February 14, 2009

Josh Ramsammy passes away

Posted in Guyana, Politics at 4:01 pm by randallbutisingh

Josh Ramsammy passes away

Posted By Andre Haynes On February 12, 2009 @ 5:57 am In News | 12 Comments

Dr. Joshua Ramsammy, the distinguished academic and political activist who survived an assassination attempt during the resistance to the Forbes Burnham regime, died yesterday.
He was said to be in his mid-70s.

dr-ramsammy-in-protest-marchDr Joshua Ramsammy (second from right) in a protest in 1988 against plans to have toxic waste dumped here. Others in photo from left are Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, Eusi Kwayana and Nigel Westmaas.

In stark contrast to his front-line activism for the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and other pressure groups, Dr. Ramsammy had taken to keeping a low profile in recent years, owing partially to ill-health. His family declined to disclose details about his passing yesterday, in keeping with his wishes.

Dr. Ramsammy was an aquatic biologist and served as a lecturer at the University of Guyana (UG), where he also held the post of Pro-Chancellor up to 2005. His academic achievements were complemented by his activism and he was a founding member of Ratoon, a UG-based group and the Move-ment Against Oppression (MAO). Both groups have been described as fiercely critical of the political and democratic deterioration in the country during the early years of the PNC administration (Ratoon was also one of the organisations that eventually formed the WPA). In 1971, he was shot in broad daylight in downtown Georgetown, the bullet piercing his lungs. No one was ever arrested and the act has been seen as a harbinger of later extreme acts, including the murder of historian and WPA Leader Dr Walter Rodney.

dr-ramsammy1Dr Joshua Ramsammy

Professor Clive Thomas, who was also a founder of Ratoon and a close friend of Dr. Ramsammy’s, yesterday remembered him as “a brave and gallant soldier fighting on behalf of the working people of Guyana.” He said it was a fitting way for him to be remembered, since it was the cause that he lived for. Professor Thomas noted that Dr. Ramsammy was one of the first persons he met on his return to Guyana and the two worked closely in social, political and academic activism movements, becoming vocal critics of what he termed the “Burnham dictatorship.”

Thomas said the shooting took place during an attempt to kidnap him and Dr. Ramsammy exhibited a lot of bravery during the episode.
Professor Thomas is also co-leader of the WPA along with Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine.
Dr. Roopnaraine characterised Dr. Ramsammy as a “courageous” and “energetic” brother, recalling his activism, including the work predating his involvement with the WPA. He noted that while a teacher at Queen’s College, Dr. Ramsammy was seen as s a terror by students, but he added that upon getting to know him he could be found to be a “gentle, loving man.” He would be dearly missed, Dr. Roopnaraine said.

Activist Bonita Harris was recruited by Dr. Ramsammy to edit and proofread Ratoon’s various publications. She called him one of her first political mentors and said he was a “good-humoured” man who was always “generous” with his time and his expertise. And also his home, where he would hold meetings of the various groups he worked with. Harris also remembered that he was the person who pierced her ears when she asked him to do it.

Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) co-President Mike McCormack said it was unfortunate that that more people were not aware of the “quite heroic” role Dr. Ramsammy had played during one of the worst periods of PNC rule. He described him as a brave and outspoken man who was an inspiration to many people. “Unfortunately, like many people from that era, his contributions have not been recognised,” he said.
The shooting sparked outrage and condemnation in and out of Guyana. Dr. Ramsammy later told the Guyana Graphic that “ultimately… it is this type of politically informed concern on the part of the people and their militancy which will ensure the safety and welfare of all citizens…”

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12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To “Josh Ramsammy passes away”

#1 Comment By M. Xiu Quan-Balgobind-Hackett (-232) On February 12, 2009 @ 7:34 am

A brave man. A brilliant man. A true son of the soil who knew that where his navel string was buried he would one day be interred there. He loved his land and its people with a love that was greater than the fear of bullets. I witnessed his incisive mind in action only once at a UG seminar in 2000 when he critically questioned a former academician’s creationist belief in a ‘young earth’ theory. He wasn’t about to let non-science masquerade as science. R.I.P.

#2 Comment By Vatican On February 12, 2009 @ 8:54 am

I admired this man since the early sixties when he returned home with a bachelors in biology. He was very humble at a time when a bachelors degree was really a big thing. I followed his career and his militancy for decades after. In 1969 I did some lectures with him and Dr Drayton at UG. I think the course was World Civilization. Josh as everyone called him propounded the theory of The Dialectics of Nature. Under his militancy and that of Drs Omawale, Thomas, Drayton, student participation in anti-imperialist hegemony reached great heights and transcended all ethnic barriers, and we students followed them faithfully in street protests. Later the fight focused on local dictatorship practices. When that cowardly gunman shot him and then sought protection under his uncle’s dictatorial wings, we were aghast. Even now as he continues to revel in his high office, he must be licking his tongue in glee. Those bullets, no doubt, contributed to the failing health of this fallen hero. Even then, had it not been for Josh’s brother, a doctor at Mercy Hospital, Josn would have been under green pastures a long time ago.
Josh was a patriot, an academic and a revolutionary at a time when these qualities were scarce.

