Antigua gov’t accords state funeral to former PM Lester Bird

Former and late Prime Minister of Antigua, Lester Bird.
Gov't of Antigua and Barbuda

The Gaston Browne administration in Antigua and Barbuda has accorded a state funeral for former Prime Minister Sir Lester Bird, who died on Aug. 9.

“Cabinet decided that he should be accorded a State Funeral and that a period of national mourning should take effect immediately until the day of the funeral on Thursday, 26 August, 2021 at 10 a.m. at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium,” an Antigua and Barbuda Government statement said.

“Cabinet also decided that all flags on government buildings in Antigua and Barbuda, and at offices overseas, should be flown at half-staff until the day of the funeral,” it added.

The Antigua and Barbuda Cabinet also decided that Aug. 26 should be declared a public holiday in the twin-island state.

“Cabinet further decided that all expenses in connection with the state funeral of the late Sir Lester Bryant Bird, KNH, should be paid by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda,” the statement said.

“Cabinet noted that a Special Sitting of the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda will be held at the Parliament building in St. John’s on Tuesday 17th August, 2021 to pay tribute to the late Sir Lester Bryant Bird, KNH,” it added.

The body of the late Sir Lester will lie in state on Aug. 23-23 at the Parliament building in St. John’s, the Antiguan capital.

After the funeral service, the body of Sir Lester will be interred at the St. John’s Public Cemetery.

“His was a race well run,” the statement said. “May his soul rest in peace.”

On Oct. 28, 2019, the Antigua and Barbuda Festivals Commission said Sir Lester was “one of the architects of the new Antigua and Barbuda.

“In recognition of his contribution, the governor general, with the concurrence of Cabinet and the Honors Committee, conferred upon him, during the 33rd Anniversary of our country’s independence, the honor of Knight Companion of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero,” the commission said.

Caribbeanelections.com said that Lester Bryant Bird was born in New York City on Feb.21, 1938.

He was the son of Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, the first Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda after independence.

Lester Bryant Bird was educated at Antigua Grammar School, the University of Michigan, and Gray’s Inn, London.

Between 1969 and 1976, Bird was a lawyer in private practice, Caribbeanelections said.

It said that, in 1971 Bird became the chairman of the Antigua Labor Party (ALP), which had been formed by his father in 1946, and entered the Senate as Leader of the Opposition.

In 1976, Caribbeanelections said Bird was elected as a Member of Parliament, and, between 1976 and 1991, served as both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development, Tourism, and Energy.

Between 198, when Antigua achieved full independence from the United Kingdom, and 1991, he also served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in his father’s government, Caribbeanelections said.

In 1991, it said Bird became Minister of External Affairs, Planning and Trade; and, in the general election of March 1994, he was elected Prime Minister, succeeding his father who had retired the previous December.

In March 2004, Caribbeanelections said the ALP was defeated by the United Progressive Party (UPP), with Bird losing his seat in the House of Representatives to Errol Cort. In the election of 2009, he regained his seat.

Caribbeanelections said Bird successfully retained his seat for the Gaston Browne-led Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party in the Jun. 12, 2014 election and was appointed to the Cabinet as Senior Minister.

On Nov.3, 2014, Bird was named Knight of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero (KNH), Antigua & Barbuda’s highest honor, for his contribution to national development as an outstanding sportsman, lawyer and parliamentarian for 38 years, Caribbeanelections said.

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