By Kris Kooblall
Mr. Balram Singh Rai who recently passed on January 6th, 2022 at the age of 101 years just weeks before his February 21st Birthday in Oxford on the outskirts of London, England, was amongst the most outstanding politicians that the colony British Guiana and Guyana ever produced and he is, in my view, one of the greatest Sons of Guyana.
It is extremely difficult to emerge from an experience of colonialism, slavery and indentureship and yet that is the environment from which this gentleman emerged and blossomed into an outstanding Guyanese statesman whose policies and actions were simply not only pragmatic and a direct fit to the overwhelming problems of the colony of British Guiana, but more importantly, his policies were simply ahead of it’s time as history has eloquently confirmed in hindsight.
The conceptual positions and policy actions of Mr. Balram Singh Rai were sound and he was able to read in accurate terms and scope how the developing world especially colonies like British Guiana ought to co-exist in a Cold War frigid environment given what had recently transpired in Europe after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and the Second World War in 1945.
I have studied very closely the evolution of political and social thought from the Renaissance onwards and the centuries leading into the Renaissance.
His ideas and actions were so consistent with reality that when they were implemented were met with overwhelming success and hence the fierce opposition from the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan and the late Mr. Forbes Burnham who greatly respected his abilities and extended several offers to join his government which were met with rejection.
As an ardent Arya Samajist, he believed in many of the principles of the sacred Vedic scriptures, the Vedas, which I also share and believe in entirely as well. So many of the official policy positions and actions that Mr. Rai took are the exact policy positions that I would take and believe in their merits.
Mr. Balram Singh Rai’s legacy has only just begun as what he expounded and spoke at length in his political campaign in 1964 for his Justice party has formed the basis and a platform that if these were implemented, Guyana would not be in such a horrific state such as it is currently in.
𝐓his extrapolation is based on what history has confirmed in the last several centuries and the laws of human behaviour and our ability to co-exist and survive as a specie.
It is indeed ironic that Mr. Balram Singh Rai did not fully grasp and understood the importance and power of the positions that he took and persevered in and his life of self exile in the UK were, in some ways, difficult and filled with dark spots of regret until he passed a few weeks ago in ill health.
Dr. Baytoram Ramharack wrote an autobiography on Mr. Balram Singh Rai, ‘Against the grain’ and in reading this splendid work, I developed a better understanding of the vital role that this gentleman was destined to play in British Guiana and Guyana, his native land.
I thank him for his outstanding service to British Guiana and Guyana and his greatest legacy and achievement is the act of kindness that history has bestowed on him.
Knighthood pales in comparison.
I have never met Mr. Balram Singh Rai as he was before my time and he has no relation to me in any way except we are both ardent Arya Samajists who practice the principles of Arya Samaj that our leader, Swami Dayanand Saraswati advocated in making the whole world noble, ‘Krinvanto Vishwam Aryam’
Courage requires distinction and cowardice requires company.
After his expulsion from the PPP in 1962, he formed the Justice Party and sought to get at least 4 seats in the Parliament in the 1964 general elections in the colony. One of his main pre-occupations was on what he was extremely courageous to call for which is the balancing of the ethnic composition of the law enforcement agency to reflect that of the general population.
In the 1964 national elections, the Justice Party of which he was the leader was bitterly defeated acquiring only 1260 votes and the subsequent events lead to his decision to be self exiled in 1970 in the United Kingdom. Living out his life in a new country brings it’s own challenges and with the gentleman’s regrets and declining health in his last days saw his departure to another shore on January 6th, 2022.
Mr. Balram Singh Rai’s handling of the Black Friday riots on February 16th, 1962 stands as a living testimony to his courage while the leaders of the The People’s Progressive Party/Civic especially the Jagans were in hiding.
At his passing, the supporters of the The People’s Progressive Party/Civic are alleging Mr. Balram Singh Rai as a racist and someone who endorses the caste system in the absence of any corroborating evidence and much to the contrary.
The late Dr. Cheddi Jagan rigged the internal party election in 1962 to install Mr. Brindley Benn as Chairman of the Central Committee and immediately thereafter applied to the Governor of the colony for Mr. Rai to be removed as Home Affairs Minister of the colony and subsequently expelled from the party.
Mr. Balram Singh Rai made several requests for the parliamentary pension that he is entitle to in law and was denied by both the Peoples Progressive Party and the Peoples National Congress. Mr. Rai’s instructions are that if the pension is paid for the entire amount to be donated to a charity, the Dharm Shala.
Mr. Balram Singh Rai’s greatest achievement lies posthumously after his death as history is kind to him and in his public life and therein lies his legacy and greatest achievement.