It was completely appropriate for a correspondent to Stabroek News to bemoan Sir Shridath Ramphal’s unjustified tribute to President Jagdeo on the occasion of the appreciation charade jointly funded by both appreciators and depreciators (taxpayers).
However privately expressed, Sir Shridath’s behaviour would have provided cause for concern, indeed dismay, amongst several of his contemporaries, particularly those who could recall the circumstances surrounding his launching into the international arena by none other than the visionary Forbes Burnham.
There were some who were present when at the Residence one Sunday in 1964, Ramphal arrived to negotiate with Prime Minister Burnham his first appointment to the fledging Legal Affairs Ministry.
One remembers Ramphal’s initial demurral of his schoolmate’s offer in preference to his then lucrative law practice in Jamaica. But ‘Odo’, who had earlier assessed his potential and trusted his ability to perform on a larger than local stage, eventually persuaded ‘Sonny’ to undertake the ensuing journey, which as Guyana’s pre-eminent representative won him and his country respect and eventual recognition – confirmed in Ramphal’s appointment as Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat and a number of prestigious international appointments, such as the Brandt Commission.
Between the two close colleagues Guyana earned the highest possible regional and international respect for its articulation of a range of policies on its own behalf, that of Caricom colleagues, and indeed of African and Asian counterparts, at different international fora.
Most persons who remember, and once respected, the surviving Sir Shridath for his brilliant expositions on the integration processes which Caricom represented, and his justifiably expressed disappointment in that institution’s failure to progress towards critically important deadlines for achieving its aims and ambitions, must wonder at the ambivalence with which he now relates to ‘integration’ in his own country.
Sir Shridath’s identification with the Burnham administration so drew the ire of Cheddi Jagan that the latter personally protested the former’s presence outside the Hotel Tower in Main Street, Georgetown when Ramphal was then visiting in matters related to a revised Guyana Constitution. The perceived antipathy to Ramphal by the PPP overflowed into the early years of the current administration, until incrementally it was realised that he could be useful to their various causes, including particularly the promotion of the persona of the current President.
Over the intervening years it was noted by several observers how subtly at first, then more aggressively, Sir Shridath sought to disassociate himself from his historic relationship with Burnham; and flying in the face of history, even contrived a deafening silence regarding Burnham’s unmatched contribution to the establishment of Caricom (to quote but one of the latter’s triumphs), of which, ironically, Ramphal perhaps remains the best of living spokespersons.
Having regard to his well publicised insights into governance structures and behaviours around the world, the only reason Sir Sridath could not have recognised the divisiveness implied in the policies of the local administration, would have been his deliberate refusal to do so.
He simply turned a blind eye to the evidence, and withdrew his memory from comparatively better experiences during his professional career, and the very utterings of his professed credos.
To too many this has been a chosen departure from the leadership role in which he proved to be but a consummate ‘actor’ and a disloyalty to the committed friendships of both Presidents Burnham and Hoyte who never wavered in their support for him in the various positions he held and the variety of issues he espoused.
His recent essay may well earn him a Guyana prize for fiction and bring into question his known assessments of the careers of both Burnham and Hoyte.
(Name and address provided)