Diplomat Sir James Thomas passes

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The twin island state has lost a son who is credited with tremendous gains in foreign relations for the country.

Sir James “Bags” Thomas passed away on Monday at Mount St John’s Medical Centre, after a short period of illness.

The former high commissioner to the UK and dean of the Diplomatic Corps in London started his career at the West Indies Oil Company Limited (WIOC).

Reflecting on the life and times of the fallen stalwart, former Ambassador to the US Lionel “Max” Hurst lamented that the country has lost a treasure.

Hurst described Sir James as a nation builder and one “who we were fortunate to have known.”

“He worked at West Indies Oil as an oil executive and no one could have ever faulted him for his performance. WIOC was an extremely important corporate citizen in Antigua & Barbuda from the outset.”

Through Sir James’ involvement, Hurst says WIOC strived to serve the people of Antigua and the Caribbean.

“It is out of the experience at West Indies Oil that VC Bird established with Errol Barrow and Forbes Burnham Carifta, the Caribbean Free Trade Association signed in 1965 to enable the product from WIOC to be exported to these countries and to enter them in the countries free of duty,” he said.

After leaving WIOC Sir James went on to serve as Antigua’s high commissioner to London and later the dean of the diplomatic corps, a highly prestigious position which required him to represent the entire corps.

Hurst explained that part of the success of the country’s economy was dependant on the actions of Sir James in London as well as his role as the dean, having served for such a long time.

Upon his return from London after 1995, Sir James was charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the country was in line with all its regional treaties and conventions.

Hurst added that “he had multiple roles in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked very well with then Permanent Secretary Ambassador Collin Murdoch.

The Cabinet of Antigua & Barbuda at its weekly session yesterday decided that the former high commissioner to the United Kingdom would be accorded an official funeral.

Cabinet expressed its sympathy to the family of Sir James and noted his sterling service in the diplomatic field in the country, acknowledging his contributions as High Commissioner of Antigua & Barbuda to the United Kingdom during which he forged close relations between his country and the United Kingdom and other European nations.

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer expressed personal condolences to Lady Ena Thomas, widow of Sir James, and said that his service to Antigua & Barbuda for over 20 years, serving in the capacity as high commissioner to the UK, ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and to Caricom, contributed significantly to the development of bilateral relations with those countries.

Spencer said he was a consummate professional and a distinguished son of Antigua & Barbuda.

Sir James, who hailed from the village of Greenbay, was also a former educator and served for many years in the church.

The cabinet appointed Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Gender Affairs Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro as Chair of the official funeral planning committee.  The committee, along with Lady Ena, will have its first meeting on Friday, November 25.

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