his considerable voice in the UN, the Commonwealth and other hemispheric fora.

“Sir Lester opened the doors of Antigua and Barbuda to many thousands of Guyanese at a time of economic decline in our country, and, in so doing, cemented his legacy as a true integrationist, which will forever be marked in the annals of history,” the Guyanese president added.

Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit thanked Bird, who served as the first chairman of the OECS, for his work into the kick start the regional integration movement.

“May his contribution to the regional integration movement and to the economic development of Antigua and Barbuda be long-remembered and honored,” Skerrit tweeted. “Our prayers are with his loved ones and the people of Antigua and Barbuda  .”

Recently-elected St. Lucian Prime Minister Phillip Pierre echoed Skerrit’s comment, loopnewscaribbean said.

“The Government and People of St. Lucia mourn with the People of Antigua and Barbuda on the passing of Former Prime Minister, Sir Lester Bird,” Pierre also tweeted. “We honor his legacy as an integrationist and first Chairman of the OECS. Our prayers go out to his loved ones. May he rest in peace.”

On Oct. 28, 2019, the Antigua and Barbuda Festivals Commission said Sir Lester was “one of the architects of the new Antigua and Barbuda.

“Sir. Lester was an outstanding athlete during his youth,” it said then. “He was an outstanding cricketer, a footballer, and he earned his spurs in high jump and long jump. He subsequently graduated from Grays Inn, London, as a lawyer before returning home to Antigua to practice law.

“He served our country in excess of 40 years as a parliamentarian, including 18 as deputy prime minister and 10 as prime minister,” the commission said. “Sir Lester Bryant Bird is an heroic figure in our recent history.

“Unarguably, he has made the second single largest contribution to the socio-economic advancement of our country,” it added. “He is the father of modern Antigua & Barbuda.

“In recognition of his Contribution, the governor general, with the concurrence of Cabinet and the Honors Committee, conferred upon him, during the 33rd Anniversary of our country’s independence, the honor of Knight Companion of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero,” the commission continued.

Caribbeanelections.com said that Lester Bryant Bird was born in New York City on Feb. 21, 1938.

He was the son of Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, the first Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda after independence.

Lester Bryant Bird was educated at Antigua Grammar School, the University of Michigan, and Gray’s Inn, London.

Between 1969 and 1976, Bird was a lawyer in private practice, Caribbeanelections said.

It said that, in 1971 Bird became the chairman of the Antigua Labor Party (ALP), which had been formed by his father in 1946, and entered the Senate as Leader of the Opposition.

In 1976, Caribbeanelections said Bird was elected as a Member of Parliament, and, between 1976 and 1991, served as both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development, Tourism, and Energy.

Between 198, when Antigua achieved full independence from the United Kingdom, and 1991, he also served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in his father’s government, Caribbeanelections said.

In 1991, it said Bird became Minister of External Affairs, Planning and Trade; and, in the general election of March 1994, he was elected Prime Minister, succeeding his father who had retired the previous December.

In March 2004, Caribbeanelections said the ALP was defeated by the United Progressive Party (UPP), with Bird losing his seat in the House of Representatives to Errol Cort. In the election of 2009, he regained his seat.

Caribbeanelections said Bird successfully retained his seat for the Gaston Browne-led Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party in the June 12, 2014 election and was appointed to the Cabinet as Senior Minister.

On Nov. 3, 2014, Bird was named Knight of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero (KNH), Antigua & Barbuda’s highest honor, for his contribution to national development as an outstanding sportsman, lawyer and parliamentarian for 38 years, Caribbeanelections said.

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