Award to Ambassador Ishmael should have been covered
Stabroek News
January 31, 2002

Dear Editor,

It was fascinating to learn from Ellen DeFreitas' letter (SN, January 27, 2002) just how prestigious is the King Legacy Award for International Service that was granted to Guyana's Ambassador to Washington, Dr. Odeen Ishmael, on January 21. The date marked the celebration of Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday in the United States. The award recognizes outstanding individual performances in public life that correspond to the ideals and principles of King's philosophy and programme. I had known that US Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, was among the select few past recipients but it was news that other awardees have included Muhammad Ali, Kofi Annan, Bob Dole and Edward Kennedy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had impressed both the late Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan in major ways. This is one reason why, when he became premier in 1964 and prime minister in 1966, Burnham recruited a number of African-American specialists in such areas as communications to be advisers. Cheddi Jagan went further. He dispatched Dr. Ishmael to Atlanta in the early 1990s to meet with the King executives for advice on how to tackle the race problem in Guyana towards peaceful solution. The design and purpose of the Guyana Race Relations Commission (yet to be named) reflects input from the King Center in Atlanta.

Given the above, I remain surprised that Stabroek News has not published the press release about this award - especially in view of the racial problems in Guyana which are very much still present. Currently, there is an absence of physical violence but this does not mean that peace has been achieved; just like cessation of rain does not mean the end of it in inclement weather.

Most reports on race and race relations involving Guyana tend to be negative. This one about the King award is a positive, uplifting story. And Stabroek News has been a leader on the issue of racial sensitivity and the need to get out important information expeditiously to the public. Evidence the editorials of Saturday, January 26 and Monday, January 28, 2002. Whoever made a decision not to publish the news story about Dr. Ishmael's winning the prestigious King Legacy Award for International Service made a terrible judgment call. Still not convinced? The Voice of America (VOA) conducted a one-hour interview with the ambassador about the award on their Caribbean Perspective programme. And the Association of Caribbean Elected Officials and leaders which is headquartered in New York, and comprises city, state and national leaders, paid tribute to Dr. Ishmael, stating that the award marked a signal "honour to Guyana and the Caribbean. The Washington Times newspaper in the capital city carried a story about it and so will the influential Diplomat in its next edition.

Yours faithfully,

Festus L. Brotherson, Jr.

Editor note:

The information came to us in the form of an e-mail which we regret was then mislaid. We certainly agree that the award should be reported, and we have belatedly done so.