David Thompson is 12th Caribbean leader to die in office

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BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, (CUOPM) – COULD a mandatory health protocol have saved the life of Prime Minister David Thompson?

Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Hon. Dr Denzil L. Douglas could not answer that question, but he asserted that regional leaders needed to stick to some of the basic principles which their governments often enunciated for the people whom they govern.

Speaking to Wade Gibbon of the Barbados Nation’s SATURDAY SUN on Friday during a break from an official engagement at the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Douglas said it was critical that regional leaders recognised the importance of the spectrum of chronic non-communicable diseases, as well as communicable diseases, which were now in the region and which had become of epidemic proportions.

“We have been advocating, at least three years ago . . . we have raised this matter of cancers, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and we keep saying that we must know our health status,” said Douglas, who is a medical doctor.

Dr. Douglas, who has lead responsibility within the CARICOM quasi cabinet for health, said sometimes there were conditions which might not be preventable, but which, if detected early through proper annual checks, could be better managed and lead to greater longevity.

“What has happened to David [Thompson], Prime Minister of Barbados, is unfortunate. I am sure he had that sense of keenness with regard to the importance of regular checks.”

Dr. Douglas said that there was a structure in place in his St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party where the health status of prospective election candidates was seriously looked at during the selection process.
He added: “What we had in St Kitts and Nevis, before I came into office, ministers generally did not have a vacation schedule.

“Each minister must now have his vacation, and by doing that, one encourages them to be aware of the need for adequate rest and down-time so you can spend time with your family and look after your health. We are getting close to that as a protocol within the Caribbean region at this time.”
But his Anguillan counterpart, Chief Minister, Hon. Hubert Hughes, differs on the prescription for tackling leaders’ health.

He told the SATURDAY SUN that the health of a prime minister should not become a national issue unless there were visible signs of sickness.

Hughes, who is in his 70s, strongly argued that if a leader was not healthy, “it will be seen in his behaviour or his productivity … but as long as the performance remains up to par, I don’t see there is an issue.”

The Chief Minister, who is married to a Barbadian, recalled that “nobody knew that (the late) Prime Minister Tom Adams was sick to that extent when he died.”

He added: “Thompson took ill with an incurable situation which no one anticipated, and therefore it cannot be attributed to being loose (with) respect to his health.”

CMC, in a feature written by renowned regional journalist, Mr. Ricky Singh said David Thompson is the youngest Head of Government of the Caribbean region to die in office.
At 48, Thompson was the twelfth Caribbean head of government to die in office — the first being Jamaica’s Donald Sangster in 1967. Since then, other government leaders to depart for the ‘great beyond’ were St Kitts and Nevis’ Robert Bradshaw (62) and Paul Southwell, who passed away within one year of each other; Trinidad and Tobago’s Eric Williams; Dominica’s Rosie Douglas and Pierre Charles (49); Guyana’s Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan and the two former Barbadian leaders to pass away within two years of each other — Tom Adams and Errol Barrow and British Virgin Islands Chief Minister Lavity Stoutt.
The tradition of regional outpouring of condolences — from state level to representative business and civic organisations — with the passing of Heads of Government in office is being admirably maintained while arrangements are being finalised for Wednesday’s state funeral at the historic Kensington Oval.
A number of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders, as well as dignitaries from within the Greater Caribbean and beyond are expected for the state funeral under the guidance of Foreign Minister Maxine McLean.
Tomorrow, the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana will open a ‘Book of Condolence’ to facilitate expressions from the public in general, in addition to representatives of the diplomatic corps and business community
The book will close on November 3 to coincide with the official period of mourning that started with Thompson’s death from pancreatic cancer on October 23.