Prime Minister’s wife talks about family, politics and supporting her husband
Having recently retired from over three decades of stellar service to the public service, Mrs Mignon Phillips, the wife of Guyana’s Prime Minister (ret’d) Brigadier Mark Phillips, has now committed herself to give her husband her undivided attention as he once again provides service to his country.
“I have committed myself to give my husband my undivided attention in terms of his work. He is new to politics. He has got quite a lot on his plate in terms of the portfolio. So, although he leaves home every day very happy to serve the people of Guyana, I would still like to make sure that he has the support he needs when he comes home. Things can be very stressful and I am his first line of defence to support him.”
The mother of one made these remarks during a recent interview with journalist, Leroy Smith on The Big Smith News Watch.
Mrs Phillips knew that her husband was always committed to serving his country so after he told her that he was entering the political arena she was not surprised. She recounted that one day she was at work when her husband telephoned and informed her that they would have a family meeting to discuss something. She added that the last time they had such a discussion was when he was one of the four officers being interviewed for the leadership of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).
According to her, while her husband served as Chief-of-Staff in the army, he was always away from home and as such, she was responsible for keeping things steady and calm so that he was allowed to perform his duties without having to worry. She shared that this came with the greatest invasion of privacy.
“You’re now high profile. I had to be aware of what I say, I had to be careful about making new friends, I had to be careful of dealing with some of the friends that I had also. It was important that I did not place myself in a position where I could have been misquoted on anything. It allowed me to step back and give him all the support that he needed so that he could focus on what he was doing in terms of service to the country.
According to Mrs Phillips, her husband was really concerned about what happened in Guyana after the successful passage of the No-Confidence Motion. Given that she and the Prime Minister both studied public administration, she pointed out that they are both interested in good governance, the rule of law, and the electoral process.
Like any caring wife, she asked her husband if he was certain that was what he wanted. “He said he felt it was the right thing for him to do,” she added. In light of Guyana’s political climate, she expressed that they were extremely worried about the personal attacks they would encounter along the way. In this regard, she commended her husband for how he prepped their family.
“I must say that he did a good job preparing us as a family for the public scrutiny. I had to be careful not to wear certain clothes at work because of the organisation. Every Monday I wore my red shoes to work, I had to stop wearing my shoes, my red brooch because I did not want to give anybody the chance to say that I was campaigning for any political party. As a retired public servant, we have to remain neutral.”
The Prime Minister’s wife said that he is a “very tough cookie.”
“He is a soldier, well trained. So, he knew what he was getting into. And my duty was to support him and help him to prepare. And one of the big things for us was helping him prepare for his very first public speech at the Kitty Market Square. After his second speech, he got so comfortable on the platform…. He went out there knowing that we supported him 100 per cent.”
While she declined to comment on the events following the March 2, 2020 elections, she expressed that she is very proud that Guyana has one of the most robust and rigid electoral systems in the Caribbean.
“I say that because when you look at the total package, what goes into the printing of the ballots, the training of electoral staff, how people ought to identify themselves going into the polling station. What played out after the elections, I would want to leave that to the people who are more authorised to talk about it.”
Accomplished public servant
Mrs Phillips grew up in North East La Penitence, Georgetown, where her parents, a tailor, and housewife, instilled in her and her sister the importance of earning their own money. “My mother is someone who told myself and my sister, Gillian, it pays every young girl to get a job. So, I always see myself as being able to go to work and earn a decent income.”
During her early years, she seized every opportunity to benefit from courses in sewing, cooking, and other disciplines offered by the Carnegie School of Home Economics and the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA). She landed her first job at the National Insurance Company, and would later move to the Bank of Guyana where she worked in the Exchange Control Department.
Mrs Phillips recently retired as the Project Officer responsible for the documentation centre and the registry at the Caribbean Community (Caricom). She joined the regional organisation back in 1988 as a clerk and was promoted over the years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration and a Master’s in Business Administration.
She shared that her journey at Caricom was quite an interesting one as it allowed her not only to work, but also to travel and be a part of countless training opportunities. While there, she served as a Caricom electoral observer and observed elections in The Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands.
Given all her accomplishments, Mrs Phillips advised young girls that they should always be themselves. “Try always to be your own beacon of light. We are all different individuals; we are not on the same path. Stay in your lane. Focus on yourself, develop yourself as an individual and you never can tell along the road of life’s journey you will meet somebody compatible with your dreams and aspiration and you could become a perfect team.”
In the meantime, though she is not in the spotlight a lot, the Prime Minister’s wife revealed that she desires to work on a project that will promote the uniqueness of being Guyanese.