Sir Lester sets sight on political retirement

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Some two months shy of his eightieth birthday, Sir Lester Bryant Bird has announced that he will be leaving the political scene at the end of his current term as the ravages of old age take their toll on his body.
The former prime minister, National Hero, and representative of St. John’s Rural East, chose Tuesday‘s parliamentary sitting to make his announcement which had been anticipated for some time.
“I know that, in as much as my brain has much to contribute, age has taken its toll on my physical capacity. It would be unfair to impose upon the readiness of the people of Rural East to maintain me as their representative,” Sir Lester told the assembly.
“The time has come for younger legs and more agile hands. That is why, I announce today in this honourable house that I will not seek re-election, and that at the end of this term, I will leave representative politics.”
Sir Lester was elected to parliament in 1976 and on Tuesday expressed his gratitude to his constituents.
“I believe our partnership of more than 40 years has been a story of transformation, of accomplishment and of progress. The people of Rural East gave me the opportunity to serve our nation in many important ministerial positions – tourism, energy, economic development, foreign affairs – and as prime minister.
According to Sir Lester, had they not elected him he would not have been able to work for the make-over of the country’s economy into tourism and financial services, nor any of the developments that came along the way.
The son of the “father of the nation,” Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, Sir Lester said he planned to remain available as an adviser to the government should the need arise.  
Sir Lester also used the opportunity to endorse his niece, Maria Bird-Browne, as his successor.
“I do not intend to end my representation of the people of Rural East without ensuring that my successor is someone who I personally believe will be good for each of its residents, good for the constituency, and good for the country. That is why I commend to the people of St John’s Rural East, Maria Bird-Browne.
“I do so not only because she is my niece. I do so because she has shown the humility and the compassion to be a people’s representative,” Sir Lester said.
According to him, he is convinced that she will stand up for, and with, the people of the constituency and be a credit a Labour government.
Responding on behalf of the government, Prime Minister Gaston Browne thanked Sir Lester and called for a special sitting of the House to be convened to “celebrate the achievements and contributions” he made over his career.
“There is no doubt that Sir Lester would have made the second largest contribution towards the socio-economic development of this country. He has spent over 40 years in this honourable house and we believe, based on his longevity of service, his achievements … that we should offer no less than a special sitting to celebrate his contributions to the development of this country.”
Browne also called for the naming of an appropriate monument in Sir Lester’s honour, adding that he had something in mind but would await consensus from his Cabinet colleagues.
According to the PM, they would also accept the offer of advice from the veteran politician given his experience and institutional knowledge.
The next general election is constitutionally due in 2019 though there is widespread belief that it may be held before. Browne on Monday noted that his party’s full slate for the polls is now in place, and he once again teased that the election would come “like a thief in the night.”

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