Former Prime Minister the Hon. Lester Bryant Bird to be confered the Honour of National Hero of Antigua and Barbuda on Monday
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda – 1st November, 2014…..Preparations are well advanced for confering of the National Honour of Knight Companion of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero on Former Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and Parliamentary Representative of the St. John’s Rural East Constituency, the Hon. Lester Bryant Bird at the National Ceremonial Parade on Monday.
Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne in his address to the nation to celebrate the country’s 33rd Anniversary of Independence, announced that the Hon. Lester Bird is one of the architects of the new Antigua and Barbuda and is deserving of the country’s highest honour.
“Sir. Lester was an outstanding athlete during his youth. He was an outstanding cricketer, a footballer, and he earned his spurs in high jump and long jump. He subsequently graduated from Grays Inn, London, as a lawyer before returning home to Antigua to practice law. He served our country in excess of 40 years as a Parliamentarian, including 18 as Deputy Prime Minister and 10 as Prime Minister,” the Hon. Gaston Browne stated.
He said that the Honourable Lester Bryant Bird is a heroic figure in the country’s recent history, pointing out that unarguably, he has made the second single largest contribution to the socio-economic advancement of Antigua and Barbuda.
“He is the father of modern Antigua & Barbuda. I am certain that Antiguans and Barbudans consider the Hon. Lester Bird most deserving of this honour and also share the enormous outpouring of love and admiration that we all hold for this outstanding son of the soil,” PM Browne concluded.
Following the tapping on the shoulders with the sword by Governor General Sir Rodney Williams and the placement of the insignias of the Order of National Hero, the former prime minister will be known as The Right Honourable Sir Lester Bryant Bird.
The National Ceremonial Parade will commence at 7:45 a.m. at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at North Sound on Monday 3rd November.
Brief Biography of the Honourable Lester Bryant Bird:
Lester Bryant Bird was a student of distinction, a world class athlete, an excellent cricketer, an accomplished golfer, an outstanding lawyer and a revered and well-loved politician.
He represented Antigua and Barbuda on its national cricket team at the age of 18 years and he also was selected to play for the Leeward Islands Cricket Team. He represented the West Indies Federation as an athlete in the Pan American Games of 1958, and was a bronze medalist in the long jump competition. He gained an athletic scholarship to the University of Michigan in 1958, and from the onset won most of his competitions with relative ease. To highlight a few, he won many of the Ohio relays, many of the Texas relays and the Pennsylvania relays, for three consecutive years. Thus, between 1958 and 1961 Lester Bryant Bird had arguably developed an undefeated and decorated track and field career. A gold medalist in long jump, Big Ten Champion, NCAA Medalist, an All American, and the distinct honour of admission to the Honorary Fraternity of Sphinx for his outstanding all round performance are but a few of the accolades gained by Lester Bird as an athlete, whilst at the university.
After successfully pursuing a law degree, he was called to the English Bar at Grays Inn, London, in 1969. On his return to Antigua, this talented, skillful young lawyer had a very successful law practice, representing many clients; and quite a large number pro bono. The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) was also a great beneficiary of his law career.
In 1971 he entered the political arena, for a seat in the Parliament of Antigua & Barbuda on an ALP ticket. He was made a Senator and sharpened his political skills on the Opposition Benches in the Parliament during the period 1971 – 1976. He was undoubtedly the preferred candidate for the constituency of St. John’s Rural East in 1976, and was re-elected for the next five (5) consecutive general elections. He lost his seat in 2004, but quickly regained it, being re-elected in 2009, and was re-elected even more overwhelmingly in the recent elections in 2014. He also served as the Political Leader of the ALP for an unbroken period of 18 years, (from 1994 until 2012).
In 1994, he succeeded the Honourable Vere Cornwall Bird as Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, and served in that capacity for another 10 years, (1994 – 2004). He also served as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament from 2009 -2012.
Building the Country: Shaping the Nation
The Honourable Lester Bird’s vision created modern Antigua & Barbuda, providing better quality jobs, improved living standards and higher education for a large number of people in our society. His work fashioned the post-colonial economy of Antigua and Barbuda, transforming it from its dependence on sugar and cotton that were irretrievably in decline.
