His Excellency Mr. Guy Mayers, High Commissioner for St Lucia to the UK, has become known for his vocal support for both Creole culture and the young people of his home country. Particularly, he works to achieve change, to stimulate greater employment opportunities for future generations, alongside preserving his nation’s proud Creole heritage.
In his duties as High Commissioner for St Lucia, and throughout the rest of his career, Mr. Guy Mayers has worked hard to unite people behind a common purpose.
On a number of occasions, this has involved putting his own considerable business enterprises aside to concentrate on what he sees as the greater good.
When Prime Minister Allen Chastanet announced Mr. Mayers’ appointment as Commissioner to the UK (a choice which won the approval of the UK’s Prime Minister) there followed a period of great reflection. Mr. Mayers also consulted his wife before accepting, having previously turned down positions, if he felt he could not commit to them 100%.
This article details how he reached the decision to come to England, and his mission since. First though, let’s look at his credentials and what brought him to point of being offered such a prestigious posting.
Business man first
Guy Mayers believes many of his qualifications to represent St Lucia comes from his insights and experience in the world of business. He is a former president of the St Lucia Chamber of Commerce and was also Vice President of Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce.
In fact, Mr. Mayers’ first spent time living in the UK (following his studies at the Anglican Infant & Primary School and St Mary’s College in St Lucia) and was learning his trade at the London College of Printing. When he returned to his home country, he continued to develop his skills at the Voice Publishing Company.
He explained: “The Voice Newspaper is the oldest newspaper in the Eastern Caribbean. I started my career as an apprentice printer in January of 1976 at The Voice. 10 years later, I was appointed General Manager of The Voice. So, when The Voice turned 100 years old, I was the General Manager at the age of 26.”
Mr. Mayers left this job in 1992 to start his own printing business called Mayers Printing and then he created The Mirror Newspaper, which is still running to this day.
The London-based diplomat has been the managing director of the Mayers Printing Company for almost three decades. Yet, he has also pursued careers in politics, and then diplomacy.
First foray into the political arena
Mr. Mayers’ passion for commercial excellence led to him becoming involved in the politics of St Lucia from 2005 onwards. The motivation came from one question he asked himself: “How do we move our country to the next level and get the right leadership for the country?”
He toyed with the idea of running for leadership of the United Workers Party (UWP), but instead focused on supporting the campaign launched by “Sir John Compton, who we call the father of the nation”. Sir John – a man much admired by Mr. Mayers – came out of retirement and decided to fight for party leadership and a third term of office as Prime Minister.
Mr. Mayers recalls: “So, we formed a tag team, Sir John and I. A few months later, he won back the leadership of the party. We worked together and in November of 2006, he won the elections at major rating.” Mayers continued: “And he called me the following day and said, ‘I want you to come over to my house and help me put a cabinet together.’”
Mr. Mayers was one of the first names to be added to the potential cabinet list by the new PM: “So we put the cabinet together and he said to me, ‘I need you to be my foreign minister.’ I said, ‘Sir John, I wouldn’t do that.’ He said, ‘Why?’ And we had a long discussion or argument about it.”
However, Mr. Mayers’ strong commercial background led to him suggesting an alternative post he could take, and recommending how that position could be restructured.
Mr. Mayers explained: “I said, ‘As far as I’m concerned, all trade is trade,’ and I’d always been promoting that from the private sector point of view. ‘So, here’s what I think my private sector will prefer, that we put all trade into one ministry. I’m proposing that we have one ministry called Ministry for Trade, Industry, Commerce. And so, we deal with manufacturers, we deal with people in commerce, we deal with trade, whether it be regional or international. Let me do this, I think my private sector will prefer that and let somebody else deal with the cultural matters with Foreign Affairs.’”
The PM readily agreed to this proposition, and Mr. Mayers held the post until Sir John died in 2007. During the resulting cabinet reshuffle, he became Minister for Home Affairs and National Security instead.
Then in 2011, his party lost the elections, and Mr. Mayers returned full time to his commercial activities.
Back to the world of print
The power of print was – and still is – important to Mr. Mayers.
