It is with great sadness I read of the passing of former Minister of Government and historian Dr. Dale Bisnauth. He was a terrific human being who cared for his country and had a compassionate mind for others. He had joined the struggle against the PNC dictatorship taking a spiritual path unlike those of us who pursued a more active and militant approach against the authoritarian regime.
Rev. Dale, as we called him, was a solid fighter against injustice and played a meaningful role in the struggle against the undemocratic rule of the PNC. He defended religious freedom and fought strenuously to defend the independence of religion in society. He made a very valuable contribution to all Guyana and particularly to the educated Guyanese diaspora. Under his guidance, educational opportunities expanded to many, many Guyanese. Schools that were in decrepit conditions were revamped and rehabilitated and children of the working people particularly those in the hinterland regions. It was under his tenure that the meaning and importance of education was restored to our nation after being wrecked by three decades of neglect and propaganda.
I knew about Bisnauth’s ecumenical background and read his works on Indians and we met in passing during GUARD’s meetings, etc. when I would visit Guyana during my teaching breaks in N.Y. to join the struggle. I first met him for a detailed chat after he became Minister of Education around 1994 in his office. I interviewed him for an article I published in N.Y. newspapers and he related to me how he was approached by Dr. Jagan to become a part of the Civic component in the elections of 1992. He was a terrific writer and articles appeared in the now defunct Caribbean Contact (during the 1980s) then edited by the eminent journalist Rickey Singh. Bisnauth’s love and passion for country propelled him to serve as a Minister of Government. Dale loved Jagan and when the old man passed away in March 1997, Dale was deeply concerned about the future of the country. He did not have high respect for some of his colleagues with whom he served.
During our meeting in 1994 in his office, I related to then Minister Bisnauth a recurring complaint by overseas Guyanese who attended UG and Teachers Training College – their extreme difficulties in obtaining copies of their transcripts and diplomas; some individuals were blocked from obtaining copies of transcripts and diplomas because they broke contracts, etc. People complained of having to pay bribes to get copies of their transcripts and diplomas needed to further their education in North America. I was able to convince the Minister to grant amnesty to those who broke their contract (not completing the dreaded National Service, failure to complete contracts of teaching service, etc.). The Minister promised to raise the matter with Dr. Jagan. The Minister and I discussed how to streamline the process of issuing transcripts and before long he was successful at getting the ball rolling at UG and Training College. Those who attended higher educational institutions in Guyana (including those who failed to complete their contracts) have been able to get their transcripts since democratic governance was restored to Guyana and because of the work of Dale Bisnauth. Many have now gone on to obtain higher degrees in North America and Europe. They owe a debt of gratitude to people like Bisnauth and others who fought on their behalf for a free Guyana and for access to official documents to keep rising to higher levels of achievements overseas.