Home Letters Harold Hoyte supported free and fair elections in Guyana
The publisher of the Barbados Nation newspaper, Harold Hoyte, passed away a week ago. Mr Hoyte will be long remembered for championing freedom of the press, for which he received widespread accolades. But he also supported democratic governance in Guyana during the critical period of authoritarian rule (1966 to 1992).
I spoke with Harold Hoyte on the phone (from New York) several times during the period of the struggle against the dictatorships led by the tyrannical Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte. From New York, I was closely affiliated with the struggle against the fascist, racist Burnham dictatorship and was charged, along with Dr Baytoram Ramharack, with the task of public relations, reaching out to media people and support groups across the Caribbean region, Canada, and the UK. Harold Hoyte and I also spoke on a few occasions after the restoration of democracy in Guyana in 1992. Pieces of mine were published in the Nation relating to Guyana.
I came to know of Harold Hoyte (who has no relationship with the dictator Desmond Hoyte) through the Black nationalist Contrast newspaper in Toronto, for which he was a writer. When he returned to Barbados, he started a paper that catered to all nationalities. Although a Black nationalist, Harold did not seek to oppress or marginalise other ethnic groups, as currently happens in State media in Guyana, and he provided media space for responses to letters critiquing articles and viewpoints. Mine was published.
I am most grateful for Harold’s support to help end ethnic supremacist rule in Guyana during the Burnham/Hoyte dictatorships and the struggle for democratic governance. Harold developed the courage to call a spade a spade unlike other media stalwarts in the region. He knew Burnham, Hoyte, and others rigged elections, and he called them riggers. He recognised that Burnham and Hoyte were oppressors and persecutors, and he boldly referred to them as such. He held Burnham responsible for the murder of Dr Walter Rodney. Few other media outlets in the Caribbean region gave support to the Guyanese people’s struggle against the dictatorship. Like other democratic loving media personnel, he courageously called for an end to food ban that denied ethnic groups access to their cultural diets and religious paraphernalia in Guyana. He also called for the restoration of democratic governance in the country.
Harold Hoyte was enamoured with the persistence and long years of struggle of Dr Cheddi Jagan for free and fair elections in Guyana and for championing workers’ rights. Jagan was overthrown by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1964 and kept out of office in Guyana by the US and Britain (in favour of the opportunistic Forbes Burnham) because of Jagan’s communist ideology that hurt his supporters. Had Jagan abandoned communism, the US and UK would have restored democratic rule and free and fair elections decades earlier.
Eventually, when communism collapsed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1990, the US forced the Hoyte dictatorship to restore democratic governance in Guyana. Jagan was allowed to return to office in relatively free and fair elections, after mellowing and embracing capitalist economics in line with the perestroika model promoted by Mikhail Gorbachev. Harold saluted Jagan’s victory.
Harold also tried to bring the region closer together and was critical of the policy of his country that unfairly targeted (and maligned) Guyanese migrants who were fleeing the oppression of Burnham/Hoyte dictatorships and the economic difficulties experienced by that country in subsequent years.
The Guyanese people are indebted to Harold Hoyte.
Vishnu Bisram (PhD)