MPs and Senators Unite to Eulogize Departed Colleague Arsene James
The impression the late Arsene James appears to have had on his parliamentary colleagues was that he rarely talked about himself, never blew his own trumpet. In turn they remembered him, at Wednesday’s joint meeting of the House in his honour, as being silent yet strong, discerning, a man who talked little but, when he did, everyone paid attention. At least one MP said he had decided, at the passing of the former representative for Micoud South, to do his best to adopt some of the deceased’s characteristics.
A small irony: more than once punctuality was liked to the departed. But as the Minister for Culture observed, the special House sitting in honour of Mr. James had started a full hour behind schedule. On the same matter Ezechiel Joseph, the MP for Babonneau, said: “He was very punctual. It’s disheartening to see that we have a joint sitting today and it started one hour past the time we were supposed to start. He would not have been happy about this. Just this once we should have made a special effort in recognition of his insistence on showing up always on time.”
The rest of the sitting was devoted to the recollection of anecdotes and lessons learned from the way Mr. James had lived his professional life. Economic Development Minister Guy Joseph said: “I must say I believe Mr. James lived the life he wanted to live. A fulfilling life. A life of service. A life that gave to his community what he believed he was called to do . . . What I especially loved about Mr. James was this: no matter how we tried to get him to sleep in Castries after a House session had ended especially late, we never were able to persuade him. I remember him saying the last time he slept in the city was in 1975.” It would’ve been interesting to hear what was responsible for that!
The Vieux Fort North MP, Moses Jn Baptiste, recalled his time as a student at the Vieux Fort Secondary School, with Mr. James as principal: “I can never forget the incident with a gentleman called Ballo, when we were in Form V.” By the MP’s telling, Mr. James had summoned him and Ballo to his office to be disciplined with a strap. But he changed his mind suddenly. Years later, by which time they were in the political arena, they would share the memory, made laughable by time.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, whose political career got off to a winning start after Mr. James gave up his seat shortly before the elections of June 6, 2016, was in tears as eulogized the dearly departed. He recalled his final private moments with Mr. James, just prior to his leaving for Martinique for treatment: “I decided, and I don’t know what made me do it, but I decided to go down to the airport to see him off. He was on the tarmac and was being transferred from one bed another. And again, the intuition or fear of the worst caused me to go and hold his hand. Not knowing what really to say, because we had spoken before about his ailments and feelings, the best I could come up with was, ‘Arsene I love you.’ His last words to me were: ‘I love you, too, take care.’”
Earlier the opposition leader Philip J Pierre had said: “Sometimes I know in the practice of politics the people that support us push us to do things that we may not want to do, and that is the reality of our game. So we have to try to exercise some control . . . our basic humanity, our love for each other ought to manifest itself in our profession.”
From the Security Minister Hermangild Francis: “We are witnessing a decorum in the House today that is pleasant to all in attendance and to those following on television and radio. I therefore challenge every one of us to take this opportunity to reflect on how we conduct our business in the respective Houses.”
The outpouring of appreciation and inspiration from all quarters may indicate that though now physically absent, Mr. James will live on in the memories of Saint Lucians, regardless of political affilliation. No doubt, attendant relatives of Mr. James came away with the feeling that he was generally appreciated, and not only for matters related to local politics.
Southeast Castries MP Guy Joseph offers condolences to wife of the deceased following this week’s joint House meeting in honour of dearly departed Arsene James.