#3 Comment By Omkar Suchit On February 12, 2009 @ 9:43 am

He died from an assassin’s bullet. Do you think the cowards will now confess?

#4 Comment By michael tannassee On February 12, 2009 @ 10:01 am

… another SOLDIER has fallen ! my blood ,,, only a few days ago ,, i was reminiscing on Josh’s younger brother Dr. Herman Ramsammy who saved his life ! after he was shot by “the bank” at cornhill st ,,
Josh was so much on my mind a few days ago ,, that i picked up my phone to call him ,, but never did ,, i guess it was premonition ,, i never did ,, call him ,, now i have to live with that memory ,,
thank u Lord Hackett for ur kind thoughts ,,,, all who passed thru the doors of Tagore High ,, QC ,,, and more recently UG ,, will always be richer in their lives for having known this stalwart son of GUYANA ! hope those from Fyrish to the upper reaches of the corentyne coast ,, mourn the passing of his life that gave so much to the betterment of a country we all love !…JOSH was my first cousin,,,, RIP ! farewell my brother ,,…..

#5 Comment By abdul karim On February 12, 2009 @ 10:12 am

I would like to send my condolences to the family of Dr. Ramsammy. I remember him as one with an indepth sense of knowledge. His humility was an inspiration to me and I am sure to others. Tomorrow we in Guyana will see a better horizon because we will be standing on your shoulders. Thank you very much

#6 Comment By Mohamed I. Ally On February 12, 2009 @ 10:15 am

Dr. Joshua Ramsammy was a most decent man. His militancy in the days of the struggle for democracy will be remembered for a long time.
His contributions and those of his colleagues like Drs. Roopnarine, Clive Thomas, Walter Rodney and any others to the political struggle in Guyana,paved the way for regime change in 1992.
Sadly, Dr. Ramsammy and his colleagues have not been paid their dues for the great role they played in putting Guyana back on track.
Rest in Peace, Brother.

#7 Comment By wazir mohamed On February 12, 2009 @ 10:29 am

Josh was always and will remain a fighter. He remained vehement in his opposition to the end for any kind of political compromise with corrupt leaders and with corruption. This was the passion that drove his early opposition to Burnham and the PNC. Coming from the Corentyne he always displayed a closeness with the people. This is absent and rarely scene in the practice of the politicians of our generation. Having campaigned with him, and having developed a closeness with him while he was the WPA commander for Berbice I got to see him at work up close and personal. While he became increasingly hard to reach since 1992 and shunned by some after he accepted the post at UG we should all remember and reflect on his sterling contribution in exposing criminality and corruption as it began to grow in the PNC. The last time I met Josh was at a meeting at Crichlow Labor College in March 2005 to discuss the framework for the Walter Rodney 25th Anniversary Commemorative Groundings. That was the last time we met. It is always hard when someone we know passes. But it is even harder when that person’s life and experience could have been used for the development of a better society.

#8 Comment By ASingh On February 12, 2009 @ 11:05 am

Yes. indeed a brave and brilliant person. Need I say shot and left to die…
But even worse is the treatment he received from the PPP—that is unforgettable, downright shameful for a son of the soil–a freedom fighter.
If I was the family I would not accept any condolences from the PPP.
A brave part of history went with Dr. Joshua Ramsammy

#9 Comment By Bobin On February 12, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

As a former student and professional Scientist I must say that Josh was an amazing mentor. He taught me Bio 100 at UG in the mid 80’s.
I was most impressed by his intelligence, charisma and humility. He belonged to a group of people who fought against oppression without any fear of consequences. It is a shame that the current administration seems to have slighted this remarkable man.

#10 Comment By Arnold On February 12, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

Mr Joshua Ramsammy, corageous and intelligent individual,who fought tireless against the tyrannic pnc regime, a true revolutionary.R.I.P.

#11 Comment By Boa Vista On February 12, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

Dr. Joshua Ramsammy. A man and name to remember. A gallant soldier in his fight against The dictator Mr. Linden forbes Sampson Burnham.
Burnham, a name that is burned in the minds of all Guyanese who had to escape Dear Land of Guyana, for a better life.
Dr. Ramsammy, a brave freedom fighter.
The Guyanese in Brazil salute you!

#12 Comment By yasuman71 On February 12, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

I remember Dr Joshua Ramsammy as a brilliant, brave, decent, humble and sincere man. I first saw him in the flesh 40 years ago in the Large Lecture Theatre at the University of Guyana, where he made a brief presentation to introduce a film on the Vietnam War. In the mid-seventies we both served as representatives of our respective organizations in the Civil Liberties Action Committee, if I remember the name well. He never failed to stop his car and pick me up on the East Coast road if he saw me waiting for public transportation. His radio-announcer voice still resonates in my memory. He deserves the highest tribute of the nation for his selfless contribution to the restoration of democracy in Guyana.


Article printed from Stabroek News: http://www.stabroeknews.com
URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/news/02/12/36963/
URLs in this post:
[1] Image: http://www.stabroeknews.com/images/2009/02/20090212protest.jpg
[2] Image: http://www.stabroeknews.com/images/2009/02/20090212josh.jpg

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