Tribute To Norbert Williams

By Allen Chastanet
Norbert Williams
Norbert Williams

Like many Saint Lucians, I have been saddened by the sudden passing of Norbert Williams.  His death will leave a serious void in our political discourse on the airwaves. Williams died in Martinique where he had sought medical treatment.

“It is with profound sadness that I must share the distressing news with you that my former attaché Mr. Norbert Williams who was more commonly known as ‘Nobbie’ or ‘Bowtie’ has passed away whilst undergoing treatment in Martinique,” former Prime Minister Allen Chastanet announced on Facebook.

“His sense of humour, patriotism, and his no nonsense approach to dealing with issues which affect the lives and livelihoods of Saint Lucians will be missed by all of us who had the honour of knowing him,” the Opposition leader wrote.

In person, Williams was a pleasant and well-spoken gentleman who easily made friends and cherished everyone he came into contact with. Many Saint Lucians would have come to know him through his association with the United Workers Party. Apart from serving as attaché to former Prime Minister Chastanet, Williams hosted the radio and television programme “Keeping it real” which advocated for that party he also served as public relations officer,

But Nobert Williams was much more. A former member of the St. Lucia Cadet Corps, he developed an early passion for service to his country and did so working  with the Customs Department and later with the  Royal St. Lucia Police Force, mostly in the Immigration department. For 19 years, he acquired experience as an Information Systems professional.

Later, Williams launched a campaign that sought to fight for justice for victims of rape, child molestation and incest in St Lucia. “Speak Out St. Lucia” (SOS) was launched with symbolism in early 2016 in Constitution Park, outside the parliament building which Williams had hoped would be instrumental in effecting the necessary changes that were needed to tackle these issues.

He explained then: “We must be aware that any new laws, amendments, or repeal of obsolete laws, will occur in this building behind me. It must also be noted that the persons who will effect these changes in the interest of the people shall be their duly elected representatives.”

Williams said for decades Saint Lucia has been plagued with the scourge of child molestation, rape, and incest and something needed to be done to address it soon. He noted that a large number of these victims resided overseas and most claimed they had to run out of St. Lucia because of shame, guilt, embarrassment, victimization, and threats from their perpetrators. Many also lamented the poor state of the judicial system and the almost nonexistent support services available.

He later joined another organisation Zandoli International Foundation which appeared to have a similar mission. Williams became its Communications Director but was dismissed only days after presenting a petition to government aimed at encouraging the creation of a Sex Offenders Registry. Williams announced that there had been a “difference of opinion” between himself and the organization.

But Williams found his biggest groove elsewhere, in the media. He was a colourful character, always smartly dressed with his signature bowtie. His media programmes centered around incisive commentary on political and social issues. If the main functions and objectives of the media were to inform, educate and entertain, Williams achieved all three with great aplomb. He developed a listenership that reached all corners of the world, first through Lionel Ellis’ Harmony Radio, then GVD Television, Sky FM and later when he finally realized his dream of starting a radio station of his own, One Lucian Radio which went on the airwaves only a few months ago.

What was most noticeable about Williams was the breadth and depth of his knowledge of a wide variety of issues, evidence of someone who read voraciously and had gained valuable practical experience in a number of different fields.

Although not a journalist, Williams developed a passion for accuracy, detail, investigation and professionalism that would make any newsperson proud. On several occasions he was heard informing listeners that he would not discuss a particular issue because he had not done the necessary checks, and he had a serious work ethic to go along with it. As a presenter, Williams was always in full control of his programmes and was not afraid to mix it up with difficult callers.

Given the nature of his work, Williams would obviously have had detractors, especially in the political arena, but he was fearless and often scathing as he discussed the issues facing the country and how its business was being handled by the government.

Williams’ passing is undoubtedly a great loss to his family and the UWP fraternity. Said a party statement: “The flambeau family, well-wishers and supporters will sorely miss him. He will be remembered for his wit, sharp intellect and ‘no nonsense’ stance. On behalf of the political leader and executive of the UWP, we extend our most sincere condolences to his family.”

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