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Mourners pay respects to former PM as body lies at union HQ

Story and photos by Carlena Knight

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As the country continues to mourn the loss of national hero Sir Lester Bird, members of the public, family, friends, politicians and Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) officials assembled outside the union’s headquarters yesterday to pay their final respects.

Sir Lester paid a pivotal role in the union’s birth and it was deemed fit that his body lie outside the 46 North Street location on Tuesday for those who wish to say goodbye to do so.

Present at yesterday’s ceremony was Barbudan Senator Knacynter Nedd-Charles who spoke briefly on the late politician.

“For me, what stands out is the fact that he was such an eloquent individual,” she said.

“He was a brave individual. He was also a resilient individual. He contributed significantly towards nation-building and for that I will indeed remember him.

“And to his family I just wish to say that they should be extremely proud of the man that was their husband, father, uncle, grandfather because he was what he is – Sir Lester Bird.

“He was a national hero and indeed we are proud of him, so on behalf of the ABLP Barbuda Executive branch, Barbudans, and behalf of myself and my family, we would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Sir Lester Bryant Bird,” Nedd-Charles said.

Also speaking on Sir Lester was longtime friend Abuda Barnes.

“Lester Bird’s passing was a colossal loss, not only for this country but specifically the people of Rural East. He was like a father to us. He brought a kind of love to the constituency,” Barnes said.

“He opened his home on a Sunday to the people. Tell me which modern day politician would do that now. His richest legacy was to leave a mark on the young people of this country,” Barnes added.

Third Vice Chairman of the ABLP Clement Antonio also said some positive words about the kind of man Sir Lester was.

“My memories of Sir Lester are ones of a man with giant stature. A man with a very big heart. A man who is always encouraging you to press on, no matter what the challenges are,” he said.

“A man who always cared about people and cared about what you can do for someone. It’s not always about what people can do for you, and so for me that will always dwell in the back of my head in this arena of politics.

“He always encouraged the young people to stand up and let your voice be heard; a voiceless person means nothing to our society,” Antonio added.

Sir Lester, who served as Antigua and Barbuda’s second prime minister from 1994 to 2004, is remembered as one of the Caribbean’s most illustrious sons, who contributed immensely to the development of the twin island nation and the wider region.

The Antigua Grammar School alumni, politician and lawyer was also a keen sportsman who recorded international success in cricket and long jump.

Flags across the country are already being flown at half-mast and that will continue until the day of the funeral.

Sir Lester’s body can be viewed on Wednesday at Parliament, while on Thursday he will be laid to rest at the St John’s Public Cemetery following a state funeral at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.

The day has been declared a national holiday and only vaccinated persons can attend.

Sir Lester Bird passed away on August 9 at the age of 83.

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