I read several commentaries in the Guyana l papers, including the non-factual, sarcastic critique with unsubstantiated remarks of one GHK Lall (KN Nov 5) on the suitability of academic Dr. Vishnu Bisram to serve as an Ambassador (High Commissioner) of Guyana to India. Let me offer some corrections to Lall’s contentions and testimonials of Dr Bisram’s character.
I got to know Vishnu Bisram first hand, personally, and in depth since his first year in college in September 1977 thru now and can attest to his volunteerism, philanthropy, intellect, knowledge of diplomacy, struggle against the Guyanese dictatorship, contributions to organizing the diasporas of Guyana, Trinidad, India, and other countries, founding of Guyanese and Trini organizations, working with other immigrant groups in USA, voluntary reporting as a journalist, op ed commentaries, polling, fundraising capacity, and more – credentials that make him the ideal person to be Guyana’s person in Delhi. He stood unique in his incalculable contributions to the Guyanese diaspora and to Guyana itself. There was and is hardly any comparison with any other figure in the diaspora. He totally immersed himself in a struggle for the liberation of Guyana and who has volunteered his time from the 1960s to now to champion Guyana’s interests as well as those of the her diaspora and India and it’s diaspora. What other Guyanese from the diaspora or in Guyana, other than Dr Jagan, has done so?
At City College in NY in the Fall of 1977, there were several students from Guyana but no Guyanese students club. Indian West Indians got to know each other through the India Students Club. Indian students, regardless of nationality, gravitated towards the India Club founded by students who preceded us. Two youngsters stood out – Vishnu Bisram and Baytoram Ramharack, both Guyanese who through their activism and writings would acquire eminence like few others West Indian students. Bisram recruited students to attend India Club Thursday meetings and organized activities, various cultural celebrations, and refreshments for same. There was not an Indian West Indian Club. The Caribbean Students Association did not welcome Indo-Caribbeans who were also not comfortable in the India Club.
Bisram, Ramharack, myself and a few others founded the Indo Club (that attracted Indian students from Africa, Caribbean, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere – a true Indian diaspora organization) in late Fall 1977 and began organizing activities centring on Indian culture and campaigning against the Burnham dictatorship. Indo Club organized protests, marches, rallies, petition drives, and picketing exercises, and we published newsletters (focusing on rights abuses) on Guyana and the Guyanese diaspora in America. Bisram and Ramharack were the key contributors of those exercises. I served as mentor and ideologue to both.
Bisram and Ramharack were pre-med majors in their Freshmen year. I was a political science major and their senior. I pointed out to them that Guyana lacked political and social scientists and that they would be more useful and an asset to Guyana and the struggle against the Burnham dictatorship if they were to study politics or the social sciences. Ramharack switched major going on to do BA, MA, PhD in Pol Science. After completing his BS in Bio-Chem, Bisram pursued MAs and PhDs in Pol Sci and several other social science subjects as well as Educational Administration.
Ramharack, Bisram and I contributed significantly to the struggle against the Burnham dictatorship like few others did. They displayed unparalleled courage in opposing Burnhamism. In addition, they were outstanding researchers. I collaborated with both and Ravi Dev in conducting opinion polls in Guyana, and I also worked very closely with Dr. Bisram in conducting polls in Trinidad and Tobago. Their writings and activism in the Guyanese diaspora are recognized globally. Their struggle against the dictatorship is most deserving of recognition and rewards. I do believe that had it not been for them, and the group I belonged to, Guyana would have remained a dictatorship instead of transitioning into a democracy in 1992. Dr. Bisram continued his activism till now. He was again in action to protect democracy daily between March 2 and August 2, 2020 the way few others did. He worked publicly as well as quietly behind the scenes influencing key officials internationally as well as within Guyana to bring about a change in administration. His championing of democracy in and of itself is worthy of the highest political appointment or elective position.
Ramharack and Bisram are noteworthy scholars with many publications. They are intellectuals in International Relations, Foreign Policy, and Diplomacy. That should qualify them for positions in foreign affairs. In Addition, Dr. Bisram has a post graduate degree in Economics and International Trade that is an asset to any government in the field of foreign affairs. He us also a foremost specialist in diaspora affairs. And he has a lot of practical experience in international diplomacy having met and worked with diplomats and world leaders of many countries through his wide travels. Ge engaged several Prime Ministers, Ministers, diplomats of India, nit the least being Narendra Modi. He spent considerable amount of time in India as a student, guest lecturer, and visitor. He knows India like no Guyanese or West Indian. He is the ideal person for the position in India and is truly deserving of it for all he has done for his homeland. It is not an understatement to say Guyana would have languished under continuous authoritarian rule had Dr Bisram, Dr Ramharack, and a few others, including I, not led a struggle from abroad to help liberate the country in 1992 and again in 2020.