Nation prepares to pay last respects

Winston Derrick

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Crowds are expected to turn out today for the thanksgiving service for the man who dared to, and eventually broke, the chains of suppression on broadcast media in Antigua & Barbuda 12 years ago.

Winston Derrick, co-founder of OBSERVER Publications, will be laid to rest with an official funeral, paid for by the state.

According to a senior police officer, the police band, which will lead the parade through St John’s, spent the earlier part of yesterday perfecting their music, while OBSERVER Publications staff had the last rehearsal of a special tribute, which will include singing accompanied by a piano and guitar.

Additionally, representatives of the Professional Organisation for Women in Antigua (POWA) and a number of other officials are expected to pay tribute to the media visionary.

His brother, Vincent ‘Tubby’ Derrick, is set to present the eulogy while Reverend Kingsley Lewis is scheduled to deliver the sermon at Spring Gardens Moravian Church.

Yesterday, residents had their last viewing of the body of the 62-year-old who died of a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism) on February 2.

Several hundreds attended the viewing, including relatives, government officials, staff and friends among other people.

For some, seeing him, they said, gave a sense of relief and closure, for there he was, appearing no different than usual – with a smile on his face.

A number of people broke down in tears, as reality set in that the man who gave the people a voice is no more.

Today’s service will commence at 1:30 pm with tributes. Flags will be flown at half-mast.

The funeral planning committee said Winston will be given a three-volley gun salute by an all female firing party after which his body will be interred in St John’s Cemetery.

Last week, in a statement announcing the decision to give him an official funeral, members of the Cabinet wrote, “For over 25 years Mr Winston Derrick served Antigua & Barbuda with distinction. His passion for freedom of expression resulted in the freeing up of the media and the establishment of dozens of private media establishments.”

It was on September 1, 1996, that Winston and his older brother Samuel “Fergie” Derrick first started OBSERVER Radio.

However, after their first day on air, police swooped down on the Scotts Hill business, seizing all the equipment. It was alleged they were operating illegally.

They took their fight for broadcast media freedom to the courts. Five years later, after two defeats in the High Court and Caribbean Court of Appeal, the Derrick brothers got judgment in their favour before the Privy Council in England.

In mid-April 2001, they celebrated the return of OBSERVER Radio which has remained up and running since.

Fergie died in 2003 following a long battle with cancer. Winston, who was editor when the company started operations, then became the company’s chairman.

Winston died in the early hours of February 2 at Russell’s restaurant in Fort James where he’d been socialising with relatives and friends. He had apparently complained of feeling unwell a short time before.


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