Lloyd Searwar Selected Editorials edited by Barton Scotland (Guyana: Guyana Publications Inc., 2007. ISBN: 978-976-8212-16-0 (pbk))

When David de Caires the Editor-in-Chief of the Stabroek News offered Lloyd Searwar in 2001 the opportunity to write editorials for his newspaper, he gave him the opportunity to distil his experiences in the public service, journalism and diplomacy. The result has been four hundred or more editorials, forty of which are collected in this volume of 184 pages. They cover a variety of attractive subjects from cricket to diplomacy and the destiny of the world. One must admire a mind that can write fluently and learnedly about so many complex subjects. Informed by wide reading and a mature mental culture, we therefore have before us a highly readable volume which is characterized by reasoned arguments and an analysis of the topical problems afflicting Guyana, the region and rest of the world. On display is a mind that is as encyclopaedic as it is sophisticated and humane.

This book consists of four chapters. Chapter One is entitled ‘Untold Riches, Guyana’; Chapter Two, ‘Caricom – A Time to Choose’; Chapter Three, ‘Global Warming’; and Chapter Four, ‘A Morality for War – A Doomsday Scenario.’ Each chapter contains approximately ten editorials. The selections made by Dr Barton Scotland, a very close friend of Lloyd Searwar over the years and a fellow diplomat, are generally very well chosen, except for the final section as this reviewer shall explain. Dr Scotland has written an introduction which gives the essential details of Searwar’s life, while the foreword by David de Caires explains how it came about that he wrote these editorials for his newspaper.

‘Untold Riches, Guyana’ is a meditation on Searwar’s native land which takes him into the realms of culture, domestic politics and foreign policy. Guyana’s national identity is of particular concern. Lloyd Searwar expounds his well-known views on the need for an integrated and harmonious Guyana. That is why he could warn against “this trend towards separateness” as reflected in terms such as “Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese.” His was a firm conviction that a single Guyanese identity is being forged on a day-to-day basis by the “daily intermingling and exchanges, intense in the cities, less so elsewhere, but everywhere increasing despite disagreement and conflict.” It is a declaration of faith in the face of racial stresses and strains that our society has endured between the early ’90s and the present, and the criminal and political violence which threatened the fabric of relations at the time of Lloyd Searwar’s death. Searwar, however, was also realistic enough to understand that Guyana could only forge a national identity and survive and prosper by deepening its democratic culture and recognizing the numerical importance of the main opposition party. In this section it is indeed touching to experience a man in his eighth decade of life brooding on issues important to the well-being of his country.

Lloyd Searwar also examines the attempt at shared governance undertaken by Burnham in 1985 and described by Halim Majeed in his book Forbes Burnham, National Reconciliation and National Unity in an editorial dated February 2006. I believe that he made a few analytical mis-steps here. He claims that the main motive for the initiative was the preservation of the security of the state against invasion intervention. This was 1985. Gorbachev was holed up in the Kremlin waging a losing battle to preserve the communist system. Reagan was in the White House ready to give life to the Monroe doctrine, as he did brutally in Grenada in 1983. More likely than not a socialist or communist government in Guyana at the time would have been at the mercy of Washington, as there was unlikely to be Soviet support or intervention to protect it. It might have lost the very territorial integrity it was trying to preserve.

Searwar deplores the lack of attention to the details of the nation’s foreign policy, especially in relation to the appropriate staffing of important missions, the lack of foreign policy planning and the inability to keep the nation informed of important policy matters, such as the territorial controversy with Venezuela. Guyana’s parlous foreign policy situation, “has gone on for a very long time and the only reason why there have not been serious difficulties is because the Administration, to put it plainly, has been relying on the diplomatic respect generated in the past which includes the image of Guyana as a small state which has taken the initiative on important international issues from time to time.”

Anyone who reads this book would also pay particular attention to Searwar’s timely warning in relation to Caracas that “regimes when they fall into domestic trouble have been known over the centuries to distract attention by external adventures.”

Lloyd Searwar was familiar with the theory as well as the practice of regional integration. He believed in it in almost absolute terms, and during the years of his tenure as Foreign Policy Advisor to the Secretary General of Caricom he used his considerable intellectual gifts to push the process forward. His knowledge and his experience of regional integration are reflected in his editorials. ‘Caricom – A Time to Choose’ is a reflection on the possibilities of Caricom and the refusal of the region to accept the need for a single mechanism to ensure the timely implementation of decisions made by its highest organ – the Heads of Government Conferences. Sometimes, and uncharacteristically, Lloyd Searwar could be pessimistic about the project he loved. He lamented in an editorial on January 14, 2004, for example, that Caricom was losing its way in these words: “Originally conceived as an instrument of rapid and social economic development of its member states, Caricom has made little progress towards that objective.” Equally, Searwar was disturbed by the seeming inability of the integration movement to adjust to new regional and international realities and have a fundamental rethink of its diplomacy and its ability to handle crises.

‘Global Warming’ presents some difficulties, the least of which is that the reader has difficulty relating the editorials on cricket, the fight by Third World countries for generic drugs and the election of Pope John Paul to the subject heading. It is a jarring note in this otherwise instructive and enjoyable work. The situation is redeemed by the quality and insight the commentary offers on these important matters. Lloyd Searwar was always a man who was quick to spot trends in international relations, and his writings on Global Warming are a clear reflection that this character trait stayed with him to the end. But even on this subject his abiding concern for the small and weak nations shines through.

He could therefore conclude the editorial of September 14, 2006 on the global implications of Hurricane Katrina with the observation that vulnerability “is of global significance as while no region or county (sic) is immune from natural disaster, it is the poor and under-developed countries who suffer the most.”

‘A Morality for War – A Doomsday Scenario’ is really a reflection on the question of war, the attempt by powerful nations to bully the weak and in particular George Bush’s tragic mistake in invading Iraq. But it is the question of terrorism which gets adequate treatment from Lloyd Searwar’s pen. He could recognise that the rise of terrorism would challenge the western world to maintain age-old liberties. The significance of September 11 for the US and the rest of the world, as well as the emergence of terrorism are analysed here. Searwar could see clearly what statesmen and politicians are now beginning to realize – the sources of terrorism reside in under-development and despair.

This is the second book in recent times that I have been asked to review which does not have an index. This is one modern trend I do not understand and which I find unacceptable. An index is an important
tool in reading a book, and I would like to think that subsequent editions of this very good volume will see the elimination of this particular omission. Also, greater care must be exercised in future editions to ensure the correct spelling of names and some words. For example, on page 11 the person to whom reference is made is Minister Shaddick and not “Sadtfiik.” Another blemish, in my judgement, is on page 59 where the note by the Editor-in-Chief is not clearly demarcated from the editorial itself. In fact, the heading of the editorial is placed at the beginning of that note. I make these mild strictures only to make sure that this product is indeed as David de Caires states in the Foreword: “a token of our gratitude for Lloyd’s work and for his broader contribution to the intellectual community in Guyana and the region.”

(Ed note: The book is available at Austin’s Bookstore, Church Street)

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