It is with profound sadness I take note of the sudden passing of my very dear friend and political colleague of many years, the Hon. Obediah Wilchcombe, affectionately known to most of us as Obie. Ours was a friendship and association that spanned more than three decades. I recall in particular the years that we spent together as cabinet ministers during my first and second period as Prime Minister. In each of these periods, Obie served with distinction as Minister of Tourism. He was a dedicated servant of the people and a chief steward of our nation’s number one industry for some ten years. Any student of the tourism industry for the period of Obie’s ministerial tenure will be left in no doubt as to the magnitude and importance of his numerous accomplishments in relation to the growth and development of Bahamian tourism.
The volume of his accomplishments in this regard is truly remarkable and will continue to be lauded by successive generations in the years ahead. On the partisan front, I will always cherish the memories of Obie’s steadfast loyalty to the great cause for which the Progressive Liberal Party has always stood. He was a deeply committed PLP who had the distinction of serving as national chairman of the party for several years. He approached politics with the same energy, enthusiasm, and passion that characterised his earlier professional life as one of our nation’s premier radio and television journalists. He had a particular commitment to his native Grand Bahama and the Family Islands. During his tenure as chairman, he made it a point of visiting these islands with commendable regularity.
This was to prove to be an invaluable foundation for his later career as a cabinet minister during which he always displayed a profound passion for the promotion and development of tourism in the Family Islands. He was a popular figure in the hierarchy of the party and was frequently called upon to speak at rallies and other gatherings due to his being an outstanding orator and his in-depth knowledge of the party. I feel particularly sorry for Obie’s beloved constituents of West End and Bimini. He was thoroughly dedicated to their upliftment and always went to great lengths to ensure their interests were kept in view by his colleagues in cabinet and the House of Assembly.
On a personal level, Obie was a very dear and valued friend of mine for many years. I always enjoyed his company and looked forward to the time we would spend together, not only discussing matters of state, but also a variety of other subjects, including sports and athletics – especially American football and the Miami Dolphins. He was simply a pleasure to be around because he was unfailingly interested in whatever he set his mind to. Like most of my countrymen, I am left reeling in shock from the news of my dear friend’s passing. It is all so very sudden. I know that in the coming days we should have ample opportunity to recover our balance and reflect more deeply on the legacy Obie Wilchcombe leaves as a political leader and public servant. He was a masterly debater and an incredibly articulate spokesman. His elocution in the halls of parliament will be sorely missed and his commitment to service will certainly be admired and emulated in the years ahead. On behalf of my wife Bernadette and all my family, I extend my deepest condolences to Obie’s loved ones and the people of West End and Bimini, who together constituted Obie’s wider family. May he rest in peace.
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