It is with profound sadness that I received the news of the passing of Governor Lawrence Williams while at work at the Bank of Guyana last Wednesday. There was almost stillness in the air as staff of the central bank received that sad news. Within minutes tributes started to roll in that stretched beyond the shores of Guyana.
I first became acquainted with the late Governor Williams in 1988 while working at the State Planning Secretariat as Guyana was preparing the Policy Framework Paper to enter negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. However, we developed a close working relationship in January of 1995 when he was appointed Director of Operations and me, Assistant Director with the setting up of the International Department at the Bank of Guyana. Moving from the Research Department to operations was challenging but I benefited from his years of experience on operational issues like foreign currency lending, borrowing by foreign companies, domestic debt and implementation of the Exchange Control Act that was still in force at the time. He later became Banking Manager with continued responsibility for the International Department and our relationship was always cordial. I went to Washington in 1997 and later returned to work under him as Governor with the same mutual respect.
The other side of his life apart from professional that he enjoyed was social. We are both ardent and passionate fans of cricket and enjoyed cricket at Bourda. I remember the West Indies vs. England at Bourda in February 1994 when Chanderpaul made his test debut batting with Jimmy Adams; during the lunch session he told me that Chanderpaul would be a permanent fixture in the West Indies team. Present, at Bourda on that eventful Saturday morning was Clyde Walcott, then President of the ICC, Rohan Kanhai was manager/coach and Roy Fredericks was a selector for the West Indies, two persons responsible not only for placing Guyana on the map of the cricketing world but who as administrators nurtured and identified great talent that sustained the West Indies as a superpower of the cricketing world. This is in stark contrast to the kind of administration in the region’s cricket today. At the end of a day’s play in the usual Guyanese Creole parable he would say let us have a drink for the road which usually ended up with four for the road given the amount of acquaintances at Bourda who would offer a drink. I think the pathetic state of West Indies cricket made him sick more so the poor performance of the Guyana cricket team recently. We met every Friday for Reserve committee meetings of which the Governor was chairperson. Most times the end of the meeting would be followed by short discussions on cricket.
Governor Williams had a good sense of humour it was never boring to be in his company. Some time back he was being introduced by the late Mr Henry Rahaman of the Human Resources Department who spoke of him being very proud to be a grandfather. The Governor could hardly hold his smile. As he got up to speak he said jokingly to Mr Rahaman, I have made sure that you don’t know much more about me, to the amusement of the audience. The human side of him was second to none.
He was very meticulous with his writing with a first draft being followed by several changes. He loved to put his instructions in writing and would consult widely with all relevant stakeholders before making a decision. His passing is certainly like a death in the Bank’s family.
Governor Williams was never one to flaunt his power. His trademark smiles; long hours of work were much part of his life as his shining commitment to honesty and accountability in public affairs. Most of his achievement was at a young age and he even died at relatively young, only a few months before retirement. However, I have no doubt he lived a full and enjoyable life.
Rest in Peace Governor your good work will live on.