Well-deserved honour Guest editorial
Guyana Chronicle
November 4, 2002

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IN A GLITTERING ceremony at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex on October 26, three outstanding personalities from this region were awarded honorary degrees by the University of the West Indies (UWI). They were author Austin “Tom” Clarke, a former general manager of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation; Sir Wilfred Wood, British-based Anglican bishop; and journalist Rickey Singh.

Unlike some who, with varying degrees of success, remained anchored in the Caribbean, Clarke went to Britain and elsewhere to permit the full flowering of his sometimes-controversial literary content. Samples of his work have been published in NATION newspapers, which he has served as a columnist over the years.

He eventually made his base in Canada, writing on things Barbadian, seldom sparing the use of dialect to preserve their authentic cultural flavour. Controversial or not, Clarke has done more than most to stamp much of the congenial Barbadian persona on that North American country.

A graduate of Combermere School and Codrington College, the Right Reverend Sir Wilfred Denniston Wood served in a number of community and religious posts in Britain. His community roles reflect strong emphasis on improving race relations, especially working among thousands of Barbadians, West Indians and other immigrant communities in that country.

Sound training and outstanding Christian service led to his appointment as the first black Bishop of the Church of England, a position he used judiciously to build hope within and among racial minorities, and between those ethnic groups and native Britons.

In recognition of his exemplary service, the Government of Barbados conferred on him the accolade of Knight of St Andrew two years ago. Sir Wilfred now joins Sir Cuthbert Woodroffe, former Archbishop of the West Indies, as members of the clergy who have received the honorary degree Doctor of Laws at Cave Hill.

In his citation, UWI Professor Henry Fraser described Sir Wilfred as a “man of faith, man of God” who kept the faith, through thick and thin, fighting injustice against Blacks, minorities and the underprivileged, fighting for a just multi-racial society”.

Singh is less controversial than at an earlier stage of his career, but few would question his commitment to the profession or the quality of his news coverage and commentary throughout this region.

In a sense, he has been toiling in the wilderness for many years. Finally, however, Singh has now earned the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, easily the most significant recognition conferred on a Caribbean journalist. Gracious as ever, Dr Singh said he accepted the honour on behalf of his “professional colleagues whose collective works make the difference in responsible journalism”.

This ought to be an inspiration for newer entrants into the field. Media practitioners, as we are all too well aware, are often maligned for drawing critical attention to matters which officials or organisations of one sort or other would prefer to keep away from public scrutiny.

Governments are particularly sensitive to the way journalists do their work, loving it when it is complimentary, but in other circumstances crediting it with only the most malevolent intentions.

Occasionally, journalists also arouse the anger of private individuals who offend in one way or another society, and desire the writer’s connivance in leaving such transgressions unreported.

Singh has had a generous share of all those reactions. But democracy, however much its practice may vary in this part of the world, cannot be sustained without strong, fearless media workers.

In that regard, Mr Singh is rightly acknowledged as a regional stalwart. So, too, was the late Clennell Wickham who, like Singh, held views that frequently conflicted with mainstream opinion.

It is to their credit, nonetheless, that the net value of their efforts has redounded to the benefit of Caribbean societies.

We salute the three honorees.
(Reprinted from yesterday’s Barbados Nation)