In 2011, after his Ministerial tenure was over, Mr. Mayers took a break for a year and then concentrated once more on his business enterprises. Though the publishing side was his main passion, he was for a while “Managing Editor of The Mirror Newspaper, as well as Managing Editor of the printing business.”
Then in 2015, Mr. Mayers was tempted back into the political arena.
Helping to win an election
His said his motivation came from wanting to bring a new unity to the United Workers Party, in the months leading up to the General Election. Particularly as he was keen to be part of changes and solutions that could lead St Lucia to greater stability.
“I wasn’t satisfied that the then PM was doing a good job because the economy was stagnated. It was not growing, and crime was high, unemployment was high. I think it was just not good in the country.”
Mr. Mayers wanted to help a business associate, Allen Michael Chastanet, in his bid to become the Prime Minister of St Lucia. However, there was only one position in the party he personally wanted and asked for. “I got unanimous agreement right across to be the chairman.”
Mr. Mayers added: “Of course, my first order of business, I made it quite clear to them. ‘My objective is to bring back the unity of the party,’ because I said to them, ‘A house divided cannot stand.’”
Was he successful? “All of a sudden people were talking, they were able to come to board meetings, they were able to come to the various discussions, and the party slowly got back together.”
Working hard to respond to a decision to call a snap election early in 2016, Mr. Mayers said: “We came up with this fight to stay alive and the rest is history and on the 6th of June, we won the elections.”
From politics to diplomacy
Following on from success with the UWP in the General Election, Mr. Mayers was ready to once more return to his “day job”.
He told the new Prime Minister, Allen Michael Chastanet: “Okay, I’m going back into my business. My job is done. I just wanna make sure that you guys do the job that you were elected to do. The people overwhelmingly voted for the party because they were disappointed with Dr Anthony. So here you have the golden opportunity of making the changes that you need to make and keeping your promise to the people.”
Mr. Mayers’ path once more changed, due to an unexpected meeting with PM, only a short time after the election.
“So, I went back into my business and then I got the call from Allen one day. He said, ‘Where you at?’ I said, ‘I’m in my office.’ He said, ‘I want to stop by to see you.’ I said, ‘Chief, if you want to see me, I will come to meet you at the official residence.’ I said, ‘You’re now a Prime Minister.’ ”
However, according to Mr. Mayers, the new PM said: “‘No, no, no, I’m on my way down. I’ll stop to see you.’ Within a few minutes he showed up at my office. He said we need you to play a role in the government of the country because you have a lot of experience, and so on and so on. So, we started discussing the options, the few roles he wanted me to play. And then the diplomatic arena came up for discussion.”
Various postings were discussed, but Mr. Mayers told the PM: “For me, for my background, the one that I would be interested in is England. First of all, we are looking at Brexit and we are looking at the new arrangement that’s going on.” This post also appealed as Mr. Mayers had previous experience negotiating in Europe.
“When we finally negotiated the EBAS, I was the Minister for Trade then. And even before that I was the President of the Chamber of Commerce, I was on the technical team. So, I used to be working throughout the Caribbean in preparing ourselves for the CARIFORUM discussion with Europe.”
He also had respect for the UK: “Honestly, Britain is not new to me. I happen to like Britain. I came to college here. I had a very old aunt of mine who lived more than 50 years here.”
This family tie is tinged with sadness though: “The only regret I have in coming to this post now is that my aunt passed away in 2015 at the age of 95. And she’s not here to see me in my new role. She met me at the airport when I came here as a student.”
Before agreeing to take up his post as High Commissioner and stepping aside from his business enterprises, Mr. Mayers had someone else whose opinion mattered a great deal.
“Okay, here’s the deal, if my wife agrees to do it, I will go. If she says no, then it’s no.”
He added: “So, we went home, and we had a family discussion. And my wife happened to like the UK, just like me. Because I think this is the foreign country we have been to the most while my auntie was living here.”
“And so, my family and I came up here in December of 2016, and I’ve been at this post ever since.”
