THE DEATH yesterday of Prime Minister David Thompson marked the third Barbados leader to die in office in 25 years and the seventh Caricom Head of Government to suffer a similar fate since 1967.
Tributes hailing the life and times of Thompson, the youngest of the trio of Barbadian Heads of Government to pass away while serving the nation, were being received yesterday from across the Caribbean and beyond.
Born on a Christmas day, the lawyer-politician would have been 49 years old in December.
Unlike the two other late prime ministers–Tom Adams and Errol Barrow–who died suddenfly in office (reportedly from heart attacks), Thompson has been seriously ill for some three and half months from pancreatic cancer.
With Barbadians across the political divide in a state of mouring, Fruendel Stuart, who has been holdng the reins of government as acting Prime Minister and Attorney General for most of the period of Thompson's illness, was sworn in yesterday afternoon as the country's new Prime Minister.
Queen's Counsel and chairman of the governing Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Stuart was Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney General under Prime Minister Thompson.
The first Caribbean Prime Minister to die in office was Jamaica's Donald Sangster in 1967 and between then and the passing of Thompson, the others who died in office were:
Trinidad and Tobago's Eric Williams in 1981; Barbados' Adams (1985); Guyana's Forbes Burnham (1985) Barbados' Barrow (1987); Dominica's Rosie Douglas (2000) and Pierre Charles (2004) and St Lucia's John Compton 2007.
Thompson led the DLP to a landslide parliamentary victory in January 2008 which ended the three-term rule of the Barbados Labour Party with Owen Arthur as then Prime Minister.
Just this past Tuesday Arthur was sworn in as new Opposition Leader to succeed the ousted Mia Mottley in a bitter BLP leadership squabble.
Meanwhile, personal telephone calls and tributes were the order of the day yesterday from Heads of Government, leading officials and eminent personalities of the Caribbean Community to Thompson's DLP and government as well as to his St Lucia-born widow, Mara.
Ironically, news of Thompson's death coincided with an editorial in yesterday's Barbados Saturday Sun complaining against lack of an update on the status of the Prime Minister's health status since his return home on October 12 from his latest visit to New York for further medical attention.
Thompson was the Caricom Head of Government who shouldered lead readiness-responsibility for inauguration of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) from January 2008 until his death.
As a parliamentarian for 23 years, he earned a stout reputation as a very skilled debater, one whose waspish tongue was frequently unleashed against political foes, in and out of political campaigning.