A tribute to Elsa Mansell

Dear Editor,
Elsa Ann Mansell died peacefully on the night of January 17, 2013 in Oxfordshire, England. She was 89 and had been ill for some time, cared for devotedly by her niece Susan. So ended a Guyana life that must not pass unnoticed.

Elsa seems to have been by my side for most of my working life – in Georgetown and in London; but  her civil service vintage is years older. Elsa Mansell was one of the first Guyanese young women to have made it to the top of the secretarial ladder in the British Guiana days.

With Independence in1966 and the establishment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs she was a natural for this new environment in which she flourished becoming eventually, Chief of Protocol. I was in charge of the Ministry as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and Elsa was by my side.

A special memory is of Elsa doing the honours for Guyana at Timehri and Umana Yana as our many distinguished guests arrived and were made welcome to the Non-Aligned Foreign Ministers Meeting of 1974 – perhaps the high-point of our country’s internationalism.

When Elsa retired from the Civil Service I was already in London as Commonwealth Secretary General and facing our greatest challenge in relation to the struggle against apartheid. The Commonwealth was sending its Eminent Persons Group to South Africa – a mission which called for the highest diplomatic skills – and was to precipitate the end of apartheid. It also called for very special talents in the Group’s support team and I looked for Elsa and her unique qualities. She came to London – and never left, taking over from another incomparable Guyanese of Elsa’s vintage, Greta Cummings, as my Personal Assistant

When I retired from the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1990, Elsa ran the little office I established in London from 1990 to 2006 – when we both retired. There is so much I could not have done without her.
Elsa Mansell was a Guyana gem. I treasure her memory; and so should we all.
Yours faithfully,
Shridath Ramphal

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