Kaieteur News – I have known prominent engineer and company owner, Courtney Benn, for more than 20 years now. I would say boldly, he is a friend. I would also boldly say he is someone I respect and admire.
From humble beginnings, he rose to fame and success in the engineering field in Guyana. Courtney never struck me as a political animal, never struck me as someone interested in race and politics. For all the years that I have known him and the countless times we have had long, serious conversations, never was there a criticism of the government of the day, whether a PPP president or a PNC president.
A deeply religious and family man, Courtney comes over as a well-mannered, urbane figure that cares about professionalism and decency in work and life. I don’t know what business hiccups he had with the government prior to 2015 and after 2015. I just know I did not want to discuss those issues with him.
I have been a harsh critic of three presidents – Ramotar, Jagdeo and Granger – and each time I meet with him, as a businessman he never perceived me as someone whom he should be careful with because of my anti-government status. When I was a trenchant anti-government critic prior to 2015, Courtney showed me no change in attitude. When I was a virulent critic after 2015, I saw no changes in how he perceived me.
I read that the government would not be pursuing court cases against him for contract violations. I am not an engineer, I know nothing about the contracts Courtney’s company entered into with any government but this I believe; I cannot see deliberate, sloppy work by his company that would cause him to get into legal trouble. I am willing to admit I may be wrong.
I am willing to admit that persons out there would know things I don’t. But this is how life is. I have to be honest with myself and say that I was a bit sad when I heard that he was taken to court by the state. I cannot help to say openly, I am relieved that the state is no longer pursuing court action against him. At the moment, famous literary figure, Ian McDonald, is doing a series of columns on great people he has met. I can recall in two instances in which the individuals he wrote about he didn’t know some important details about them.
One is the now disgraced geneticist, James Watson; the other is deceased Guyanese literary figure, Mahadai Das. I guess there may be people who may not share my views here on Courtney. But this is someone I have known a long time now, and from all that I know of this person, I will not flinch from my obligation to pen some notes about his positive qualities.
I write this commentary here after I heard that the state is no longer pursuing breach of contract action against him. I thought it would not be sound judgment to pen this column after the news came out that the government had sued him.
I have not seen or spoken to Courtney Benn in three years. I can recall the last conversation we had. I enquired about his interest in providing logistical support for the burgeoning oil industry given the location of his company on the Demerara River in Kingston. With his customary soft voice, he said there are companies in Guyana that have enormous capital for such ventures but not his. That was the last time I have spoken to or seen him.
If I was to follow Ian McDonald and write about people that impressed me, I would probably include Courtney with his modesty and unassuming style. I think opinion-makers like me should leave a few notes about those that I have met that never considered me an argumentative, aggressive radical that constantly courts controversies.
Life is strange. Just as I thought of doing this piece here on Courtney, I got an email from the son of a man who helped to shape my conceptualisations. Tesfa, son of Brian Rodway, who was a founding member of the Working People’s Alliance, wrote to say that he reads my stuff from the UK and would like us to correspond because he would like to know more about his father.
Brian died long before his time. I did say to Tesfa that his father is one of my heroes. As I continue to write on this page, I believe I should pen a few lines on the very nice people I met along the way. Courtney Benn is one.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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