Statement by Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony on the Death of GEORGE FREDERICK LAWRENCE CHARLES
GEORGE FREDERICK LAWRENCE CHARLES:
A MAN WHO EMBODIED A MOVEMENT AND AN ASPIRATION
People of St. Lucia,
It is with great sadness that I have the responsibility today of announcing the death of Sir George Frederick Lawrence Charles, our first Chief Minister and the man who brought St. Lucia from the subordination of Colonial Rule to adult suffrage. He was a founding member of the St. Lucia Labour Party as well as our first Minister of Education and Social Affairs.
A man of humble origins and diminutive size, his stature as a fighter for the right of St. Lucians to be the masters of their labour and their destiny will be indelibly etched in the hearts of those with whom he struggled and in the history books of the future. Sir George belongs to that pantheon of early Caribbean leaders who organized the working class and spurred the formation of trade unions and the early political parties that sought to express the people’s collective will.
Born on June 7th 1916 and educated at St. Mary’s College, George Charles could have lived a life of personal comfort with such a privileged education. Like many young West Indians of his time, he emigrated to Aruba and worked there for one year with the Largo Oil and Transport Company. It was in Aruba that he was exposed to trade union activity and on his return to St. Lucia in 1945, he supported the cause of the workers at the Vigie Airport Renovation Project where he was employed as a timekeeper. His solidarity on that occasion propelled him to assume the General Secretaryship of the St. Lucia Workers Cooperative Union.
Sir George played an increasingly active role in trade unionism in St. Lucia and by 1948 he was elected the then Castries Town Board as trade union representative. He stepped up the effort to secure a more democratic representational role and in 1950, he was one of the key personalities involved in the organization of the St. Lucia Labour Party.
In the 1951 General Elections, the first held under universal adult suffrage, the St. Lucia Labour Party under his leadership won five of the eight seats against the middle class-oriented Peoples Progressive Party. Sir George’s first resolution as an elected member was for legal recognition of the right to paid leave which was rejected by the Colonial Authorities.
The struggle that Sir George led resulted in a series of constitutional reforms that ultimately brought into being the system of ministerial government. In 1954, the Labour Party was again victorious at general elections and Sir George was elected as the first Minister for Education and Social Affairs; with full ministerial government he was appointed our first Chief Minister.
Sir George Frederick Lawrence Charles represents a generation which fought hard and sacrificed much to secure many of the rights and entitlements that we take so much for granted today. He was quintessentially labour, he was uncompromising in his stance for the poor and the dispossessed, and he was unyielding in his respect for the dignity of work.
Sir George Frederick Lawrence Charles represents a quality of leadership that gave but did not count the cost, that fought but did not seek for rest, and that laboured but for no reward.
Sir George Frederick Lawrence Charles represents an idea whose magnitude spanned all continents; whose appeal crossed all races; whose rectitude overcame all human oppression. Sir George has passed on physically but this transition marks the movement from the temporal to the immortal. The freedoms that he fought for yesterday that we now have and which we enjoy today, we must cherish and sustain tomorrow for all generations of St. Lucians.
Long live the memory of George Frederick Lawrence Charles!
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