Mr. Arsene James made a career in Education and Politics, beginning as a school teacher at the Micoud Primary School in 1956 and ending as the Parliamentary Representative for Micoud South in the Parliament of Saint Lucia in 2016 – 60 years of service as a public servant!
His contribution to the education of several generations of Saint Lucians is unquestionable, as is his representation of the people of Micoud South.
He served the Teaching Service with honour, dignity and integrity!
His tenure as the Member for Micoud South in the Saint Lucia House of Assembly, for 15 years, is a singular honour bestowed on him by the constituents of Micoud South.
All Saint Lucians owe him a debt of gratitude for his public service to the citizens of Saint Lucia.
I came to know Mr James during my tenure as a teacher from 1984 to 2006. We had met as colleagues during those years of servant leadership in the Teaching service. However, I made formal acquaintance with the honourable gentleman when I served as Head of Mathematics, and then as Vice Principal at St Mary’s College between 1995 and 2000. We had countless opportunities to interact as teaching and administrative colleagues.
I came to know him well when I was elected as a Member of the House of Assembly in 2006. Mr James had served, by then, a full term (2001 – 2006) in the House of Assembly.
After the General Elections of December 11, 2006, he was appointed Minister for Education and Culture, and I was appointed by the Opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party as the Shadow Minister for Education in January 2007.
I, and most of my colleagues who had opportunities to interact with Mr James, found him to be a delightful and affable individual.
He vehemently argued against a position held by a colleague, and disagreed with philosophies that he did not subscribe to, yet he was always respectful in debate, and of the person’s perspective.
I had many philosophical arguments, and disagreements with Mr James during our time together in the Parliament of Saint Lucia. However, these arguments and disagreements never derailed our friendship and respect for each other.
I succeeded Mr James as Minister for Education in 2011, and our political disagreements in Parliament continued unabated. However, I can safely say: We were contemporaries in the Parliament of Saint Lucia for 10 years (2006 – 2016) and demitted office together (June 2016), and up to the time of his passing on Sunday, July 29, 2018 our friendship and mutual respect remained intact.
I extend condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
There are three members of his immediate family whom I know personally and wish to make special mention of, his brothers George James and Thomas James, and his niece Cindy James-McNaughton.
You are all in my thoughts and prayers at this time.
May God provide his family, friends and other colleagues with the strength and grace to go through, peacefully, during this time of bereavement.
Mr Arsene James’ contributions to Saint Lucia will long be remembered, and his name will forever be mentioned in the classrooms and halls of the Micoud Primary School, the Vieux Fort Secondary School and the Micoud Secondary School, where he gave of his best years to help with the education of the wards/children put in his care and charge.
I also say a special thank you, on behalf of my family, to his family for loaning him to the Public Service!
(Doctor Robert Lewis is a former Minister for Education, Human Resource Development and Labour and a former Parliamentary Representative for Castries South.)