Looking back at the struggle for democracy

Stabroek News
July 16, 1998

President Janet Jagan was part of the audience in the Savannah Suite at the Le Meridien Pegasus on Tuesday night which celebrated the launching of Roman Catholic priest Father Andrew Morrison's book, "Justice, The Struggle for Democracy in Guyana 1952-1992".

The 419-page volume, the first book written and published by the elderly Jesuit, often described as a tenacious and unrelenting fighter for democracy in Guyana, chronicles aspects of Guyana's political and social development from the early Jagan years to the Hoyte era.

The programme included a tribute to Father Morrison, for years editor of the outspoken Catholic Standard newspaper, by Attorney-at-law Miles Fitzpatrick S.C., selected readings from the book and comments by Guyana's newest author.

Fitzpatrick, chairman of the proceedings, described Father Morrison as "a most remarkable man who never really was trained as a journalist" adding, much to the amusement of the gathering, "and I think still shows it from time to time".

The eminent lawyer, who was himself a part of the struggle against the excesses of the Burnham regime, said Father Morrison always did what his conscience dictated and "assumed that everybody would support him, both financially and otherwise".

"He became a symbol of renewed energies of the Catholic Church in Guyana and of the Christian Church in Guyana confronting a struggle not for survival of the Church but for the dignity of the population", Fitzpatrick said.

He said the book by Father Morrison, "Morro" as he is called by his many friends and associates, tells much of the history of that period in Guyana as recorded by the Catholic Standard.

In his foreword to the book, Jesuit Michael Campbell-Johnson, former Head of the Jesuits in Britain, South Africa and here in Guyana said the book "needed to be written",

"It charts the Odyssey of a small nation in search of its soul as it struggles to find an identity after a history of borrowed meanings and alien cultures", Campbell-Johnson said in his foreword.

He expressed the hope that the example of Father Morrison and the story he tells in his book be studied by a new generation of younger Guyanese many of whom will be unfamiliar with the events recorded.

And Albert Rodrigues a member of the Catholic Standard editorial committee who wrote the preface to the book described it as "an invaluable source of information on Guyanese history". Part One of the book deals with the early Jagan years and includes such topics as the People's Progressive Party take over of schools in 1960, United States pressure to oust Dr Cheddi Jagan and the attempt by the British Secret Service to recruit a priest.

Part Two deals with the Burnham years including the concept of Party Paramountcy, indoctrination and militarisation and Mass Games, the abuse of the electoral system and "Big Brotherism" against the church media and schools.

Part Three continues on the theme of Party paramountcy and Part Five deals with the Hoyte Years including Hoyte's Repatriation of Funds Libel Case, the Thallium Scare, and the coming of Guyanese Action for Reform and Democracy (GUARD).

Roxanne Kawall, Joan Rodrigues, Father Compton Meerabux and Catholic Standard Editor Colin Smith read selected sections of the text.

Father Morrison in an emotional address that was filled with humour and reminisces of the past thanked the many persons whom he said made the project come to a successful conclusion.

"I could not have done it without some of you here and my many friends out there who carried on the struggle", Morrison said.

The book took two years to complete and according to the Jesuit priest was in many ways a tribute to many courageous people like the late Father Darke and Dr Walter Rodney and people in all religions and walks of life who contributed to the struggle to bring democracy to Guyana.

Father Morrison, who received six international awards for the Catholic Standard and his own struggle for a just society in Guyana in particular spoke of the sterling work done over the years by the staff of the paper.

The cover photo of the book features Jesuit Father Bernard Darke being chased across the road before being beaten and stabbed by members of the House of Israel on Saturday July 14, 1979. Members of the audience at Le Meridien included Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Yesu Persaud, Accountant Christopher Ram, Guyana Publications Limited General Manager Doreen de Caires, members of the Roman Catholic clergy, staff of the Catholic Standard and numerous friends of Father Morrison.

The book will shortly be on sale at city book stores at a price of $2000. It was printed by the Red Thread Woman's Press and edited by Andaiye.