I’ve read several commentaries in the papers, including the non-factual, sarcastic critique with unsubstantiated claims of one GHK Lall (Nov 5) on the suitability of academic Dr Vishnu Bisram, to serve as an Ambassador (High Commissioner) of Guyana to India. Let me offer some corrections to Lall’s contentions and testimonials on Dr Bisram’s character.
I got to know Vishnu Bisram first-hand, personally, and in depth since his first year in college in September 1977 through now and could attest to his volunteerism, philanthropy, intellect, knowledge of diplomacy, struggle against the Guyanese dictatorship, contributions to organising the diasporas of Guyana, Trinidad, India, and other countries, founding of Guyanese and “Trini” organisations, working with other immigrant groups in the USA, voluntary reporting as a journalist, op-ed commentaries, polling, fund-raising capacity, and more – credentials that make him the ideal person to be Guyana’s person in Delhi.
He stood unique in his incalculable contributions to the Guyanese diaspora and to Guyana itself. There was and is hardly any comparison with any other figure in the diaspora.
At City College in NY in the fall of 1977, there were several students from Guyana but no Guyanese students’ club. Indian West Indians got to know each other through the India Students Club. Indian students, regardless of nationality, gravitated towards the India Club founded by students who preceded us. Two youngsters stood out – Vishnu Bisram and Baytoram Ramharack, both Guyanese who through their activism and writings would acquire eminence like few other West Indian students.
Bisram recruited students to attend India Club Thursday meetings and organised activities, various cultural celebrations, and refreshments for same. There was not an Indian West Indian Club. The Caribbean Students Association did not welcome Indo-Caribbeans who were also not comfortable in the India Club. Bisram, Ramharack, myself and a few others founded the Indo Club (that attracted Indian students from Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere – a true Indian diaspora organisation) in the late fall of 1977 and began organising activities centreing on Indian culture and campaigning against the Burnham dictatorship.
The Indo Club organised protests, marches, rallies, petition drives, and picketing exercises, and we published newsletters (focusing on rights abuses) on Guyana and the Guyanese diaspora in America. Bisram and Ramharack were the key contributors to those exercises. I served as mentor and ideologue to both.
Bisram and Ramharack were pre-med majors in their freshmen year. I was a political science major and their senior. I pointed out to them that Guyana lacked political and social scientists and that they would be more useful and an asset to Guyana and the struggle against the Burnham dictatorship if they were to study politics or the social sciences. Ramharack switched his major going on to do BA, MA, PhD in Pol Science. After completing his BS in Bio-Chem, Bisram pursued MAs and PhDs in Pol Science and several other social science subjects, as well as Education Administration.
Ramharack, Bisram and I contributed significantly to the struggle against the Burnham dictatorship as few others did. They displayed unparalleled courage in opposing Burnhamism. In addition, they were outstanding researchers.
It is not an understatement to say that Guyana would have languished under continuous authoritarian rule had Bisram, Ramharack, and a few others, including me, not led a struggle from abroad to help liberate the country in 1992 and again in 2020.