Joining a number of organizations which paid tribute to the life and work of Eusi Kwayana, and on behalf of a number of members of the WPA Executive Committee and party, I made the following brief remarks:
“The Working People’s Alliance are proud to have him in our ranks. As a founder member and activist of the Working People’s Alliance from the time of its foundation in 1974, Kwayana has contributed immensely not only to the party but in the public cause. Indeed, Kwayana’s public service from the early 1940s to the present is remarkable for its boundless, unrelenting energy in Guyana, the Caribbean and the world. Kwayana is poet, playwright, literary critic, political activist, sage and family man.
“He served as a school teacher throughout the East Coast of Demerara. Kwayana began his public service in education as a Pupil Teacher in Beterverwagting, as long ago as 1941. In 1956 he founded County High School in Buxton. It began with one student. After a while he became known as ‘Teach.’
“It is however his political and social contributions that tend to be more acknowledged, not without merit.
“At one time he was Chairman of the Local Authority of the Buxton-Friendship District. His calls and struggles for village renewal and for villagers to own their own village councils and pursue their needs in housing, land, education, employment and self-employment are as important and significant as ever before.
“It was Kwayana along with Moses Bhagwan and other activists and organizations who took the bold and courageous step in establishing an organization that would challenge accepted models and thinking in Guyana and push the nation to a new political culture that involved racial and political reconciliation. It is not so well known, except inside the WPA that Kwayana, apart from his hundreds of articles, single handedly contributed and wrote countless issues of the party’s main publications, Dayclean and Open Word.
“He represented the WPA in parliament between 1985 and 1991. During that time he was an outstanding example of an MP serving the people, the national constituency. During his sojourn in parliament there was no issue not worthy of discussion, and he laid very important and path-breaking motions in parliament including motions on national dialogue and women’s rights.
“In taking his parliamentary tenure very seriously, the WPA MP also revived the use of the Committee of Supply. This committee was considered a boring and exacting chore, yet Kwayana would exult in its detail much to the chagrin of his fellow parliamentarians and colleagues. The larger opposition in Parliament was forced by example to embrace the Committee of Supply as an important arena of public business.
“Kwayana’s diligence for the expanded use of Parliament extended to the activity of the Ombudsman, and this prompted a letter from a former Ombudsman who stated that Eusi Kwayana was the “only MP using the constitutional right of an MP to request the Ombudsman to carry out investigations.”
“The other source of Kwayana’s parliamentary performance is related to character. His legendary honesty, independent thinking, and gift for legislative detail, together with his own unique style of political praxis were the other factors in his parliamentary zeal. Is Kwayana’s attention to detail and the pushing of parliamentary frontiers during his sojourn in the Assembly now irrelevant? Are the Guyanese people especially the working people – adequately and actively represented in today’s parliament?
“His anti-corruption activities are remarkable by any standard. One story stands as testament to his unflinching antagonism to public and private corruption of many forms. Once sent to represent Guyana in Africa he received a thousand dollar cheque for ‘additional expenses, and inconveniences.’ Kwayana sent it back to the Public Treasury. He received another and sent that back too with a note stating that he had not had ‘any additional expenses’ and that he had not been ‘inconvenienced in the least.’
“This public morality and scrupulousness with public funds is now sadly far, far away from the public standards in Guyana today under the current regime where corruption has become the way of life, and the edict of Guyana’s governmental life. At this time when the country is awash with corruption, ethnic division, violent crime and the abuse of women and children, the study of Kwayana’s life, example and work is even more imperative. Today the Working People’s Alliance calls for renewed vigour not only in publishing, honouring and celebrating the life of this great Guyanese, but for young and old, men and women, to especially follow his example of selflessness to the public cause and incorruptibility.
“We in the Working Peoples Alliance know we are at one with the organizers (the First of August movement) of today’s event and friends gathered here today in declaring that brother Eusi Kwayana continues to inspire with his incisive intellect, global humanism, activism and general example.”