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Letter from Oscar to Ralph – This is what friends are for


Dear Dr Gonsalves,

Greetings and Guidance.

I do pray that at this season, amidst the bustle and stress of your own and our nation’s business, you enjoy and cultivate health and peace. There is a policy matter that I must write to you about, but I will do so on another occasion. This letter is more personal, one friend writing to another through a public medium. It is to Ralph from Oscar.{{more}}

Dear Ralph,

As you know, circumstances and our own choices have linked our paths at one point and another. You have cited on occasion and I can specify that I was the 9th child to be born at our home in Colonarie and you were the 10th. Years later, you preceded me to the vibrant Mona Campus in Jamaica in answer to a political calling while mine was ‘gospel’. In the 1970s, you gave leadership to YULIMO through its socialist/YSG component-Caspar, Hugh Glenroy – initially in contrast with the ambivalence between Yulimo and me. And in 1979, you led, with PR Campbell and Renrick Rose, the insurgent and exciting United Peoples Movement (UPM), of which I was Chairman. When the PDM withdrew from the UPM alliance, you influenced their ignominious, even spineless retreat and in a not dissimilar clash of opinion and conduct, you yourself withdrew in 1982 from the UPM, the leadership of which I took up. This account is enough to establish our connectedness and which continues and which has been useful to me. Today, you are ‘Prince’ in our nation and I am ‘citizen’. Your nonsense about citizen being the highest office in our land does not establish the level playing field on which I operate in relation to the prince, nor is it because we are friends, nor because of the rights in the constitution. Our citizenship is a material property which a prince violates at his/her peril. It was said in the Burnham kingdom – Guyana – that “the mouth is muzzled by the bread (from Burnham) it needs to eat”.

Do not be misled by that calculation to multiply the number of Elvis Daniels, Bash Thomases and Kenroy Johnsons in your wake. A word to the wise works.

During much of the past 40 years or so, there are comrades and colleagues who have provided you with unstinting support, leadership and services. Caspar London is one such person. Today, he is infirm physically, and for a moment, materially, and you may be contributing directly to such depression as he is undergoing by turning a blind eye. He is your friend and your critical comrade. And Casper is only the most glaring case of your myopia or hypermetropia.

On a tangential note, it looks to me as if more than our other political leaders, you have turned some close political colleagues and comrades into harsh critics and soft opponents! Elwardo Lynch and Matthew Thomas had been leaders of your Movement for National Unity (MNU).

Are there pathogens/traits in your personal and political array of talents and practices which lead colleagues to distrust and divergence? That likelihood deserves your cool and analytic attention. Was it teacher Stephens at Colonarie who taught us this jingle: “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, the other gold”? It is ‘old school’ talk and quite opposed to the maxim: “In politics, hold no permanent friends, only permanent interests.” Could it be that you have ingested or somehow engineered this latter concept into the DNA of your persona?

As you realize, I am not the kind of friend who lavishes you with praise at any and every turn. You have too many such cheerleaders around you. Nearer the mark of what I do was our colleague Dwight, who, with generosity extended to me “… appreciation for your role of picking our consciousness in the region. Your contribution has been invaluable.”

Ralph, our common moral and intellectual sources do not allow either of us to mamaguy one another. Where your efforts are tainted and unworthy, I will on occasion tap you on the wrist. Yet it seems that you require more than the one-off wrist slap. Do not concern yourself if I do not join the back slapping chorus when your efforts are worthy of praise. The environment of praise and glory are just the thing to slide us into a proto-fascist superstructure path and that is definitely not my choice.

Am I requesting between the lines, some personal favour from you, some — not you — may ask? No, you owe me no favour, only your duty to all of us “to produce justice, to embody compassion and to deflate your ego before God.”