The Right Honourable Sir James Fitz-Allen Mitchell, KCMG, PC
Former Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The Rt. Hon. Sir James Fitz-Allen Mitchell, a Privy Councillor since 1985, economist, agronomist and politician, has been a dominant figure in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for almost three decades
Early life and education
James Fitz-Allen Mitchell was born on 15 May 1931 on the Island of Bequia in the Grenadines. At age 9, tragedy struck his family when his father, a sea captain, disappeared aboard the vessel "Gloria Colita" in the Bermuda Triangle. Sir James received his secondary education at St. Vincent's Grammar school, following which he pursued studies at the imperial college of Tropical agriculture, Trinidad, and the University of British Colombia, Canada. Having successfully completed his studies in Agronomy, Sir James Mitchell worked as a cocoa agronomist in St. Lucia in 1957. He worked as Agriculture Research officer from 1958 to 1961 in SVG. From 1962 to 1964, he lectured in science at various schools in the United Kingdom. He later became technical editor of "pest control" - a British Government Publication from the department of Overseas Development.
Sir James was first elected to parliament in 1966 as the St. Vincent Labour Party's representative for the Grenadines. He was re-elected the following year. In 1972, he successfully contested in the general elections as an independent Candidate. With the election ending in a 6-6 draw between the SVLP (St .Vincent Labour Party) and the PPP (People's Political Party), Sir James an independent candidate struck a deal with the PPP's Leader E.T Joshua and became premier under the Alliance government. Two years later, the SVLP regained power when they won ten seats at the general elections. In December 1975, Sir James founded the New Democratic Party (NDP). He was an opposition Member of Parliament from 1975 until 1984 when he lead his party to a 10-3 victory over the SVLP.
Sir James, at age 53, became his countries 2nd Prime Minister in July 1984. Four years later, Sir James party made history when it swept all 15 parliamentary seats in the General Election. In 1984, his party was again returned to power for a third consecutive terms when it won 12 of 15 seats. One of the longest serving prime ministers in Caribbean history, Mitchell was also foreign minister from 1984 until 1992. He retired voluntarily as Prime Minister in 2000.
As a regional leader who helped to form the Caribbean Agricultural Regional Development Institute (CARDI) and as a professional agronomist, Sir James’s interest in agriculture has extended beyond the borders of his native land. In his opening address at the 1st Caribbean Agricultural Technology Conference (CATC) held in St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2000, his message was “agriculture must thrive” despite the challenges facing the regional sector.
He indicated that the demise of the regional banana industry would cause great social disruption, as various sectors of society (including farmers, transporters and suppliers of fertilizer) are dependent upon income generated from the industry. The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has therefore provided various incentives to promote banana production and diversification efforts. This includes the formation of land policy, which provides land for the landless as a means of building ownership, while increasing productivity.
Dedicated to the principles of the integration process, Sir James at the 8th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in 1987 expressed the ultimate ideal when he said, “As I see it, we must have one flag, one anthem and freedom of movement of people, services and capital.”
Notwithstanding his public duties, he has found the time to write and has published articles and books on agriculture, including studies on fungicide usage and land reform, and also on the problems of Caribbean society.
Sir James's autobiography "Beyond the Islands" was published by MacMillan Caribbean in 2006.
Honours and awards
Sir James was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1995.