It is with deep sadness that I read of the recent passing of Rampersaud Tiwari in Toronto, formerly of Buxton, Guyana. He was an outstanding public servant in Guyana and a gentleman, with a long and distinguished career of service to our country, contributing to Guyana’s interests both at home and overseas. His wide experience in governance, knowledge of issues and government, and intellect saw him served important government office at various times. He served Her Majesty’s Government and post independent Guyana in the office of the Premier and Prime Minister – Premier Jagan and Prime Minister (President) Burnham – as PS. They both respected and admired him for his independence as a public servant and his compete, honesty, and integrity. He was a great human being. I cherish the memories of chats and encounters I had with him.
Tiwari left a special legacy in the civil service, unrivaled by successors. He was bright and sharp and got paper work done efficiently and quickly. Office duties came naturally to him. And both Jagan and Burnham were pleased with his performance. They trusted him and retained confidence in him to prepare memos and implement policies efficiently. He maintained secrecy in his duties regardless of his master (the Governor, Premier, PM), and he often served as a kind of liaison between Jagan and Burnham during their difficult relationship. He never violated his oath of office serving them separately. He unobtrusively made their office ran smoothly.
Tiwari came from Panditai (Brahmin) stock but instead of pursuing purohit activities for Hindus, he opted to serve the people in government. After doing well in school and passing the required exams, he was hired by the Colonial Government serving with distinction over two decades. Burnham used to call him Pandit because of his family background. And those who knew him continued that title of reverence and respect. Burnham and Jagan knew his family from Buxton and interacted with them. The family was very influential on the east coast. Eusi Kwayana grew up among them.
Tiwari was a man of humility, kindness, compassion who cared for others. Unfortunately, this is a legacy that today is neither embraced by much of the public, nor many public servants, and politicians. He was also a man finesse and panache. He taught how to respect others and follow or carry out orders. These are scarce qualities today.
We need to bring the kind of legacy of efficiency, hard work, honesty, and integrity back into the forefront of public life and politics. The public must demand more of its public servants, and government officials must rise to a higher level of expectations.
Tiwari and I spoke regularly over several years on a variety of issues. He was an encyclopedia, a dictionary. He would speak breathlessly and non-stop and afraid to voice opinions on governance. But the exchange became infrequent and disappeared altogether in the last year of his life. I probed him a lot and he had answers for very subject matter; he knew so many people including from my village of Ankerville, Port Mourant which he visited to meet with Jagan’s mother, Bachaoni. I learn so much local history from him, about Buxton, struggle for independence, arrest of PPP figures during the 1950s, Jagan’s mother, tensions and estrangement between Janet and Cheddi Jagan, Burnham’s opportunism, Balram Singh Rai, conflict between Rai and Jagan, Fenton Ramsahoye, Hamilton Green, Guianese participation in WWII (knew all the names who served), and so much more. He knew almost every aspect of Guyanese history, the conflict between Burnham and Jagan and how they communicated when Jagan was Opposition Leader and Burnham Premier and Prime Minister. Tiwari ran errands between them.
Tiwari knew the Hindu scriptures quite well and often quoted from them in conversations with me. He knew Hindi and also some Sanskrit, the mother of so many Indian and European languages. Although he worked for the highest office in the land, he did not forget his roots. He was a regular attendee at mandir and he engaged folks in the rural communities surrounding Buxton. He also maintained strong ties with extended families. He had not a cell of prejudice in him. Kwayana saluted him.
After retiring from public service, during the dark days of totalitarian rule, he migrated to join family members in Canada. There, he continued his religious services and found more time for exchange with those involved in the struggle for restoration of democracy and Indian rights in Guyana. He did not join the struggle but he supported it and commended those of us who courageously fought Burnhamism. He condemned Burnhamism. He praised the work of Canadian Guyanese including Sash Sawh and the New Yorkers like Ravi Dev, Vassan Ramracha, Baytoram Ramharack, Arjune Karshan, myself, and others for dedication to the movement for free and fair elections. He always said there were few like us committed to the struggle for the liberation of the Guyana homeland and for racial equality of Indian Guyanese. He was very close with Balram Singh Rai and made arrangements for me to meet with him.
He did tell me that once election was free and fair, Jagan would win. He was all in praise of our writings and of Harry Ramkhelawan and Bhaskar Sharma for Indo-Caribbean World and Equality Newspaper respectively. He also showered accolades on other publications for keeping the diaspora informed of community events and the homeland.
Tiwari presented papers at Indian diaspora and Guyanese conferences where we met including in Trinidad, Guyana, Canada, and India, among other places.
In 1992. Tiwari said he was asked by Jagan to be on the Civic list for the 1992 election. He politely declined. He also said Jagan wanted him to meet Martin Zephyr about assisting with governance. Tiwari met Jagan after he became President and was asked to assist with the management of the civil service. Tiwari was a model of integrity, ability, and public service that Dr. Jagan recognized.
Tiwari is deserving of our country’s highest honors. I will mis his long conversations. Belated sympathy to his family!