Bishop George fought against racism and electoral fraud

Dear Editor,
Anglican Bishop Randolph George is remembered by freedom fighters for the role he played in the struggle for restoration of democracy in Guyana and in condemning the PNC for its practice of racism at a time – and the Bishop did so at time (during the 1970s and 1980s) when few Africans or religious figures had the courage to speak out against racial oppression and persecution of those ethnic groups (Indians, Chinese, Portuguese, and Amerindians) not supportive of the PNC dictatorship.
Bishop George was not a hypocrite like those who spoke out boldly against apartheid, racist minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia but mum on racism and minority rule in Guyana. He shamed those hypocrites who were not concerned about what their leaders were doing to people of other races.
Bishop George was known to condemn the electoral frauds and violence of the PNC against opponents. At sermons, he, as did some other religious figures like Catholic Bishop Benedict Singh, Father Joe Cheerah, Pandit Reepu, Meiji Yacoob Ally, etc lectured his people for giving support to a racist oppressive dictatorship. It is widely known that these figures were such important elements in the resistance against Burnhamism.
Bishop George led the Anglican Church at a most difficult time in the history of Guyana – when religious freedom, especially for Hindus and Muslims, was curtailed. The Burnham PNC dictatorship was at its most oppressive stage with priests and human rights workers being targeted for murder.
Father Bernard Darke and Dr Rodney were murdered and Bishop Benedict Singh and father Andrew Morrison were threatened with death, the latter beaten by PNC thugs. There was also a crackdown against other church figures like Father Malcolm Rodrigues and Father Cheerah.
As an aside, readers would note that Freddie Kissoon uses the proper honorific title for Bishop George, but refers to Swami Aksharananda as Mr Swami or Mr Aksharananda. Swami is an honorific title comparable to Bishop. So one would not say Mr (Bishop) George or Mr Swami.
Bishop George was one of a few church figures who embraced people of other faiths and ethnicities. It was an honour to meet the Bishop several times during (my visits) to Guyana exchanging thoughts with him on the struggle for free and fair elections in Guyana.
He was not shy about discussing political issues, race relations, and the PNC food ban. He believed in and advocated racial equality and the right of people to have access to their cultural diet. Food should not have been used as a political weapon by the PNC dictatorship of Burnham and Desmond Hoyte.
The Bishop spoke frankly on issues, not sugar-coating the ill-governance of the PNC; he took a principled stand that racism and election (rigging) were wrong and people had to oppose that wrong. He did not feel he had to automatically support the PNC out of racial loyalty, in contrast to a Bishop in Trinidad who said he had to support his race and party in the last general elections. The Bishop wanted racial equality for all and an end to racial dominance.
Bishop George was interested in healing from the decades of racial animosity that Guyana suffered under the dictatorship. One has to extol his advocacy of racial equality. He courageously spoke out (in public) and in some of his sermons against ethnic support for dictatorial rule.
The Bishop was a man of integrity who Indians recognised could be trusted for his words; he meant them, unlike others who condemned racism but who willingly worked with a racist government.
Not surprisingly, Bishop George became deeply admired by the Indian population who were pleading for an end to the racist apartheid-like practices of Burnham.
Indians trusted the Bishop for being among a few preachers who spoke out against oppressive rule and racial discrimination. Indians had faith in him and held him in high esteem.
Without the Bishop’s role, especially in GUARD, free and fair elections and political change would have been very difficult to achieve in Guyana in 1992. Through the Anglican Church, he helped to internationalise the struggle against human rights abuses.
While a handful of us were fighting the battle overseas for free and fair elections, Bishop George was in the thick of the struggle in Guyana to liberate the nation from PNC repression.
Dr Jagan admired him very much and even proposed Bishop George’s name as consensus Presidential candidate during PCD negotiations to contest the 1992 general elections when the WPA opposed Jagan’s nomination.
Unfortunately, the Bishop was also opposed for the Presidency because of concerns that Jagan nominated him. After Jagan became Guyana’s first democratically elected President, he appointed Bishop George on several commissions including one on racial equality.
Bishop George will be long remembered for his role in helping to liberate Guyana from the throes of that oppressive dictatorship, and for advocating racial equality.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram