A salute to Cammie Ramsaroop

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Dear Editor

decent and humble man! Cammie Bishwaishwar Ramsaroop was a PNCR political icon, and public servant. He has left an indelible mark in the party and Guyana.

It is with deep sadness that I pen these lines to reflect on a true PNC/PNCR stalwart, and intellect. He was an ardent public servant, distinguished orator, astute legal mind and former chairman of the PNCR.  Comrade Cammie Bishwaishwar Ramsaroop was a comrade of no ordinary means. I have known Cde. Ramsaroop for all of my, almost 3, decades of PNCR activism. He was a humble, friendly and thoughtful comrade who was always willing and ready to give of his expertise and advise. A few days ago, one of my sisters called and informed me that Mr. Ramsaroop had passed. She knew that I had a great admiration for him. After the call, I felt instantly hallow inside as I began to reflect on his contribution to the PNCR Party, Guyanese politics and public service. Cammie Ramsaroop has made significant contributions in all these areas. He was a true Guyanese Patriot.

During the PNC’s,  continuous, 28 years of government, Mr. Ramsaroop held several important offices. These included; Minister of Housing and Reconstruction, Minister of Trade, Vice President among others. During the coalition government’s tenure in office, he serves as the High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago. He was a man of tremendous talent and skills.

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I met Mr. Ramsaroop during my early days as group chairperson of the Werk-en-Rust GYSM. Prior to then I heard a lot about him. Comrades spoke of him in glowing terms. One of the things they boasted about was his oratorical skills and his conversational approach to problem solving. I was eager to meet this man ‘Cammie’, as he was fondly called. So, not long after I was elected group chair, I finally met Cde. Ramsaroop at a General Council Meeting of the party. He was truly one of the most distinguished, but yet humble people I have met. His charisma and interactive style were fascinating to watch. As he approached the entrance to the auditorium someone yelled “Cammie” and he instantly turned in the direction of the person and began to walk towards him. Once he was done chatting with the man, he turned to a woman and greeted her. He stopped and greeted people before he could take his seat on the stage, this seemed to have been his style. When the meeting broke for lunch it was my time to meet him. So, I walked towards the stage before he came down and waited at the steps to meet him. He saw me waiting there and hasten his steps to reach me. As he approached me, I said, Hello Mr. Ramsaroop, and he immediately responded in his usual soft tone “no, no call me Cammie man, Cammie is alright”. I smiled and introduced myself and told him of the GYSM group I was a member of. We chatted for a while before he went to get his lunch. He was down to earth and friendly. Since that initial meeting Comrade Ramsaroop became one of my favorite PNCR politician. His humility and charisma stuck with me. He never missed the opportunity to ask how I was doing, personally or to find out about my wellbeing. During those long nights at central executive meetings, he would often ask how I was getting home and I would let him know that I was either driving or that someone was taking me home.

Many of us in the executive of the GYSM were very fond of Mr. Ramsaroop. We, in the leadership, disagreed on many things and root and align ourselves with many different candidates who vied for internal political office, but Comrade Ramsaroop was that one person whom many of us had little or no disagreement over. He was an icon and the consensus guy for many of us. Comrade Cammie, was a friend of the GYSM. When I served in the leadership of the GYSM, Mr. Ramsaroop was among some of our most devoted contributors to events organized by the organization. Whether we were having a leadership retreat or a fund raiser, his donation was secured. He was so eager to give to the GYSM that he would call to let me know that his donation was not picked up by anyone.  On occasions, Comrade Ramsaroop also served as a facilitator at the organization’s leadership retreat. He knew many of the leaders of the GYSM by name, this was how close and intimate he was to the organization. In 2002, when I was elected as National Chairperson of the GYSM, Cde. Ramsaroop ensured he reached out to congratulate me. He made sure to let me know I was making history and stated how proud he was of me. He was one of my silent but loyal supporters! He was resolute not loud!

