Former GAWU president has passed

Dear Editor,

It is with sadness that I learned of the passing of New York based Albert Boodhoo, who was a grass-roots activist of the PPP and a strong trade unionist who served GAWU and the working class with distinction. He greatly admired Dr Jagan for his selfless struggle against the exploitation of the working class, and he took a page out of Jagan’s life to serve the sugar workers. He also fought against the PNC dictatorship for the restoration of democracy and supported our struggle in NY.

Albert, as we called him in NY, came from humble beginnings on the Corentyne with his parents, grandparents and great grands tied to the sugar estate. Not surprisingly, he grounded with the poor and the working class and was committed to improving their lot.

I first met Albert around 1991 in Richmond Hill at a public forum when I was a discussant on the freedom struggle against the PNC dictatorship. He gravitated towards me for my political analysis on Guyana. He was at several political meetings thereafter, even after the restoration of democracy, and he attended several cultural events including the annual Phagwah parade.

Boodhoo was a supporter of the Association of Concerned Guyanese NY branch, though not an activist like others who were members of the ACG or the handful of us not affiliated with a party. Albert attended several meets when Dr Jagan, Mrs Jagan, Mr Sam Hinds, and Mr Bharrat Jagdeo visited our community in Queens and addressed the public giving updates on the political situation. He also admired the political work and intellect of stalwarts like Ralph Ramkarran and Moses Nagamootoo, and was most disappointed that both left the party they served for almost fifty years each.

He especially praised Mr Ramkarran, who he felt, would have made an excellent president, and though he was the most qualified to lead Guyana. I did not see Boodhoo when President Ramotar visited over the last several years; understandably, he was wheelchair bound.

In our limited interaction, Albert gave a lot of details about Guyana’s politics, race relations and labour affairs. He would ask about my polls and was concerned about Guyana’s politics and the direction of the PPP. He was a source of information on several topical issues, and possessed a tremendous amount of knowledge on labour issues.

He was a human library on labour matters; he knew virtually everything about the history of labour even though he was not college educated.

Albert was a fine gentleman who exuded compassion for the dispossessed and poor working class. He was professional in his demeanour and spoke candidly about politics in his former homeland. He was not afraid to speak out against what he perceived to be errors made by the PPP administration post-Cheddi and Janet Jagan.

He felt the working class was being neglected and not much was being done to alleviate the hardship of sugar workers.

I was not aware that Albert was ailing, and it was only recently I inquired about his well-being as well as that of his partner whom we called Bristol and whom I met several times in Queens.

During his stint as GAWU President, he interacted with 20,000 sugar workers and the leadership as well as membership of other unions. I join with friends and former sugar workers in saying farewell to a former stalwart of GAWU for his outstanding contribution to labour activism and workers’ rights in Guyana. His deeds in the fight for the restoration of democracy and for the dignity of the working class in our homeland will remain deep in our memory.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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