A great comrade has fallen having lived a full life. In fighting against oppression and for a better Guyana, Josh Ramsammy survived an assassin’s bullet some 38 years ago but the bold attempt on his life did not prevent or intimidate him from pursuing his noble ideals.
He was regarded as a true Guyanese patriot by all those who were associated with him, including leading members of the governing party.
It is unfortunate, however, that political analyst, Mr Frederick Kissoon, writing in the Kaieteur News of February 16, 2009 states that Josh Ramsammy was removed from the University of Guyana as Pro Chancellor since “…he invoked the wrath of President Jagdeo because he was not prepared to run UG along party lines.” It is very unfortunate that Josh’s discontinuation as Pro Chancellor continued to be seen in this light by Mr Kissoon.
The problems at the University of Guyana are immense and have always been complicated by academics, who, more often see things differently as against those who try to formulate policies. In the last year at the University of Guyana as Pro Chancellor, Dr Ramsammy met with increased and strong resistance from leading officials of the University of Guyana, notably the two most senior members on campus. The meetings of Councils were marred by serious infighting, including walkouts on a few occasions, by the senior personnel mentioned above. Many of those meetings ended up in disarray and agenda items were hardly discussed. In all of these encounters Dr Ramsammy had the support of leading government representatives on Council.
In fact throughout Josh’s tenure as Pro Chancellor, he had the support of the leading government officials on the Council, including Permanent Secretary Hydar Ally and myself. It would be untrue to say that government or its representatives on Council had any major disagreement with Dr Ramsammy while he was Pro Chancellor. The President never directed or gave instructions to anyone on the Council, including Josh Ramsammy on how the University of Guyana should be run.
The government, however, was always dissatisfied with the manner in which the University of Guyana was administered and to date some of that dissatisfaction still exists. But it would not be true to say that Dr Ramsammy was removed as Pro Chancellor because he did not run the University of Guyana “along Party lines.” As I have said earlier, Josh’s last year as Pro Chancellor saw those major disagreements with the senior administrators at the University of Guyana (with the exception of the Bursar) and when that was communicated to the Minister of Education) a new Pro Chancellor was appointed in an effort to bring some peace and comfort at the highest level of the university. I regret his removal, but the sacrifice must have been seen then as the only way out − peace had to be obtained at the level of Council. I guess that that we could argue that those who were fighting Josh should have been fired instead, but all the ramifications for that action must be taken into account.
Some of the problems that Josh fought against are still with us today as we try to grapple to make the University of Guyana the institution that dishes out the highest calibre of education and moral upbringing of students. His change was not based on the demand for partisan politics or incompetence. I do not think that Josh was ever a bitter person because of his removal as Pro Chancellor. I met him on several occasions after that with Keith Scott and never witnessed from the conversations we had that his removal from the University of Guyana “jolted his psychology.” The President had nothing to do with the composition of the University Council and was never involved in the appointment of a Pro Chancellor.
Very often Mr Kissoon would criticise President Jagdeo for all and every manner of evil in the society. The President has been often described as a “dictator,” someone “worse than Burnham,” and the like. I never wanted to get involved in any public discourse on these matters, but having set the Ramsammy issue at the university in perspective, I want to say without any fear of contradiction that as the Permanent Secretary of His Excellency President Jagdeo, the many uncomplimentary remarks about his stewardship cannot be substantiated and are as erroneous as they are untrue.
The President is a person who listens to his colleagues and makes decisions based on the facts presented. He is a leader with an astute mind, great leadership skills and concern for people’s well- being. He has done quite a lot for the development of our country and its people and does not deserve the media bashing.
I end by expressing my deepest sympathy to all the friends, colleagues and to the family of Joshua Ruben Ramsammy. The members of the WP A would feel his loss in a special way, but it is the Guyanese nation that has lost a fine mind and a great son of the soil.
Nanda K Gopaul