Caribbean tribute to journalism's Little Giant
by Earl Bousquet
Guyana Chronicle
November 7, 2002

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RICKEY Singh is one of those persons you never forget.

I knew of him before we first met and by the time I got to watch him in the eye, I was already proud just to know him.

It was he who, as Editor of Caribbean Contact, published my very first article in a publication outside St. Lucia.

It was he too, who inspired me to strive to be the best I could be in our chosen profession, to always be open to learning, to always strive to be fair and balanced and to be intolerant of sloppiness and irresponsibility, even while holding onto one's beliefs and convictions, be they political or religious. He was my mentor. And in many respects, he still is.

When I got the news that he had been conferred with an Honourary Doctorate of Letters by the Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) for his contribution to journalism and life in the Caribbean, I was most pleased. No one deserved it more.

I'd spoken to Rickey on the phone just an hour or so before the Saturday ceremony celebrating his life's work began. At the time, he was so busy chasing a story that he mentioned absolutely nothing about the event. But, knowing Rickey as I do, if he had things his way, people wouldn't even get to know. So humble is he.

The little man from Guyana deserves every letter of his doctorate. He's been regarded for the past 25 years as "the Doyen of Caribbean journalism" and "the Dean of the Regional Press Corps".

His is a vast experience, knowledge and understanding of our Caribbean that stems from having worked in virtually every Caribbean capital in his four decades of dedication to reporting. A true son of the Caribbean soil, he has covered nearly all - if not all - CARICOM Summits in the history of the regional integration movement. He is known to and has been treated by every CARICOM leader on a first-name basis, respected for his incisive questioning and analytical reports on issues of interest to our Caribbean.

He doesn't like venturing too far from the Caribbean (perhaps for fear of missing a story or his column's deadline) but when he does, he's as at home as if he was.

I remember observing him in faraway places, in Africa, Asia and Latin America and Europe attending international journalism conferences. His passion for ensuring the Caribbean was never left out of the picture often resulted in him taking the floor in active and boisterous defence of the Caribbean.

Banging a fist and pointing fingers while sharp words flowed across the room, he never needed a mike to make his point. He wouldn't rest until he was heard - and understood. But after that would be plain sailing with the nicest little man on earth.

It was largely through Rickey's effort that the region's journalists were organised at national and regional levels. In the heady seventies and eighties, he and others helped inspire journalists to "think and write Caribbean" and to understand the meaning of sovereignty and why ours should be constantly guarded and defended.

When national organisations of journalists and media workers sprang up in the English-speaking islands (joining those that already existed in Guyana and Jamaica) Rickey was elected its first and only President throughout its 13-year existence. He has been deservedly honoured at the regional and international level by his colleagues for his selfless contribution to the professional practice of journalism.

A truly and totally integrated son of all the Caribbean's soil, the writer honoured recently by the region's highest tertiary institution is a man of many parts.

He's so immersed and active in staying on top of the rich stories of Caribbean politics and life that one would hardly feel he does or has time for anything else. Or that he's a devout Christian who takes his church business very seriously. (I never knew how deep he was into his church until he told me a story about intervening in a dispute involving church people and politicians - all of whom he knew oh so well. And a Barbadian swore that he also preaches. Yes, from the pulpit...)

All of that wrapped-up in a most humble little man. Rickey's humility is perhaps best reflected in the way he received this most deserving private accolade.

At a time when most would have relished in the glory of one's life's work, Rickey said during the ceremony that he accepted the award "on behalf of my colleagues across the region, whose work continues to make a difference" to life in the Caribbean.

That he would share with his colleagues even what was his alone for the taking is symptomatic of the man. His respect, influence and professional integrity is such that he cannot but be respected for who he is and what he represents. People listen when he talks and read whatever he writes.

It is for all of these and other reasons that Professor Henry Fraser, who delivered the citation at the function honouring Rickey, was dead on target when he borrowed a Jamaican phrase to describe him, saying: 'im little, but 'im tallawah!

Yes indeed, he's journalism's little Caribbean giant.

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