BASSETERRE — Today, this 28th day of January, 2019, which would have seen Ivan Charles Buchanan CBE, JP celebrate his 98th birthday, we pause to commemorate the remarkable life of a truly great, iconic man who played a significant role in our post-Independence history as the longest-serving Speaker of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly.
Since our 1983 Constitution established the National Assembly to replace the House of Assembly, seven Speakers have presided over the esteemed chamber, spanning from Herman W. Liburd – a holdover from the House of Assembly era – up to the present holder of office, the Honourable A. Michael Perkins. Ivan Buchanan, who served in that role for 10 years from 1985 to 1995, was the second Speaker of the National Assembly.
In 1985, he replaced Herman W. Liburd, going on to become the longest-serving Speaker post-Statehood, dating back to when Sir Milton Allen served as Speaker of the House of Assembly until 1969, at which time Allen succeeded Sir Fred Phillips, the first black Governor, as Head of State up to 1975 when Sir Probyn Inniss succeeded Allen, serving as Governor until 1981.
Remarkably, Ivan Buchanan served with distinction for over a quarter (10 years) of the 34-year period following the start of his tenure in 1985.
I had the honour of seeing his work up close, as I was elected to Parliament in November 1993. I found him to be a fair and impartial Speaker who sternly and effectively controlled the proceedings of the National Assembly.
I count myself privileged to have played some part in the work of the National Assembly during that defining decade when he expertly presided over a generation of trailblazing lawmakers who introduced and passed substantive bills that changed the landscape of St. Kitts and Nevis for the better. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of that cohort of Parliamentarians who learned at his feet.
Landmark bills passed during Ivan Buchanan’s tenure include the Protection of Employment Act No. 6 of 1986 – now known as the Protection of Employment Act Chapter 18.27 – which “makes certain provisions in respect of termination of employment; the establishment of a Severance Payments Fund; payment of severance payments to employees; and for other related or incidental matters.”
Ivan Buchanan CBE, JP made an indelible imprint on the fabric of our country, rendering outstanding service that spanned more than half a century.
During this time, he made enduring contributions to the fields of public health and education and to public service in general as a Member of the Public Service Commission, as well as to the banking and insurance industry as a Director of the National Bank Group of Companies.
One of the founding members of The Cable television company, Ivan Charles Buchanan also worked at the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla Trading & Development Company (TDC) Ltd. as General Manager of its Automotive Division from 1978 to 1992.
An interesting fact – and one that certainly would have shaped him both professionally and personally – is that he was Chief Public Health Inspector in 1970 when over 200 lives were lost during the MV Christena disaster, resulting in the worst mass casualty incident in our country’s history.
Recounting the events of that fateful day, Mr. Buchanan wrote last year, “At about 8am, I heard a call at my front gate and there was a police in front of my gate and he said to me, ‘the Honourable Minister of Health, Mr. Bryant has asked me to say to you that they’re salvaging bodies from the sunken ferry and as Chief Public Health Inspector, he is asking that you go to the pier to render assistance in the salvaging process.’”
In the final paragraph of his essay detailing the events following the disaster, he wrote, “Each year when this date comes around, I am somewhat haunted by my part, which I played in the Christena disaster, but sad to say, when tributes were accorded to the various people who did work on that particular occasion, my name was never mentioned. Up to now, it has not been. Perhaps I can borrow from Thomas Gray in his poem entitled ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’: ‘Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid, some heart once pregnant with celestial fire.’”
Today, as a great crowd of mourners converges in this Methodist churchyard to show support to Lady Beatrice, your dear wife of over 40 years, and your children and extended family, you can rest well, beloved Speaker Buchanan, for your patriotic and exemplary conduct shall never again go unacknowledged. Let me record my appreciation to you also for the many courtesies and support, which you extended to me as Leader of Team Unity and as Head of Government.
I end this, my elegy to you, on an uplifting note so that it reaches the heights of gratitude and admiration, which you so deserve.
The people of St. Kitts and Nevis will forever be inspired by your deep commitment to our beautiful nation. May your soul rest in eternal peace.