Miles was a revolutionary democrat

Dear Editor,

He abhorred labels, stereotyping and sycophancy.

He didn’t mind belonging to a political party like the PPP but he was passionate about independence of thought, freedom to express one’s views and to openly criticize and disagree when it became necessary to do so.

Freedom and democracy, opposition to dictatorial rule in any shape or form, the right to a fair trial and, above all free and fair elections were all within his bailiwick.

Miles Fitzpatrick was a straight and sharper shooter with language. That was his style.

I witnessed his legal and political prowess at work on two eventful periods in our country’s political history.

Those two events brought us together sometimes directly others indirectly.

First, was  the time when he joined the Arnold Rampersaud Defence Committee. The committee comprised a battery of distinguished legal luminaries from home and abroad.

I had the good fortune as a Freedom House ‘apparatchik’ at that time to sit in at meetings of the Defence Committee principally to listen and learn from a powerful legal team led by B.O. Adams.

Miles was an integral part of that team whenever they sat down to strategize about arguments to be used for Arnold’s trial.

Miles contributed in no small way to the team’s eventual winning the case in court.

My next encounter with Miles was before he joined the then newly established Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) created through the instrumentality of the Carter Center with Rudy Collins as chairman.

Our meetings took place while I served as the sole opposition representative on the then Elections Commission chaired by Sir Harold Bollers.

Acting on the advice of Dr. Jagan, Miles and I would meet in caucus at the chambers of de Caires and Fitzpatrick on King Street. Bud Mangal, Ayube McDoom and Ralph Ramkarran would join in those meetings in preparation for upcoming meetings of the Elections Commission.

It was during these meetings that, as far as I can recall, the best in Miles shone through not necessarily as a lawyer but more as revolutionary democrat who spoke out principally in favour free and fair elections.

His approach was more realistic, never legalistic.

Mangal, Fitzpatrick and Ramkarran who I call the ‘Magnificent Three’ became the new members under the chairmanship of the newly established GECOM.

GECOM has its first statutory meeting on June 18, 1991.

Miles was at Freedom House on October 5, 1992 just around 3 pm on elections day. He had just made one of his regular election day’s  rounds visiting polling stations in Georgetown.

An angry and violent crowd numbering about 500, suddenly descended on Robb Street in front of Freedom House claiming that they had been disenfranchised and demanding the right to vote.

The building was stoned and the windscreen of Miles’ car was partly damaged.

The crowd was dispersed by the police.

The ‘Magnificent Three’ constituted a formidable team. They worked in close cooperation with representatives of the Carter Center Mission, Mr George Fleming Jones, the then US Ambassador to Guyana and other stakeholders including the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB), the Guyana Council of Churches and the human rights association (GHRA).

Together with their impartial and level-headed Chairman and against tremendous odds, they delivered the first free and fair elections in Guyana after 28 years of elections that were deemed as ‘crooked as barbed wire’.

Miles himself nor his valuable contributions to the establishment of democracy in general and free and fair elections in Guyana may not be known by the generation of Guyanese born after 1992 but those of us who had the pleasure and privilege to work with him will always cherish his love for law, freedom and democracy.

RIP Miles

Yours faithfully,

Clement James Rohee

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