It was the Honourable Lester Bird who was responsible for:-
- Invigorating Tourism throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, attracting Large-scale Investment in hotels and expanding the VC Bird International Airport
- Establishing the foundation for the major expansion of land-based and Cruise Ship Tourism that provided hundreds of jobs and commercial opportunities for men and women throughout the society
- Building the Hospitality Institute to qualify a wide cross section of people for better-paid jobs within the tourism industry
- Introducing the services industry (beyond tourism) such as Offshore Banking, Financial Services and Internet Gaming into the economy
- Modernizing St. John’s by facilitating the construction of Redcliffe Quayand Heritage Quay
- Pioneering education and training in information technology through the Antigua & Barbuda Institute of Technology to make young people in Antigua and Barbuda competitive in the global ICT community
- Instituting an Economic Programme that raised the standard of living of all in the society through low taxes, high investment, and job creation
- The construction of a modern Hospital at Mount St John to give quality healthcare to the people of our society
- Educating more Antiguans and Barbudans at Tertiary Level – a pattern which has continued based on the pillars that were laid throughout the 1980’s up to 2004
- Introducing the “Land for Youth” scheme which gave young people a piece of the rock and empowered many of them to progress
- Placing more Women in Positions of Authority than at any time in the country’s history as Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Tourism Departments, Senators and Law Officers
- Creating the ONDCP to ensure that money laundering and the illicit drug trade were not a part of the Antiguan economy.
Carving a place of pride for Antigua & Barbuda in Regional and International Affairs
The Honourable Lester Bird also gave Antigua and Barbuda a place of respect in Regional and International affairs that continues to resonate today. His contribution in this regard, spans over 28 years.
- He was one of the Caribbean’s most effective spokespersons on the international scene
- He was a strong and impressive advocate of Antigua and Barbuda in the regional and international fora at the UN, the Commonwealth, the OAS, CARICOM and the OECS
- He was one of the architects of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the retention of the Eastern Caribbean Currency (now the strongest in the Caribbean)
- He was also one of the architects of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States(OECS)
- Under his Chairmanship of CARICOM, the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM), now the Office of Trade Negotiations, was created to strengthen the negotiating capacity of all CARICOM countries
- As Prime Minister, he supervised the construction of the laws, regulation and enforcement agencies under which the International Financial Action Task Force against drug trafficking and money laundering and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force found Antigua and Barbuda’s banking system and regulatory machinery in full conformity with the best international standards
- He was the first Representative of the Leeward Islands on the West Indies Cricket Board, and he had a strong voice in the selection of Clive Lloyd as the Captain of the West Indies Cricket Team
- He was also selected by CARICOM as the first Chairman of the Ministerial Sub-committee responsible for West Indies Cricket
- Fearless, in his defence of the people of Antigua and Barbuda, it was the Honourable Lester Bird, as Prime Minister, who instructed that the government takes the US to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the jobs of local people in the Internet Gaming Industry. It was under his watch that the case was won at the WTO in March 2004, and it has been a disappointment to him to witness the unfair handling of the judgement received by the US
Building St John’s Rural East
2009 – 2014
1976 – 2004
Over the years that the Honourable Lester Bird represented the people of St John’s Rural East, he was concerned about raising the standard of living in the area, providing for the needs of young people, and building the infrastructure of the area. He was also keen to ensure that people in the constituency had jobs and could maintain themselves and their families financially.
He organized for:
- Constituents to buy lands
- Constituents to build homes
- Roads to be repaired and improved
- Sidewalks to be constructed
- Sports facilities to be built for young people (JCSC Basketball Court, and the Cricketing Facility next to the Clare Hall School)
- Computer classes and after school lessons to be given within the community
- Commercial businesses to be established in the constituency to ensure employment and development in the area
What must be underscored is that the Honourable Lester Bird’s many economic innovations and policy choices placed Antigua and Barbuda in an enviably high position on the United Nations Human Development Index.