During my stay in New Delhi, I was informed of the passing of my friend Lionel Peters, well known as ‘Lio’ among the small group of us who fought in the campaign against the PNC dictatorship. I remember him very well. In the recent past, I lauded his contributions in that campaign. Lio was a participant of the struggle long before I joined the movement on the Corentyne and continuing nonstop in New York in 1977. He served with distinction and honour and deserves the highest recognition the country can offer. Few served with so much compassion, dedication and commitment and fewer were accorded the respect granted to Lio. He was not given his due credit for his role in the PPP – organizing sporting activities, political work and writing for Mirror. He and his family suffered tremendously because of his political activism.
I knew Lio since the early 1970s while attending Corentyne High school with his younger siblings. When his father passed away around 1976, I went to the funeral – a reflection of the respect I had for this outstanding family who were political activists of the PPP. I also visited Lio several times when he and his family moved to Georgetown. During every visit to Guyana since 1981, almost annually thereafter, I met him to interact on
political affairs over a drink or a meal or at a soft ball match that he organized. I accompanied him to several press conferences travelling with his scooter; he was an excellent journalist and I assisted him with investigative reporting requesting a book from me on the subject during the late 1980s. Few among the current crop of leaders worked as hard as he did.
Lio was among the hardest field workers of the PPP I ever met or worked with; he took me to several press conferences, sporting activities, and drinking sessions (at home and at clubs with several politicians including some who have left the PPP). He was also excellent in the kitchen going out of his way to entertain us with the finest dishes; he was an extremely well rounded handy person who was very good in everything he did.
The PPP had few political organizers with the courage and skills of Lio. He was never afraid to enter into enemy territory and was often physically abused by agents of the state; in fact, one of his sons was also repeatedly abused by PNC agents (graphically described to me by Lio). Lio spent countless nights in the lock-ups for his struggle to liberate Guyana. Lio was constantly on the ground organizing activities for the PPP and never took a vacation, not even when he was actually working for the state. While others in the great PPP pretended to work and took vacations, Lio actually worked on the ground to build support for the party. He sold the Mirror newspaper and he distributed party literature even while he was a worker for the electricity company or holding other positions. But his opposition to Dr and Mrs Jagan from 1996 as well as his opposition to other political stalwarts (for reasons I prefer not to reveal) would lead to his political demise. He developed great dislike for the Jagans for their failure to elevate him to a respectable position that he truly deserved (I raised the issue with Dr Jagan and would prefer not to reveal the reason at this time). Lio erroneously joined the PNC. That was a serious political blunder for it turned his closest friends (some of whom are now with the AFC) against him, especially after the violence against Indians in December 1997; his then PPP friends appealed to me to speak to him about his involvement with the militant wing of the PNC between 1997 and 2001. Lio was not one to cool off in his attacks on the PPP though he never attacked his closest PPP friends.
Lio eventually broke ranks with the PNC; he told me why he joined the PNC but never revealed why he broke with the PNC. There is no doubt, as so many attested to me in confidence, Lio erred in his support of Hoyte and the PNC in 1997 and 2001. He ended up supporting the AFC in 2006. In 2011, he went solidly with Moses Nagamootoo, his buddy friend since the 1970s. With the AFC, he was also an outstanding organizer and he was also great with writing several letters under his name as well as a fictitious name in support of the AFC and against the PPP. The AFC will miss his organizational skills.
In the death of Lionel Peters, Guyana has lost a very important political personality that the nation has known little about. He was a distinguished member of the pro-democracy movement that had few foot soldiers like him and who served with such commitment. My deepest condolences to his lovely wife Christine, four children and other family members. Lio will be sorely missed. May his soul rest in eternal peace.