Lloyd Searwar, AA: a profile
A man motivated by ideas and moulded by institutions
January 25, 2004
Growing up in colonial Guyana was never easy. There was much for local people to resent and resist. Educational facilities were meagre; social services were poor; living conditions were depressed; the economy was controlled by foreign multi-national corporations; the civil service was run by expatriates and, before the advent of universal adult suffrage, local politics was a meaningless charade which excluded the bulk of the population.
In the aftermath of the First World War, life was hard around the world. In the USA, the 'Great Depression' had rocked the world's largest economy. In British Guiana, he BG Labour Union was formed and urban workers and rural labourers were marching for better wages and living conditions. The colonial police suppressed the Ruimveldt workers protest of 1924 with many deaths. Death, depression and repression bred disappointment but not despair.
Ambitious young Guyanese men and women still struggled to make the best of a bad situation by avidly pursuing education, including self-education, the key to personal achievement, domestic comfort and social mobility.
In the quest of self-actualisation, and in response to the challenge of an unfavourable social environment, a generation of Guyanese born in the decade of the 1920s appeared on the scene, eventually to change Guyana in fundamental ways.
Persons such as Philip Allsopp (1926); Forbes Burnham (1923); Ashton Chase (1926); Richard Ishmael (1924); Gavin Kennard (1920); Balram Singh Rai (1921); Shridath Ramphal (1928) and Fenton Ramsahoye (1929) were all born during the 1920s and were all, among many others, to make an indelible mark on this country. Among this celebrated generation was Lloyd Aloysius Searwar who was born on 28 July 1925 in Georgetown.
In those days, success meant education and employment. The best education meant attending secondary school and securing enough passes at the Senior Cambridge examinations. The best employment meant securing a slot in the British Guiana Civil Service. Access was limited and success both at the Senior Cambridge and in the Civil Service was as much a means for further advancement as an end in itself.
Graduating from Modern High School under the tutelage of the respected Clement Yansen and Edward Burrowes, Lloyd Searwar was admitted as a Class II Clerk in the General Register Office in 1944 to perform the task of preparing birth and death certificates. The best part of an otherwise boring job, however, was the time it gave him to read. And read he did.
But much more, he became the organiser of a book-oriented discussion circle which met every fortnight at the Public Free Library on Main Street, Georgetown. The circle was a cosmopolitan group which included Father Francis Fenn, SJ; Colin Franker; Clement Brandt, Cheddi and Janet Jagan; and Arthur Seymour, among others. Young Searwar also joined the Young Men's Guild, a long-established group which discussed current affairs, led by E.A.G. Potter.
Fortified by his own avid reading habit, these discussions helped Lloyd Searwar to appreciate the importance of ideas in the slow but decisive evolution of civilisation. He learnt, too, that 'human' rights were gradually becoming more important than 'state' rights and sovereignty. In time, his discussions moved him from the radical desire to change the human condition by creating a grand, perfect 'Utopian' society towards the more mundane mission of making human life better by modest incremental steps.
But apart from his natural love of literature and penchant for polemics, Lloyd Searwar's occupation as a civil servant inculcated in him an abiding belief in the influence of institutions on human life. Indeed, he was to spend much of the next 50 years of his life after 1944 in public institutions.
Lloyd Searwar transferred to the Bureau of Public Information (BPI) - the forerunner of the Government Information Service (GIS) - when the British Government mounted a large-scale information thrust throughout its Empire. The colonies had started to become restive after the Second World War, and Britain was to try to pre-empt the incipient nationalist movements which had sprung up in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Searwar was granted a British Council bursary to attend Oxford University in 1951-52 to read for the Diploma in Politics and Economics. On his return, he became part of a legendary team of pioneers in public information which included Carlotta Croal, Celeste Dolphin, Victor Forsythe, Lorna McArthur and Arthur Seymour. In an age where the radio was not only a novelty but the main means of mass communication, the cultural value of the team's work cannot be overstated. The team conducted unique research and broadcasting on Guyanese history and folklore, especially in rural coastal communities, in addition to its other information work.
Searwar remained at the GIS long enough to become Chief Information Officer but left in 1966 on transfer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (then known as the Ministry of External Affairs). That transfer transformed his life, leading him into the field of international relations.
Searwar immediately brought his old skills to bear on his new tasks. In this, he had the good fortune to work under Shridath Ramphal who was Minister of State at that time and who was particularly responsive to new ideas.
In addition to recording the most important addresses and documents of the new state's early foreign relations, Searwar introduced publications such as Guytel and Guygram to keep the overseas missions informed. One of his important initiatives was the publication of the Guyana Journal, still a valuable source of information for scholars on Guyana's foreign policy and international relations.
Searwar's interest in international relations was deepened by his attendance on a UK Government scholarship at the University of Sussex (1970-71) where he gained his MA in International Relations. In the Foreign Ministry, he rose to the rank of Ambassador and travelled as a member of numerous official delegations.
As a member of another remarkable team of diplomats - led by Shridath Ramphal, and including Denis Benn; Rudy Collins; Rudy Insanally; Rashleigh Jackson; James Matheson; Duke Pollard; Barton Scotland; and Noel Sinclair - he participated in several annual meetings of the United Nations General Assembly and other UN agencies, and of international Third World organisations such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of 77 and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government.
The decade of the 1970s was the most exciting era of Guyana's diplomacy. A principal architect in fashioning the Caribbean Community out of the inchoate Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA), Guyana also helped to revive the wobbly Non-Aligned Movement, and to build consensus for the formation of the African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) group of states. These were the giddy years when Guyana came to be respected as one of the top ten developing countries in diplomatic affairs and its principled positions and voting support were much sought after in the Third World.
Lloyd Searwar felt proud and pleased to have been part of that diplomatic achievement. Even his retirement in 1979 did not douse his ardour for foreign affairs.
He was appointed by the United Nations Department of Technical Cooperation for Development (UNTCD) as Director of the UN/APEC Secretariat which had been established jointly by the United Nations and Non-Aligned Movement to promote economic cooperation among developing countries. He then moved to the CARICOM Secretariat where he served six years (1980-86) as Foreign Affairs Adviser.
By now, Searwar's grounding in international relations also led him through the 'Groves of Academe'. He was appointed a Visiting Fellow on a Ford Foundation Fellowship at the Institute of International Relations (IIR) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) at St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, and Co-ordinator of the Post-Graduate Diploma in International Studies of the University of Guyana (UG). Later, he would be the first Director of the Foreign Service Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1998-2001).
His diplomatic and governmental experience and his participation in University and academic institutes have been distilled into a long list of publications, in chapters of books and journals. His wide range of interests is indicated by titles such as, "The Security of Small States"; "Foreign Policy Decision-Making in the Commonwealth Caribbean"; "Westminster in the Sun"; "Non-Alignment in the Nineties"; "The Superpowers and Conflict in the Caribbean Basin"; and, "Notes towards the Definition of a New Diplomacy for Survival".
In a busy life which involved much international travel, Searwar maintained his links with Guyana's evolving cultural life. He attaches particular importance to the fact that he was one of the three founders of the Theatre Guild (the others being Arthur Hemstock and Bertie Martin) and its first chairman. The Guild was at that time recognised as the leading regional theatre movement.
Now 78 years old, Lloyd Searwar looks back on a long and fulfilling life of public service. Motivated by the power of ideas and moulded by the discipline of institutions, he tried, like the other leading lights of that remarkable generation, to change, in whatever small measure, the human condition.