Enabler of Guyanese democracy passes on in America

Dear Editor,
Yash Pal Soi, an enabler of democracy in Guyana, has passed on. The Guyana Democracy Project, headed by Dr. Tara Singh, says in a release that that the Guyanese American community is deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of the great community advocate and a champion of democracy in Guyana during the authoritarian years and the five months’ election impasse of 2020. It notes that Yash made a significant contribution to the anti-dictatorial movement in New York. And he organised several fundraisers for Dr. Jagan and the PPP before the 1992 elections.
Yash also lobbied Members of Congress and the Reagan and Bush Administrations to put pressure on the Hoyte Administration to liberalise the political and economic system. Yash Pal Soi organised and funded the costs of a Guyana Democracy Float in the 1991 India Day Parade on Madison Ave with a banner emblazoned with the words “Dr Cheddi Jagan: Next President of Guyana”. The float made a big hit at the parade, where thousands of Guyanese lined the route. At the time of his death, he was working on an idea to build a cultural center in Guyana.
Through my appeal for his assistance, Yash lobbied Congress to issue statements calling on the Granger Administration to accept the outcome of the Mar 2, 2020 vote.
Yash was hired by New York City as an engineer in the 1970s, rising to the position of Chief Engineer during the 1980s. He was honoured by then Mayor Ed Koch’s Administration for his professionalism, and by various organisations for his professional achievement and for improvement of community life. He was among a few who were honoured with the Ellis Island Freedom Award, an honour that was also conferred on President Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Yash was the founder of several organisations, including the Federation of Indian Associations that organised the annual India Day Parade. Presidents Jagdeo and Ramotar participated in one of the parades. Yash is also known as the person who arranged for Bollywood movies to be shown in NY since the 1970s, providing entertainment for early Guyanese immigrants.
He organised several concerts of Bollywood stars in NY, including Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore, Mukesh, Manna Dey, and others. He became close with Guyanese community leaders – a closeness that began in the 1980s when he joined the struggle for free and fair elections in Guyana. He worked closely with a group of us, inclusive of Ramesh Kalicharran and Arjune Karshan (of ACG), who were deeply involved in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Guyana. Yash helped to advance the cause of democracy in Guyana, introducing activists like myself to members of Congress and New York State, as well as New York City politicians and to the mainstream and community media.
Yash was introduced to Dr. Jagan, with whom he became very close, hosting him (when he was Opposition Leader) several times on his weekly radio programme. Yash also used his influence in the broadcast media to get him interviews with the community ITV station as well as with mainstream newspaper and magazine publications. Interviews of Dr. Jagan appeared in several American publications.
Yash also arranged for Dr. Jagan to meet with officials of the Carter Center in Atlanta. After Jagan was elected as President, at a banquet in New York, Dr. Jagan publicly referred to Yash Pal Soi as “a Guyanese freedom fighter”.
Yash was honoured by President Jagdeo in 2011 with a plaque at a special function at State House.
The NY-based Guyana Democracy Project, in its release, expresses its gratitude to Yash Pal Soi for his significant contributions to improving the conditions of Guyanese and other immigrants in the US, as well as for the struggle for free and fair elections in Guyana.
It writes: “We convey our condolences to the members of the Soi family as we all mourn the passing of this great personality. His memory will live on the India Day parade that he conceived as well as the struggle for free and fair elections in Guyana”.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram