Letter: Vic Persaud was a professional

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Dear Editor,

I am saddened to learn of the passing of Vic Eshwar Persaud (Times May 14). I always thought fondly of him, and had queried about his health, since I had not seen him for several years.

He was a wonderful guy, a professional (protocol duties) in every sense of the term. He carried out instructions, but he also offered advice (on etiquette, decorum, attire, etc.) on how engagements should be conducted. These were largely accepted at ceremonies by his bosses.

Vic was a diplomat par excellence. He was a giant in that field, with no comparison. He was an institution, having meandered around all Presidents. He was very talented and experienced in protocol ceremonies. He was the best protocol officer in the country. Of course, there were not many before or after him for a comparison. And he was held in high esteem by politicians of all stripes.

The people of Port Mourant and Rose Hall Town who knew him were/are proud of his achievements.

Although we attended the same school (from different eras) and were from neighbouring villages (I from Port Mourant and he from Rose Hall Town), we did not meet during my youth. At least, I do not recall meeting him, although I remember his family having on the main road a shop that I frequented when I was a student at Chandisingh High School. He is much older than me.

I had occasion to meet Vic in Guyana during the Cheddi Jagan Presidency, and subsequently in New York during the Jagdeo Presidency, and several times thereafter in Guyana at social functions, including at celebrations for India Republic Day and Holi. We exchanged ideas and thoughts about growing up in Port Mourant and about governance.
In an introduction, he said he knew of me through the students’ strike at Chandisingh High School in 1976, and through my voluminous writings since then. He remarked: “You are the chap who write in the papers and conduct polls. I always wanted to meet you. I thought of you being a much older person. Thank you for all the updates about Guyanese in America”.

Upon learning that I was from Ankerville, he asked, and reminisced, about older folks from Port Mourant whom I knew since I was a little boy. I was amazed about the number of people he knew in Free Yard, Bound Yard, Ankerville, and Haswell (Babu Jahan) including my father, several of my uncles and aunts, and neighbours. He said he used to visit Port Mourant frequently, and knew the Jagans, who lived just a few streets from me.

While never partisan in his politics, and not publicly showing a preference for one party over the other, Vic was an indefatigable supporter of democracy (free and fair elections and a free press). He saluted those of us in the diaspora who fought for the restoration of democracy in the homeland.

“You all did great work for Guyana. We owe a debt of gratitude for helping to restore democracy in our homeland”.

Vic was disappointed with the governance of the coalition, and of the behaviour of Moses Nagamootoo and Khemraj Ramjattan, whom he felt would have known better. The two were a let down to their own and traditional PPP supporters.

Privately, Vic condemned the racism that he said was widely practised, but, as a diplomat, he opted to be silent.

Vic was saluted for his work by every President. He was honest and hardworking, and conducted himself appropriately. He was very responsible in his behaviour, even when he had occasion to take a drink.

Protocol activities are hectic, and can be very taxing, both physically and mentally, and energy-draining, but Vic never complained. He loved his work, and he was always cheerful, with a signature bright smile. He was a serious and disciplined man when it came to duties, but he also had a sense of humour, and had a laugh with guests and people he knew or he considered friendly enough, and he would take a drink with them. He loved Bollywood songs – old classical ones of yesteryear.

He cracked a few jokes when we were in company, as he liked to do. And he opened to me about politics, since he took me in confidence. He was very witty, sociable, warm, and friendly. And he was not afraid to mix with friends and ground with the lower classes and people of all political persuasions. He had many, many friends, including across the political aisle.

Vic would be sorely missed for his decency, reliability, honour, dignity, integrity, humility, and friendliness – qualities he practised every day on the job.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram