Brindley Benn, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Guyana and the man who authored the National Motto- “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”- is dead.
The 86-year-old, father of Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, died yesterday afternoon at his Ogle home, the Minister said yesterday.
Benn had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for a number of years now, the Minister said.
Brindley Horatio Benn, was born in Kitty, Georgetown.
After finishing school, he travelled to Kwakwani to work as a clerk with the bauxite company. His parents were living in the mining community at the time and his father was a Senior Staff at the Reynolds Mining and Metals Company. His mother was a caterer and a boarder in the community where she became popular for her activity in social and community life.
Brindley returned to Georgetown in the early 1940’s when the bauxite company started to scale down the workforce. He began teaching at a High School in Broad Street and briefly had his own school, Georgetown Secondary, which was located in Evans Street, behind Dolphin Government School. He operated the school for about three years.
Brindley went to teach Latin and French at the Indian Education Trust College, now Richard Ishmael’s Secondary School. He also organised a school choir and in he spent three years there.
One evening, during his teaching career, Brindley attended a public meeting at Norton and John Streets, and listened to Dr. Cheddi Jagan who was criticising what was happening in the Bauxite industry and in the colony generally. He was impressed by Dr. Jagan’s speech and joined the PPP the same night.
He immediately became very involved in politics and as time progressed, got into conflict with his boss. The principal, Richard Ishmael, was also President of the Manpower Citizen’s Association, a union which represented sugar workers but was widely considered a ‘Company Union’.
Brindley subsequently left the school and became deeply involved in politics. He formed the Pioneer Youth League, which was the forerunner to the Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO).
When the constitution was suspended in 1953, Brindley was detained and put under restriction orders in New Amsterdam, where he had gone to assess Party activity. In 1956, Brindley was elected Chairman of the People’s Progressive Party and Member of the Executive Committee. The Party contested the 1957 elections with Brindley as the representative of the Essequibo Islands and the Interior.
That single constituency comprised the largest single landmass being contested in the country and he came up against the candidature of Mr. Eugene F. Correia. He broke the long occupancy of the seat by Mr. Correia when he won the elections.
Brindley was appointed Minister of Community Development and Education in 1957. After the 1961 General Elections, which the PPP also won, Brindley was appointed Minister of Agriculture. During this time he conceptualised and started the Guyana School of Agriculture (1963). He oversaw the implementation of the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary Scheme (MMA), Boersarie Scheme, Tapacuma Scheme and the Black Bush Polder – all major drainage and irrigation schemes.
During the disturbances in the early 1960s, Benn was imprisoned by the British. During this period, the British successfully split the PPP along racial lines. Brindley Benn became the most prominent Afro-Guyanese to remain with the PPP, making a statement against the divide-and-rule tactics of colonialism.
Several Ministers and other important persons were detained. Among them was Brindley Benn, who was detained at Sibley Hall, Mazaruni Prison for several months.
After his release in 1965, Brindley became disenchanted by the differences in opinion in the PPP. He moved away from the party to establish his own – the Working People’s Vanguard Party.
In the late 1970s, he joined with Walter Rodney, Eusi Kwayana, Andaiye, Moses Baghwan and Rupert Roopnaraine, to form the Working People’s Alliance. Discussions were held under the umbrella organisation, Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) in the fight for free and fair elections in Guyana.
In 1992, with the return of democracy to Guyana, the PPP were returned to office by free and fair elections. Brindley accepted President Dr. Jagan’s offer to be on the PPP’s List of Candidates and won a seat in Parliament. He was later appointed Guyana’s High Commissioner to Canada, a position he held with distinction from 1993 to 1998.
Upon his return to Guyana, Brindley Benn served as Chairman of the Public Service Commission for three years. He was also a member of the Teaching Service Commission and the Police Service Commission.
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