Guyana has lost a brilliant mind, a doyen in the legal profession with the passing of Shri Doodnauth Singh. During my activist days in the struggle against the Guyanese dictatorship, I met Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh several times in New York, Trinidad and Guyana and held extensive discussions on socio-politico affairs and on issues impacting on Indo-Guyanese including on Guyanese settled in America. Most Guyanese remember Doodnauth Singh as a legal luminary. And no doubt, he was an outstanding and an exemplary lawyer who was dearly admired by friends and opponents alike. He was well respected by legal luminaries throughout the Caribbean region and tributes are pouring in for his professional work. In England, where I was meeting with various Caribbean groups and academics exchanging thoughts on political and economic matters, Doodnauth has received kudos for his legal skills and a special service was planned for Sunday at the Caribbean Hindu Centre near Brixton, London.
In Trinidad and NY, Guyanese are also showering tributes on him for his legal acumen. But I remember Doods (as some of us fondly called him in conversations) for more than his legal profession. I know of his contributions to the struggle for the restoration of democratic rule and free and fair elections. I can attest that Doods played a quiet, behind the scenes role to help bring the then opposition forces together as we battled for free and fair elections. Rupert Roopnaraine, Eusi Kwayana, Dr Wazir Mohamed, and other WPA executives can also attest to Doods’s role in the negotiations to put up a united front against the PNC for the 1992 general elections because Doods served as a conduit (or liaison) between the WPA and other forces including the PPP, DLM, and URP, etc, of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy.
A small group of committed individuals in NY seriously analyzed the politics in Guyana during the 1980s and felt the forces had to come together in order to obtain free and fair elections and defeat the PNC. We approached Doods urging him to engage the opposition political parties bringing them together. Doods reluctantly took on the task. I recall one occasion when Doods threw his hands up in the air giving up on failed efforts to keep the opposition forces together. Vishnu Bandhu (URP) and I visited his home late one evening and virtually begged him not to give up his important role, to stay focused and to continue his engagement with representatives of the constituent PCD groups. We visited several other times to hold discussions on other matters. And on one occasion, when the URP was facing internal difficulty over leadership before Dr Leslie Ramsammy became leader, Vishnu Bandhu asked me to accompany him to meet Doods at his home where Doods offered recommendations to sort out issues impacting on the URP.
Dr Ravi Dev (Jaguar) and I also visited Doods discussing tactics on obtaining free and fair elections. Dr Baytoram Ramharack, Vassan Ramracha and myself also met Doods on several occasions offering encouragement and motivation to continue his engagement among the opposition forces until democratic rule could be restored. Doods showered praises on Ravi, Dr Bayto, Vassan, myself and others in the US who assisted in getting Washington to apply pressure on Desmond Hoyte to introduce political reforms that would pave the way for the restoration of democratic rule. Post 1992 whenever we chatted, Doods would express his disappointment at the PPP government for its failure to recognize the contributions of those of us from overseas who helped to restore democratic rule in Guyana.
Doods and I conversed quite a bit on various socio-politico issues including on matters impacting on Indo-Guyanese culture and the Indo-Caribbean presence in America. I learned quite a lot from Doodnauth on matters I was not privy to during the early years of the Burnham regime. Our association continued after the restoration of democracy and his role as Chairman of Gecom and Attorney General, even meeting him again in Trinidad just before he resigned as AG. After he resigned as AG, he expressed to me his shock and disappointment that he had to fight to get money owed him by the government, money he earned and deserved. He also revealed that he felt Dr Fenton Ramsahoye and Balram Singh Rai should have gotten their pensions.
Doods was an entertaining host and speaker who joked quite a bit to lighten up a monotonous conversation about the PNC regime. I discerned he had a deep knowledge of political history and the internal workings of the PPP having also served as a legal advisor to Cheddi and Janet Jagan. He talked about the errors and political mistakes of the Jagans noting that had Cheddi listened to advice and the recommendations of himself and others, democracy would have returned to Guyana long before 1992 and Guyanese would not suffered 28 years of authoritarian rule.
Guyanese owe Doodnauth Singh a debt of gratitude for his role in the struggle for free and fair elections as well as for serving as a public servant in various capacities, and he will be sorely missed by those of us who fought to free Guyana from authoritarian rule.