The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) extends its sympathy and condolences on the recent death of Bishop Randolph George to his wife, Sheila; their family and the Anglican community. Although he spent almost the last two decades of his long life in relative privacy, his leadership of civic resistance to oppression in Guyana from the late 1970s to the early 1990s was pivotal and historic.
As one of the first trio of Co-Presidents of the GHRA, Bishop George’s astuteness and wisdom lent dignity and a sense of purpose in challenging the widespread repression of the late ‘70s and ‘80s. His courageous and unflappable spirit was reassuring to human rights and political activists in times of tension. Bishop George’s willingness to be the voice of the voiceless was unwavering in an era of rationed newsprint, seized publications, disabled gestofax machines, raided printing enterprises and non-existent private radio or television.
The three notable contributions made by Bishop George to defend human rights were rooted in freedom of expression, the independence of the courts and countering abuses generated by the paramountcy of the ruling party. The second notable show of political courage – along with Roman Catholic Bishop Benedict Singh – was to defend trade union demonstrations and denounce Police actions against them during the severe economic austerity of the late 1980s.
The third major contribution made by Bishop George in pursuit of a more civilised and dignified public life was the leadership he provided in the struggle for free and fair elections. His role in the Guyanese Action for Reform & Democracy (GUARD) consolidated his stature as a trusted national figure whose influence reached well beyond the religious and civic community, without the slightest inclination on his part to seek leadership or the limelight. His influence as a unifying figure across the ethnic divide derived from inclination and instinct for what was right and decent and a genuine interest in everyone he came into contact with. Moreover, as a result of constant trekking across the interior visiting Anglican communities over the years, the number of Amerindians he knew by name was extraordinary.
It was predictable after the restoration of democratic space in 1992, for a man for whom social justice was a dimension of his larger religious calling, rather than a political inclination, that Bishop George would have no difficulty slipping away from a prominent role in public life.
To those sceptical of the value of social and political activism which often felt more symbolic than substantive in that repressive era, Bishop George’s response was that, whether successful or not, without such activism the situation would have been much worse.
Guyana Human Rights