A meet and right honour for a Caribbean journalist Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 25, 2002

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DURING a border flare-up between Guyana and Suriname in the late 1960s, a local journalist travelled to Paramaribo with the hope of interviewing the then Premier of Suriname Dr Yohan Pengel. The Dutch leader, however, refused to grant the Guyanese journalist an audience. Upon his return to his homeland, the journalist wrote an article which was published in the Sunday Graphic under the caption, “Twelve questions Dr Pengel wouldn’t answer.”

That journalist was Mr Rickey Singh.

Around the same period, the statue of the late Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow was mounted with great fanfare and pride in the courtyard of the Public Buildings, the traditional seat of government of this country. Almost immediately, a controversy flared up over the faithfulness of the statue to the image of the man it represented. Many argued that it was not a true likeness of Critchlow, the man revered as the ‘Father of Trade Unionism’ in Guyana. For weeks the controversy raged. Then Rickey Singh penned a feature, again for the Sunday Graphic. In that article, he meticulously set out the views of prominent persons in the art world, Critchlow’s relatives, and his living contemporaries in the labour movement. One close relative of the respected artist E.R. Burrowes, who had sculpted the work, lamented the criticisms heaped on Burrowes. The artist and teacher had been mortally ill when he completed the work and had died shortly afterwards. The late Basil Hinds, educator, jazz enthusiast and art critic, explained in that article that Burrowes had employed the ‘Rodinist’ style of sculpture. Another factor had to do with the vibrations that shook the earth every time a train passed for he lived close to the railway. These vibrations, in fact, affected the outcome of the Burrowes’ work, Hinds argued. The article on the Critchlow statue was one of the most comprehensive pieces of writing in its time. And to Rickey Singh’s credit, after its publication, the firestorm over the Critchlow statue fizzled out. It was as if all the critics were chastened by the revelation that its maker, himself, was summoning superhuman strength and will to complete the work that he knew would be his last.

Mr Rickey Singh, who tomorrow receives an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the Cave Hill, Barbados Campus of the University of the West Indies, is arguably the Caribbean’s most widely acclaimed and respected journalist. He has established his credentials as a champion of the voiceless and a moving spirit in the promotion of Caribbean integration. Heads of Government and Chief Executive Officers of regional agencies and organisations, not only accept his calls they also return calls to him.

A few of his contemporaries believe that some of his best and most potent writings were done in the 1970s and 1980s when he wrote for the Guyana Graphic and when he edited the Caribbean Contact. While in his homeland, Rickey Singh’s Sunday columns and coverage and analyses of national budgets and conferences were the staple fare of politicians, intellectuals, academics, his fellow media practitioners, and the man-in-the-street. He has an intuitive grasp of political issues at the local, regional and international levels and possesses the acumen to sift meaning and significance from a welter of verbal fluff.

As editor of the Caribbean Contact, Rickey Singh strove to meld the voices of the region’s leading thinkers to articulate a broad consensus of human aspiration. Not only did he focus on the many vexing socioeconomic problems afflicting the peoples of the Caribbean, he generously allowed persons the opportunity of expressing their views, analyses and opinions to the widest Caribbean audience of the time. Scores of articles that were first published in the Contact under Rickey’s watch are now authentic and treasured items in various prestigious chronicles and annals. Other articles have become the bases for further academic investigation both within and outside the region. Were it not for Rickey Singh’s enquiring mind such insightful articles might have been gathering dust on various shelves in many Caribbean territories.

We wish to salute our colleague for attaining this honour and recognition.