Kaieteur News – It is well known that Forbes Burnham had the highest regard for the intellect of four individuals: Shridath (Sonny) Ramphal, Haslyn Parris, Fred Wills and Mohamed Shahabuddeen. But of these four, he had the greatest regard for Sonny.
Every President usually has their own Sonnys – those individuals whom they trust fully and on whom they are extremely reliant. Burnham relied heavily on Sonny; he trusted his judgment.
Burnham was very fond of Sonny Ramphal. Sonny was Burnham’s Minister of State in the Ministry of External affairs. He later became the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was once the country’s Attorney General.
It was Sonny who constructed Guyana’s Foreign Service soon after Independence. And among the many persons who were his protégés was Rashleigh Jackson. Jackson, who recently died, owed a great deal to Sonny.
By the time that Jackson became Foreign Minister, the core of Guyana’s foreign policy had already been set in stone. During his long tenure as Foreign Minister, Jackson did not and had no reason to add to the entrenched foreign policy principles: non-alignment, Caribbean integration, support for African liberation and diplomacy in defence of Guyana’s territorial integrity.
Rashleigh Jackson had succeeded Fred Wills as Foreign Minister. Wills was the man many felt was more brilliant than Burnham. One leading Guyanese and Caribbean jurist once described Fred Wills as a legal genius. But as Foreign Minister, Wills had his detractors and was stabbed in the back by them. They took news to Burnham about Wills sending monies outside to his wife at a time when foreign exchange was scarce.
But the backstabbers also were engaged in other efforts to discredit him. They eventually forced him out. Jackson was never accused of being part of the plot to oust Wills but it is known that he had previously adopted positions which carried weight with Burnham and certain Cabinet members.
Jackson has served as Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He was selected as President of the United Nations Committee on Namibia. The Americans were not comfortable with his predecessor and, as declassified documents now reveal, Henry Kissinger, was more than pleased that someone more moderate had been selected to head the Committee. Jackson also presided over the Security Council in May 1975 and June 1976.
But the Americans were not always pleased with Jackson. They were upset with him voting in the UN in support of a resolution which equated Zionism with racism. Wills, who was then his Foreign Minister, suggested that Jackson did not adequately consult with him on this issue and could have exercised the option of voting against or abstained. But Wills fell short of accusing Jackson of overstepping his boundaries.
Rashleigh Jackson had the misfortune of being Foreign Minister of a political dictatorship. Inevitably, therefore, his role as Foreign Minister would have been circumscribed by policies which were aimed at ensuring international legitimacy of an illegitimate regime.
He paid a price for his role in an undemocratic government. His heart had always been in the United Nations system. After, his government was removed from office in 1992, he was identified as a candidate for the Presidency of the General Assembly. He even appeared to have the support of CARICOM. Argentina, in a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, even pledged their support for Jackson’s candidacy.
It was all too ambitious. The PPP/C government did not endorse his candidacy. From his subsequent writings on local issues, it was evident he harboured a terrible bitterness and resentment towards the PPP/C for this rejection.
But, he, more than most, ought to have known that it would have been impossible for the PPP/C to support the candidacy of a man who had served as Foreign Minister of a political dictatorship which had rigged elections and deprived the PPP/C of being in office for 24 years, most of which time he, Jackson, was Foreign Minister.
When territorial controversies flared, it was natural for various sections of the country to adopt a united stand and a common front against any threats, real or perceived. Jackson’s involvement in teams under the PPP/C government to address territorial threats must be viewed in this light. He was recommended to be part of Guyana’s efforts, so as to demonstrate a united front. It would have been difficult for him not to accept participation.
He did his duty for his country in that regard. But let no one be deceived into thinking that he did not hold an inveterate dislike of the PPP/C.
(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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