I wish to join others in expressing my great admiration to my dear friend and mentor, Sir Fenton Ramsahoye. I know that a lot was written on the excellence of his legal career. Since I was away in Barbados for his funeral during past several days, I believe that only his excellence in law was addressed in the letters written on him so far, and not enough on his humility and his sense of humor.
I would like to focus on his utter humility.
Anyone seeing Sir Fenton and myself in the Survival, DSL or Bounty supermarkets as late as the beginning of 2018, in his short green pants and his groceries basket buying his weekly groceries, would never believe that they were serving such a great man.
It amused me very much to watch him manoeuvring between the crowd when he was in Guyana at his house in Canje Street, Campbellville, a house he owned since he was the Attorney General of Guyana in the early mid 60’s.
Sir Fenton never sought any nationality other than being Guyanese, even though he had property in the UK and Barbados for many years. He never stopped being a Guyanese citizen; his passport says so. And his understanding of law was so profound that he could explain it to me a layman with perfect clarity, since he always advocated that if a lawyer cannot explain the law to a layman in terms which he can understand it, then he has no right to be a lawyer.
I wonder how many Guyanese know that Sir Fenton was one of the founders of the Hugh Wooding Law School. Anyway, as Mr. Patesh Satram has written in his letter to the editor, Sir Fenton could produce an air-tight pleading, on any legal matter, within 24 hours.
The genius of Sir Fenton was not only his profound understanding of the law but his incredible street sense, which no doubt he learnt campaigning with Dr Jagan all those years ago. I will give one example. In Trinidad, the highest National Honor up to 2008 was called the Trinity Cross, which inevitably carried a Christian/religious significance.
The cross which is self-evident and the Trinity referring to the Christian understanding of GOD as a Blessed Trinity; there came a time when the award was given to a non-Christian man of Indian extraction in Trinidad, and given the circumstances Sir Fenton took the matter as a legal challenge.
The matter went to the Trinidad courts and Sir Fenton pursued it to the Privy Council in England where he, in addressing the law Lords of England, expressed the view that offering a Hindu or Muslim man the Trinity Cross was akin to offering the winner of a race between a vegetarian and a meat eater, a prize of a leg of mutton.
Only a Fenton Ramsahoye could make such a comparison at such a forum. As a result of this case in 2008, the government of Trinidad and Tobago was forced to change the highest Trinidadian national award to “Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago”.
I write this letter not so much to offer accolades to Sir Fenton, since I see that many have so far been offered, but to tell his fellow Guyanese that this is a man who rose to the highest levels of the legal profession in the United Kingdom, who never sought to be anything other than a Guyanese (sadly his absolute genius was never celebrated by his homeland and was never presented with a national honour) and whose dying wish was that his ashes be brought back to Guyana, specifically to Blankenburg where he was born and where he went to school, and a small monument which will be built by his heirs, either in the school yard or the Anglican Church there), be left to remind our children that no matter where you are born, or where you went to school, you can go as high as you want to in this life if you apply yourself.
This is a man, one of five brothers, three of whom attended Queen’s College and became Guyana scholars but who was proud to have gone to Blankenburg school and did not receive the Guyana scholarship.
I am asking that this request of Sir Fenton be considered by those who are able to help me to fulfill his dying wish. There were two great man in my life who formed the way I think on many issues– my father and Sir Fenton.
I thank God to have had two such great men to guide the way I understand life and the laws, which guide it.
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