Debbie Backer passes away

The People’s National Congress Reform today announced the passing of longstanding executive member and former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Deborah Backer.

Backer had been ill in recent weeks and had to be flown abroad on several occasions for treatment.

In a brief statement this morning, the PNCR said “It is with deep regret that the Peoples National Congress Reform mourns the passing of Ms. Debbie Jan Backer. Debbie passed away this morning after a brief illness. The General Secretary has ordered that the Party flag be flown at half-staff at all PNCR offices around the country. The Party will issues a more detailed statement later.”

Debbie Backer in her role as Deputy Speaker
Debbie Backer in her role as Deputy Speaker

Backer entered political life during the tenure of the late PNC President Desmond Hoyte. She started out first as a representative of the party on the city council and progressed to being a parliamentary representative. As an MP for the PNCR, PNCR-1G and APNU, Backer covered several important shadow portfolios including Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs and was seen as one of the more active, vocal and effective opposition MPs. Following the November 2011 general elections she was elected as Deputy Speaker of the House. Following her illness, she resigned from Parliament.

Earlier this month to mark International Women’s Day, Backer was one of several women honoured by parliament. She was recognised for her 14 years of service as an MP. Her daughter Natasha Backer collected the award on her behalf.

The AFC today issued the following condolence message:

The Alliance For Change is heavily saddened at the passing of Mrs Deborah Jan Backer and extends most sincere condolence to her family, relatives and colleagues in the PNCR and APNU.

Mrs Backer served Guyana with distinction and her prowess as a Member of the National Assembly; the depth of her research, eloquence of delivery, quick wit, charm and knowledge, especially of the Standing Orders, will be held as a standard to which new Members would aspire and to which Members of longstanding will hold themselves. Mrs Backer competence as an Attorney was no less outstanding.

All our lives have been enriched as a result of the tireless work of Deborah Backer in the Assembly, courtroom and with organisations to which she was a member.

The AFC salutes Mrs Deborah Jan Backer and mourns her passing.

The Leader of the Opposition, David Granger this evening issued the following statement:

Deborah Jan Osman-Backer

Born – 14th April, 1959

Died 21st March, 2014 (55years)

Joined the People’s National Congress in 1994 and became a candidate for the Party on its list of candidates to contest the Georgetown Municipality Elections of the Year. Following the election Ms. Backer was selected among ten candidates to represent the PNCR in the Georgetown Municipality. In 1997 she was again selected as a candidate for the Party in the General Election of that year and was elected a member of the National Assembly of the Parliament of Guyana from 1998 to 2001 and was re-elected at each subsequent General Election, 2006 and 2011, until her resignation in February 2014 due to illness.

In 1997 Ms. Backer was co-opted to the Central Executive Committee of the Party and brought new and fresh perspectives to the deliberations of that forum. Because of her work and contributions among the rank and file members, she was elected to the Executive Committee at the Biennial Congress in 2000. In 2004 she was elected Vice Chairman of the Party at the Biennial Congress of that year and served until 2006.

An active member of the Party’s General Council she undertook the task of reviewing the Party’s Constitution often the 2012 Congress recommended same but regrettably was side-lined by illness.

As a Parliamentarian, Ms. Backer served as Shadow Minister of Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs as well as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.

The untimely passing of our sister and comrade Debbie Backer is an irreplaceable loss to her Party, to our Partnership, to the Bar, and to the nation. We shall miss her infectious good humour, her unflagging commitment and her tireless pursuit of social justice. Unusually for such a vociferous parliamentary combatant, she was admired and respected across the aisle. As she was fond of saying whenever, as Deputy Speaker, she assumed the Speaker’s chair, “I expect that there will be order and silence in the House.”  This remark was always greeted with peals of laughter, an acknowledgement of her quick wit and ever ready repartee from the front bench, usually an invitation to counter heckling and disorder. She made heckling into an art form, sharp and withering though never personally wounding. The National Assembly has been a duller place for her absence.

We have lost a cherished colleague, a friend for all seasons, a creative parliamentary and political leader, a Guyanese patriot of rare quality.

To her Husband Steve and Children Natasha and  Nigel the Peoples National Congress Reform and A Partnership for National Unity extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy.

Office of the Leader of the Opposition

Werk en Rust, Georgetown, Guyana

Deborah Backer
Deborah Backer


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