Comrade Ramsaroop was an elegant and eloquent speaker. He would deliver the most complex and controversial topics with such poise and ease he left his audience in awe, craving more. A few days ago, I called the chairperson of the Washington DC PNCR Chapter, Valda Forsythe, to informed her of Cde. Cammie’s passing,  and she began to reflect on when she first heard him speak. She recalled that it was at a general council meeting. She remarked that she was almost at the edge of her seat watching every word as it came out of his mouth. She stated that her attentiveness to his presentation was captured by another comrade who came over, after the speech to touch her and remarked that; she didn’t miss a word. She said she was captivated by the delivery! Comrade Ramsaroop’s command of the English Language, coupled with his sophistication in delivery and style was always flawless. He spoke effortlessly with poise and confidence. His, almost, poetic technique drew his audience in, as vague ideas became almost photographic and technical jargons come alive. His diction was deliberate and captivating. Listening to Comrade Cammie speak was one of the things I made every effort to be present for. I recalled listening to him deliver the feature address at the National Congress of Women’s LFS Burnham remembrance event at the Kitty venue, a few years ago. He delivered a speech on Burnham’s, and the PNCR’s ideology , vision and policy. He spoke for more than an hour without referring to written notes. His knowledge and intimate connection to the facts were evident and he believed in what he was saying. He was invested in his presentation. His explanation of Burnham’s, and the PNCR’s, political ideology and the connection of that ideology to government’s policies and programs stuck with me. I watched him as he spoke with much dept and conviction about the information he was presenting. It was clear, Cde. Ramsaroop was a man who was invested in the work of his government, and believed in the vision associated with the policies of that government. He connected all the dots for those of us who were wondering or had little or no knowledge behind the thinking that led to specific government policies and programs. I left there with a clear understanding of the importance of political ideology and its relevance to public policy. After his speech, many people approached and greeted him. I saw him after and told him that I heard he used to rival Burnham with his speeches. He laughed and said “Lurlene not at all, Burnham was the best, I can’t reach Forbes there, man, that man used to mesmerize you with his brilliance and skills. I don’t know who can talk like Burnham”. He spoke of LFSB with much admiration, reverence and respect! I fathom, he was a real Burnhamite. He was steep in PNC and Guyana’s politics; he was one of those people in whom the institutional memory of the PNCR lay. Every time Comrade Cammie spoke, it was an opportunity to learn, and I never wanted to miss those opportunities, and there were several.

People like Cammie Ramsaroop represented the best of PNCR leadership. During the period he served as chairman of the party he took a decision to share the chairing of the CEC meeting with the then Vice Chairperson of the party. I was there when he made this announcement. I believe it was him recognizing that the party can only grow if we build capacity and provide opportunities for others to develop, and demonstrate their abilities to lead. He was not consumed by the office nor did he allow himself to be controlled by the enormity of the title. He was that humble! He was also quite grateful and jovial. I recalled that at the 2011 party congress Cde. Beni Rayman, a close ally of Mr. Ramsaroop, advised me that Cammie was running for chairman of the party. She knew of my relationship and belief in Cde. Ramsaroop and knew that I would immediately drop what I was doing to campaign for his election. However, about 30 minutes into my campaigning activities, I was told that Cde. Ramsaroop had withdrawn from the election, so I ended my canvassing exercise. After the elections I saw Cde. Cammie and before I could say anything he said “Lurlene thank you” , I told him I didn’t do anything he didn’t contest, he told me he knew I was canvassing for him and he appreciated it. We shared a joke about him withdrawing from the race before we went our separate ways. He saw me several times after that congress and every time he saw me, he was sure to thank me for campaigning for him. He said thank you for the smallest of kind gesture done.

Cammie Bishwaishwar Ramsaroop was a true stalwart and public servant. He was a true servant of the people. His lengthy, stellar and unblemished public service career is a testament to his character and talent. I witnessed his brilliance and political savviness on display, on many occasions. He was calm steady and deliberate with his words and demeanor. He was a good listener and loved to hear peoples’ opinions. He was thoughtful and kind. The PNCR is a better party because of the efforts and decades of political work of people like Comrade Cammie Ramsaroop. It is therefore, incumbent upon those of us who remain to preserve their legacies and work. The institution of the PNCR must be preserved as a reservoir that hold their contribution and as a monument of their work. Cde. Ramsaroop was a true PNCR icon, he was a loyal comrade, in season and out of season. I am glad that I was able to meet and know him. He earned my respect, from the day I met him and he has never disappointed me. He was a true leader. The PNCR has lost a part of its most long standing and trusted comrade, and Guyana has lost a humble statesman. We’ve lost one of Guyana’s most eloquent orators. We have lost a true servant leader and political icon. A humble icon who always insisted that I just call him Cammie,  something I could not do given my great respect and admiration for him.

We will forever, remember our fallen comrade, his portrait on the walls of the auditorium at Congress Place will remind us to speak his name at every party forum and in every group meeting. We must tell both the young and the new members about the contributions of Cammie Ramsaroop. They must know on whose shoulders they stand; they must understand that there are many who worked and sacrificed so that they can be; that they can aspire for political office because of the work of those who came before them. We must never take the sacrifices of those who came before us for granted. We should be forever grateful for their leadership and service. Albouystown gave us one of its finest sons! He was our Cammie!

Sincere Condolences to the wife and family of Comrade Cammie Ramsaroop, thanks for sharing him with the PNCR family and Guyana. He will be missec! Condolences to the PNCR family, Cde. Ramsaroop will be greatly missed. Rest in peace Cde. Cammie, until we meet again.

Sincerely,
Lurlene Nestor



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