Anthony Sylvestre, Sr., a former People’s United Party official and confidante of Rt. Hon. George Price, who rose to the pinnacle of power as a career public officer, serving in a number of high-profile positions including Permanent Secretary and Cabinet Secretary, died at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) early Sunday night. Sylvestre died from complications related to renal failure. He was 74.
Sylvestre’s youngest son, Anthony Sylvestre, Jr., told Amandala that his father had “been struggling with kidney ailment for a number of years and last year he reached the point where he had to get dialysis treatment on a weekly basis and was initially hospitalized at the Belize Health Care Partners, before being transferred to the KHMH Intensive Care Unit two weeks ago.”
“He has held various positions in the government service. He was one of the early public officers who moved to Belmopan, when it was first built. There was this government department, known as Establishment Department and he was the Permanent Secretary, but certainly he would have started out as a clerk,” Sylvestre said.
Sylvestre added, “He was once the Chief Broadcasting Officer, when there was only one radio station, Radio Belize, in the country. Whilst as a public officer he also worked as District Officer, which is something like a magistrate. I don’t recall the exact years, but that would have been in the late 1970s, early 1980s.”
Sylvestre recalled his father joking about the difficulties of being a District Officer, “and having to sentence people to prison,” when he was working in Punta Gorda Town.
“Between 1984 and 1989, when the UDP came to power, his expertise was not utilized that much, but between 1989 and 1993, when the PUP was returned to power, he served as Cabinet Secretary under Rt. Hon. George Price. Between 1993 and 1998, he devoted his time to the institutional development of the party,” Sylvestre revealed.
Sylvestre said that during this period, the senior Sylvestre “served as a manager of the Belize Times, and as Secretary General. He used to always speak about his fondness for young Cordel Hyde. Cordel also would share his fondness for him.”
Sylvestre said that when the PUP was returned to power in 1998, his father served in Senior Minister, George Price’s ministry. He also served in the role of Chairman of the Public Services Commission. “The Public Services Commission, at that time included the Judicial and Legal Services Commission and the Securities Service Commission. He used to tell me at times, ‘you serve in those positions and important decisions have to be made that impact people’s lives.’ During the times when they were putting together the Caribbean Court of Justice, he was also appointed to the regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission,” said his son.
Sylvester explained that his father did not have a Bachelor of Arts degree, but “during his time in the public service, he went on several overseas certificate trainings.” “He did a stint in England, but I don’t recall exactly what the certificate that he got was, but I am sure it had to do with certification in public administration. This was in the early 1980s. Those training courses were typically 3, 6 and 8 months,” Sylvestre, Jr., said.
Sylvestre said his father’s humility “had impacted many people and his balanced approach to life has endeared many people to him.”
Asked what his fondest memory of his father was, Sylvestre recalled when he was a youngster still in primary school and he would see his father on Saturday mornings, and they would have breakfast together and his father would sit him down and school him about the ways of life.
“We used to spend a lot of time talking, and the experience and exposure that I had allowed me to have a different perspective on life. It showed that regardless of your station in life you could achieve a lot through hard work,” said Sylvestre.
“In the afternoons, his friends would come over — Ralph Fonseca, Steve Nembhard, Sydney Campbell — and they would drink and talk about their work and I would just sit in a corner and listen,” Sylvestre said.
Sylvestre explained that his father’s health began to deteriorate from around 2008. In a press release issued today, January 29, the PUP expressed condolences, saying, “Party Leader Hon. John Briceño and the People’s United Party express their profound sadness and deepest condolences to the family of Anthony Sylvestre, Sr. The long serving statesman, public officer and consummate PUP warrior passed away this morning.”
Anthony Sylvestre, Sr., leaves to mourn his passing his three children, Adrian and Stephaney Sylvestre who are residing in the United States, and Anthony Sylvestre, Jr., residing in Belize.