Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson, who had been ill with pancreatic cancer, died at his home on Saturday aged 48, and his deputy was quickly sworn in to take charge of the Caribbean island’s government.
Thompson, who led the Democratic Labour Party and took office as prime minister of the former British colony in January 2008 after winning elections, had not been seen in public for months. He recently made several visits to the US for medical treatment after being diagnosed with cancer.
Thompson’s attorney general and deputy, Freundel Stuart, was appointed as the new prime minister by Barbados Governor--General Sir Clifford Husbands, after local lawmakers nominated him for the post. Stuart was sworn in on Saturday.
The Democratic Labour Party holds 21 of the 30 seats in the parliament of Barbados.
The next elections are officially scheduled for 2012 on the island, which won independence in 1966 and has overcome the decline of its once-powerful sugar industry to grow relatively wealthy through high-end tourism, light industry and offshore financial services.
When he took office in 2008 at the age of 46, Thompson was Barbados’ youngest-ever elected prime minister.
Although his illness was well known, his death still stunned some Barbadians.
“I knew he was going to die, but I was still shocked,” said Shellie Welch, 34, a clerk.
“Barbados has lost its loyal son and faithful servant before he had the time to realize his lifetime dreams,” said Thompson’s wife Mara, who was at the family home with their three daughters when he died in the early hours on Saturday.
Thompson had last addressed the nation by radio on Sept. 30, when he reshuffled his Cabinet, giving the finance minister portfolio he had also held to Chris Sinckler.
Other Caribbean leaders, such as Grenadian Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas sent their condolences and praised Thompson.
The US on Saturday offered its condolences.
“On behalf of [US] President [Barack] Obama and the people of the United States, I offer my deepest condolences to the people of Barbados on the passing of Prime Minister David Thompson,” US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.
“Barbados has lost a leader and the nations of the Americas have lost a friend and valued partner,” she said in a statement.
“Prime Minister Thompson was a champion for democracy and justice in the Caribbean and an advocate for wider prosperity and opportunity throughout the region,” she said.
Thompson’s personal doctor announced in the middle of last month that Thompson had cancer of the pancreas, the Caribbean Broadcasting Corp said. He is survived by his mother, father, wife and three children.
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