Nov 02, 2008 News
At this stage in Guyana’s evolution as a nation, one just wishes most sincerely that the death of David De Caires was a bad dream we had the night before when we heard the news. Very few committed nationalists remain in this country. Very few persons who are enlightened about the values of a good society are left in Guyana. David DeCaires was one of them.
When one writes as a historian on the passing of eminent citizens in any territory, the tone will be different. A historian feels strongly that history’s facts must be recorded to avoid distortion; while, on the other hand, the non-academic mind tends not to be concerned with this, and leans towards overflowing praise.
As a trained historian, I cannot accept writing about people when they die and just shower praise on them. You leave a trail of non-truths that become part of history’s proceedings. I will not do that with the passing of Fidel Castro, and even some aging politicians in this land.
For me, David De Caires has left a positive legacy that all of us should strive to emulate. Mr. De Caires has played a huge role in the struggle for a free and just post-Independence Guyana. Like everyone else on Planet Earth, David had his limitations and faults. The Stabroek News had and has its not-so-rosy side. An analysis of these areas will be left for another occasion when looking at class structures in the Guyanese society. But, for all intents and purposes, David De Caires was one of the finest Guyanese this persistently troubled land has produced.
Within the context of freedom, his name will be indelibly printed on the cloth of this nation. I got my break to become a public commentator when David DeCaires accepted me as a columnist. I never got close to him, as I did with Father Morrison of the Catholic Standard. They were two different men living in two different worlds.
That is a story of class structure that means nothing in the context of the importance of Stabroek News to the consolidation of freedom in this country.
I got the impression that David DeCaires was a product of liberal democracy that Europe accepted as the final delineation in the search for a free society after the Enlightenment. He was neither enamoured with alternatives to liberal democracy nor was he unapologetic for the unfree dimensions of capitalist democracy. He wanted to return Guyana to the society into which he grew up – Anglo-Saxon British Guiana, where society and government were separated and respect was shown by the key players for the demarcation line.
He straddled two worlds — leftist, non- Marxist radicalism, as can be seen in his early writings in the sixties and seventies, and liberal democracy. In the end, he felt that freedoms were best protected by a capitalist society of the British model.
His highest point in his contribution to his country came with the emergence of the Stabroek News. David De Caires knew from all his contacts with the upper echelons of Guyanese society that the days of rigged elections and a state-dominated economy were over, and if Guyana was to return to a free society, then a free press was an essential requirement.
After President Desmond Hoyte assented to the birth of the Stabroek News, Guyana’s future began to take shape. No one has yet quantified the value of the Stabroek News to the consolidation of post-Burnham freedoms, but it is huge, it is enormous. It is not only that the Stabroek News, under the modifying influence of David De Caires, put pressure on the then rulers to democratise even further, but it provided the society with two invaluable avenues.
It informed the nation what the pro-democracy forces were doing, and it offered its pages to those who wanted to be heard.
David De Caires turned out to be the more understanding of all the key players of the new newspapers. I know this from my experience as a columnist with the newspaper. After pressure was brought to bear on him to drop me because my independent writings conflicted with what they wanted for the Stabroek News, he resisted their attempts.
I say most unambiguously that David De Caires was the more open-minded of all the major actors at the Stabroek News; and because of this, I lasted for longer than I should at the paper. I will forever be grateful to him for that. Guyana has lost an important citizen who has made this country into a freer society that it would not have been if it wasn’t for his patriotism.
One hopes the name of De Caires will forever be a household name in this land.
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