MPs and Sen­a­tors Unite to Eu­lo­gize De­parted Col­league Arsene James

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

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.

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