In Guyana, there are only a few good role models. The first time I met and heard Dr Yesu Persaud speak was at his book-signing ceremony. One of the questions which I asked my friends was who in Guyana is a good role model that they looked up to. Without exception, everyone said that they could not think of a good role model they looked up to. I find it appalling, shameful and sad that no one could think of one good role model. Two of my friends did mention Joe Singh (Maj Gen rtd). Sadly, they couldn’t think of any pastors.
To my surprise no one ever mentioned Dr Yesu Persaud who I think is one of the country’s most formidable and distinguished role models. He is one of Guyana’s most powerful business leaders, having led Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), Demerara Bank Limited and the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED). He succeeded because he surrounded himself with his competent enemies rather than incompetent friends.
At the launching of his book, Reaching for the Stars, I listened to his friends describe this short but a giant of a man, and I felt proud to be in his presence and even more proud that he is Guyanese. He is an icon, and a rare one; too bad he is not 40 years younger. This country could use his intellect, wisdom, leadership and compassionate heart.
I believe Dr Persaud’s humble upbringing helped him to be a compassionate leader, philanthropist and someone who deeply cared for the less fortunate. He is one of the rare men who didn’t forget where he came from. Even though he built great wealth, he didn’t hoard it, but shared it with the needy. He never flaunted it and was humble with it.
He loves his country and fellow citizens. You can hear it in his voice. It comes from his heart. He doesn’t fake it. He can’t fake it. It is genuine. He loves all people. He doesn’t believe in his people and her people. He believes every person is the same. One race, one blood and one people – the Guyanese people. This is extraordinary for a man who was born in the 1920s during an era when people were more racially divided than today. This speaks of the calibre of the man. He comes across as someone who does not have a prejudiced bone in his body. I credit it to his parents and upbringing.
The era that he was raised in gave him his moral values. He learned and practised faithfulness to his spouse. He said he was tempted many times, but he chose fidelity. What an example of faithfulness he set for other men to follow. How many men can say that?
Moreover, not only in the moral realm did he set an example for citizens to follow, he also set an example in the political realm as well. For example, at the above event, he said, “Some politicians don’t care about the poor, they only care about putting money in their pockets.” I was dumbfounded and shocked to hear this because this is the first time in Guyana I ever heard anyone say such words before, and especially in the presence of the Prime Minister and politicians. He is courageous. This is why I say he is rare.
Dr Persaud is a good role model. On the other hand, he isn’t flawless. His life is a life of contradictions. I’m speaking about selling alcohol. Here is a man who has done so much good for people but sells alcohol, which like poison slowly kills so many of the very people he cares so much about. I don’t know if he ever thought about this contradiction in a superior and distinguished career.
I’ve mixed emotions about Dr Persaud. On the one hand, he is in my top ten of the greatest role models our country ever produced. On the other hand, he was in a business that helped destroy the moral fabric of a country he deeply loved. For a man who is the tip of the spear when it comes to being honourable, I wish he had been in a business that made pharmaceuticals which saved lives instead.
I believe that alcohol is responsible for more deaths and damage to our country than anything else. For example, it causes rapes, domestic violence, car accidents, suicides, homocides, alcoholism, school dropouts, loss of income, teenage pregnancy, homelessness, men abandoning families, fatherless homes,
Unfortunately, he’ll be remembered more for making alcohol and less for all the good that he has done. My hope is that he would recognize this weakness in an exemplary life and career. I want to thank Dr Persaud for writing the book and hope that he would encourage others leaders like June Mendes of Farfan & Mendes to do likewise. Do you know how many women would be inspired to go into business if they read her story. I would like to see more Guyanese write books to inspire young people by sharing their experience strength and hope.