Mission as High Commissioner
Mr. Mayers knew this role brought with it much work. “There are serious challenges. Because I see my role and I see the post as an opportunity to serve St Lucia at a different level.” This included overcoming Opposition objections to his appointment. However, unifying people behind a common cause is a trend that runs through his career to date. This is not just in terms of the UWP.
“I have had an exciting journey in the sense that when I became President of the Chamber of Commerce, I built a stronger alliance between the private sector and the government. I kept saying, ‘We are serving the same purpose. It’s all about development in the country. And if we are partners in development, we need to be able to talk to each other.’”
Now his task was to represent St Lucia in the best possible way, shedding all accusations of political bias: “I said, no, I don’t like politics. I do not want to be into politics. I prefer serving the private sector and do what I have to do. Because we each have our areas of service.”
He added: “My interest is similar as it has always been, the best interests of St Lucia. What can I do to improve on St Lucia?”
Diplomatic mission aims
As previously mentioned, Mr. Mayers seeks to use his diplomatic posting to create greater employment opportunities for St Lucia’s young people. He also works tirelessly to bring more foreign investment to his home country. This includes improving the commercial and trade basis of St Lucia and the wider Caribbean.
Much of his motivation clearly comes from wanting to make his country proud, but also from his own deep and abiding pride in his country!
My Mayers explained: “I’m using being in the UK as a launching pad for bringing foreign investment to St Lucia and trying to take advantage of every opportunity there is for our young people. Because one of the problems we have is high unemployment among our youth. Now, I’m very passionate about young people. From my ’20s, I’ve always been a youth leader. I started in my church as a youth leader.”
This dedication to youth betterment is also evidenced during his time as President of the Chamber: “One of the first projects I initiated when I became the President in 1996 was to implement a Junior Achievement Programme in St Lucia, which is still going strong now. And over 50000 young people have benefited from the programme in all of the secondary schools.”
The emphasis of this initiative is on creating new generations of business leaders, as well as employees.
“So, I was the founding chairman of Junior Achievement for almost 11 years. Before 9/11, I used to take the top achievers to New York. We went to the stock exchange, it was all about giving them a bird’s-eye view of what business is all about. And I also told people that any young person who has been through that entrepreneurial training programme will be a good employee. Although my goal was not to train employees. It was about training the new crop of entrepreneurs, teaching them to be entrepreneurs. So, we went through a whole lifecycle of a business.”
Another pivotal part of Mr. Mayers’ role as High Commissioner is to better support and unite St Lucians living elsewhere in the world.
“I see my role as well, as properly facilitating the St Lucian Diaspora, making sure that they are together. That wherever they need assistance that I can provide it and keep them as a strong unit within the UK.”
This includes representing his countrymen and women affected by Windrush, the controversial immigration debate surrounding people from the Caribbean communities who are long settled in the UK.
However, he is also keen to ensure young people born in the UK don’t lose sight of their Creole roots, including learning the language. He remarks: “I want to see the diaspora youth learn the culture. I want them not to think that the only good meal is a MacDonald’s or Kentucky. I want them to know when people say that St Lucia’s national dish is green fig and saltfish, they know what it is, that they’ve acquired the taste. That we have programmes put in place to excite our young people about St Lucia.
“I want the second and third and fourth generations St Lucians in the UK to be ambassadors for St Lucia. And that when they want to go on a vacation, the first place they’ll think of is St Lucia. And that they encourage their school friends and the colleagues that they work with to come visit the country, that is one of the ways they can help build the economy of our country.”
Mr. Mayers added: “St Lucia is unique. I’m happy that we are independent, and we can make our name in the world. Because I like to brag that St Lucia as a small country, 172,000 people, we have the highest per capita of Nobel Laureates in the world, that’s something we need to be proud of and something we have to teach our young people here that they can aspire to. There may be other Nobel Laureates of St Lucia heritage right in the UK, but they need to learn what our culture is all about.”
In conclusion, he sent a message: “Every St Lucian, whether you were born in St Lucia, or whether you acquired St Lucian citizenship, St Lucia belongs to all of us. And so, all of us have a responsibility to preserve our heritage and to do whatever is within our ability to improve on the condition in St Lucia and make it a better St Lucia for all of us.”