Eulogy by Chairman Raphael Trotman
“Sheila Holder was a giant among women, a phenomenal woman and the matriarch who stood protectively over the AFC, her family. Her death on November 20, 2011 left a void that is not easily filled. The Alliance For Change bears the unmistakable mark of her presence and contributions which we have enshrined as part of our identity.
Looking back, I recall when, early in 2005, Khemraj (Ramjattan) and I encouraged Sheila to join us on our political adventure. We had already made a decision (based on) fate and circumstances that thrust us in a direction that would see us leading thousands of like-minded patriots in transforming the political landscape in a way that was beyond our wildest imagination.
Indeed, what we were attempting had not been done before, and the odds and opponents were certainly stacked against us. We recognised as well, that this was not a job for one or two persons, and that we needed to join forces with at least one other to form a ‘triumvirate’.
Sheila Holder proved to be the best person. She was a natural fit for all that was needed. She had already demonstrated strength, charisma and high intellect while representing the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) in the National Assembly, and in her public appearances and engagements while championing consumerism.
Best of all, she was a representative of the WPA, a party that we had tremendous respect for. We considered Sheila to be a high–value political prize and we were determined to convince her to join us.
In the discussions that followed with Sheila, surprisingly, there were no ‘hard’ negotiations or any clamouring on her part for personal aggrandizement. Instead, she willingly agreed to come alongside us as an equal, on the basis that we would conduct ourselves as different from the three parties we were coming out of.
When she finally said “Yes” our political configuration was complete – three dominant political forces (PNC, PPP and WPA) were now, in a manner of speaking, merged into a single force, a Movement that we called the Alliance For Change.
Unintentionally and quite naturally, Sheila evolved into the AFC’s mother figure, a positive force who brought order. She insisted on adherence to the rules and respect for the party’s activities.
Much to the chagrin of some other women, she was not shy about saying that she was not a modern day feminist, and had no intention of pretending to be one. Instead, she espoused strong family and civic values and responsibilities, and brought a no-nonsense approach to ethnic relations within the party and in our public pronouncements.
No doubt, her disciplined and wholesome upbringing, and her experiences as an adult woman, gave her the strength and confidence to assume the take-charge-and-get-it-done attitude that she brought to the AFC. We needed her to do just that, and she did it with an ease and a grace that were second to none. There were no angry words or hostility where she was concerned, but a firmness and a ‘look’ that let you know that something said or done was inappropriate and would not be condoned.
I remember Sheila for many good things. The one which stands out for me is her oft quoted adage: “Nature abhors a vacuum”.
The AFC filled a political vacuum that needed to be filled in 2006, and Sheila then filled a vacuum within the AFC that only she could fill. Even now she remains irreplaceable and we miss her daily.”
As we enter into another cycle of political uncertainty and confusion, it is the quiet guiding voice of Sheila Holder that we remember as we tread our way forward, carefully and purposefully. There is always going to be a vacuum to be filled, if not by us, then by someone or something else.
Let us step into the next exciting challenge with purpose and a plan as Sheila would have advised us to do. We in the AFC will always be grateful for the gift of Sheila Holder, and for the everlasting structures that she built. The politics of Guyana have been transformed by the contributions of people like her who came, acted and left.
Party Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan described her as a “`woman for all seasons”, one of extraordinary strength in politics and social work. In her years as an activist for the WPA and as a Parliamentarian, she demonstrated her understanding of the values of a strong community.
Until her passing on 20 November 2011, she let her experience in these two fields of endeavour mould her into a pillar of strength for the AFC.
“In Sheila’s death, I have missed probably my greatest friend,” the Chairman said, adding that every day she demonstrated loyalty, affection, dedication and similar characteristics that exemplified true friendship.”
The history of political struggle in post-independence Guyana is replete with examples of outstanding women whose courage, tenacity and individuality have made an indelible mark on politics in particular, and on our society in general. Sheila Holder is one such…whose name must be added to the pantheon of the greats.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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