Dr Jean Holder remembered by colleagues as distinguished Caribbean leader

Dr Jean Holder served as the head of the Caribbean Tourism Organization for several decades, before leading regional carrier LIAT through a turbulent period
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By Orville Williams

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Dr Jean Holder, a Barbadian diplomat and a stalwart of Caribbean tourism, is being remembered by his colleagues here in Antigua and Barbuda and across the region, for his instrumental role in developing and promoting regional connectivity.

News of his passing last Tuesday at the age of 85 has prompted applause from many distinguished professionals across various sectors, to include tourism, aviation, culture and diplomacy.

A former chairman of regional carrier LIAT, Dr Holder also served as the head of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) for many years and is praised for his indelible contributions to development in virtually all of the aforementioned sectors. 

In a statement yesterday, the management and staff of LIAT expressed their sadness at Dr Holder’s passing, saying he will be remembered for “creating the consultative mechanism meetings – a medium of communication between the management of LIAT and the Standing Regional Consultative Council of Trade Unions within the LIAT system, which comprised the 11 trade unions that represented LIAT employees”.

The statement also read that Dr Holder was known for his skilled diplomacy, faithful service and commitment to ensuring regional connectivity.

Dr Holder was also fondly remembered by former LIAT pilot and President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), Patterson Thompson, who also told Observer about their shared affinity for cricket.

“We didn’t always have the same opinion on certain things in LIAT, but he was a class act. He did it with diplomacy and he did it with a certain amount of style. It was never a raised voice situation with Dr Holder.

“Other than [through] LIAT, he served Barbados and Caricom very well with the CTO and he had a very long history, playing a role in Barbados’ independence.

“He also loved a lot of cricket, that’s something that [he] and I shared; we spoke a lot about [the sport]. He has served well, I think he has played his part, he’s played his innings and may he rest in peace and rise in glory,” Thompson said.

According to local media in his home country, Dr Holder was a Barbadian scholar who studied at Oxford University in London and the University of Toronto in Canada.

He served as First Secretary in the Barbados High Commission, which was established post-Independence, before returning to Barbados in 1968 to head the Economic and Policy Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Those reports say, in addition to working in tourism and the Foreign Service, he contributed significantly to the development of Barbados’ cultural landscape; along with a number of prominent Barbadian artists in 1973, he formed the first National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) committee, of which he was chairman.

Minister of State in Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of Finance, Lennox Weston, called Dr Holder’s contribution to the region very timely, serving as a beacon of resilience during turbulent times.

“He has been credited for putting together the economic and analytical basis for tourism development and advancement. Then, of course, he went on to the LIAT board at a time when LIAT was serving approximately 21 countries,” he said.

“Most of the Caribbean governments – except four – pulled out their financial support, and LIAT was expected to continue connecting the region … he held LIAT together for 16 years as chairman.

“He was, of course, a very quiet, dapper intellectual, who – with quiet persuasion – [made] good, intelligent decisions and had good connections and influence with leaders [across] Caricom.”

Similarly, Prime Minister Gaston Browne paid tribute, saying, “Dr Holder served Barbados and the Caribbean with distinction and we want to extend our condolences to the government and people of Barbados on his passing. Obviously, the entire region is the poorer as a result of his passing.”

Dr Holder was also commended for his service to Barbados and the region by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who said the region “will continue to owe this soft-spoken, always confident, forever reassuring son of the Caribbean Sea, a debt of gratitude”.

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