Boysie Ramkarran was a celebrated wit in Parliament

Dear Editor,
I am grateful to Mayor Hamiliton Green for his response in Stabroek News (‘It is not the case that Boysie Ramkarran had more influence in Parliament than Burnham’) dated 25.2.09, to my letter in Kaieteur News on 23.2.09 (Boysie Ramkarran had more impact on parliamentary proceedings than Burnham did’). However, I disagreed with his contention and arguments.

Mr Green argued that my posistion “cannot be supported by facts, the records of Hansard, or by those who attended Parliament during that time.” The wit of Boysie Ramkarran in Parliament is known by parliamentarians who served during that period. Mr Green certainly will not forget his presentation on the 1982 austerity budget when he humorously referred to it as the “Ass-tear budget.”  Further, his deputy while serving as the Minister of Fisheries in the mid ’80s will also remember the  budget debate when fish output fell far below an ambitious target, and Mr Ramkarran argued that “rather than catching fish we ended up catching birds” − and there are many others. Moreover, a Sunday newspaper column in the mid ’90s was devoted to the wit and high sense of humour of Boysie Ramkarran in Parliament. I consider Paul O’ Hara aka Persaud and Cecil Griffith authentic sources who regarded Boysie Ramkarran as a celebrated wit in Parliament. Speaker AP Alleyne in the late ’60s forced then Prime Minister Burnham to apologize in Parliament, but Ramkarran was never found wanting. Paul O’ Hara told me that speaker Rahaman Gajraj had set out to nail him on heckling, but never succeeded.

Mr Green argued that intellectuals and scholars regarded Burnham as a great orator and statesman, however he cited neither names nor sources to support his contention. Let me repeat that I consider LFS Burnham a brilliant person and a great speaker, but I cannot think of any phrase and quotes attributed to him in the fashion of Franklyn Roosevelt “We have learnt…” Jack Kennedy “Ask not what your country can do…” Martin Luther King “I have a dream…” or Churchill, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another…”

With reference to intellect and scholarship, Mayor Green and other top officials of the PNC were present at a presentation at the National Library on the findings of a research conducted by Professor Winston McGowan of UG in June last year on the Modern Guyana State as part of the  Walter Rodney Memorial Lecture series, that was even more devastating on Burnham’s legacy;  however, neither Mayor Green nor any one else contested the findings during the discussion period. Stephen Rabe, a Professor of History at the University of Texas in a 2005 publication entitled, ‘US intervention in British Guiana’ provided further evidence of Burnham’s role in Guyana.

Mayor Green stated that Burnham did not take part in debates in Parliament after 1970 and this is totally untrue. My first glimpse of Parliament was seeing Cheddi and Burnham debate in mid-1978 the bill for the famous referendum. Again Burnham wound up the debate on the bill for the enactment of the “New Socialist Constitution” in 1980.

Finally there is a tendency to regard criticism of public officials in the words of Mayor Green as “studied campaign, trivialize, and relentless assault,” however no democracy can survive if public officials are not subjected to full public scrutiny. I bear no malice or ill feelings for the person; I simply was critical of the idea presented by the Kaieteur News editorial.
I rest my case.
Yours faithfully,
Rajendra Rampersaud

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