Balram Singh Rai

By Ralph Ramkarran On June 7, 2015 @ 5:06 am In Features,Sunday

Guyanese who have served their country with distinction can once again look forward to being recognized. National awards to three persons, Bryn Pollard and Llewellyn John, the latter a vintage politician going back to the 1940s, and Hamilton Green, a politician from the 1950s with a controversial past, revive the possibility that distinguished service given in the distant past by those ignored by the PPP can still be recognized. I refer to Fenton Ramsahoye and Balram Singh Rai, of the same era as the above three, but this article is about the latter. The atmosphere may now be more conducive and the time opportune to raise the issue of Rai.

Balram Singh Rai has remained an iconic political figure in Guyana’s political history, even though the last political event in which he was involved, the general elections of 1964, occurred fifty years ago. A book, Against the Grain, by Baytoram Ramharak, was published in 2005 about him. Although sympathy for Rai drips from its pages, it indicates the considerable interest that his name still evokes. His great successes and enormous contribution as well as the respect in which he was held across the board, come out clearly. Apart from Cheddi Jagan, no other leader of that era has been subject to such academic scrutiny.

Fully contextualized is his Hindu faith of the Arya Samaj persuasion, which was probably the cultural and religious foundation for his anti-communism and defence of Indian interests against the PPP’s ‘communism.’ At that time, among some circles in the PPP, intolerance was high for anti-communist views. Had Rai been active today his defence of ethnic interests in the same manner would not have been unusual. Eusi Kwayana, who has spoken well of Rai, was substantially more vocal during Rai’s time in defence of African ethnic interests and is today regarded as an ‘elder.’ I understand that Rai made an effort at reconciliation with Cheddi Jagan in 1992 but received no response.

20131201ralphramkarranRai had an early interest in politics. Together with Ashton Chase and Eusi Kwayana, he is the only other towering political figure who is still alive today from the 1947 era when he supported Cheddi Jagan in his successful contest for a seat in the legislature. He opposed the PPP at the elections in 1953. By 1957 he was a well-known lawyer. He emerged into political prominence when he won a seat in the legislature on behalf of the PPP in that year and served as Minister of Education and later, of Home Affairs, in both of which he performed with distinction. It was when he decided to challenge Brindley Benn, for the post of Chairman at the PPP’s Congress in 1962, that all hell broke loose.

At that time the Chairman was the next most important position after Leader, the post which Jagan held. Brindley Benn, a prominent African Guyanese, had held the post of Chairman for some time. He was supported by the PPP leadership because he was popular, having emerged from the youth ranks and, a well-liked Minister of Agriculture and an African Guyanese, an important consideration in the context of Guyana’s divisive politics. Although Rai had become a respected and popular figure by 1962, he could not compete in the eyes of the leadership with Benn’s credentials, even omitting the issue of ethnicity.

The campaign against Rai mounted by the PPP leadership became increasingly bitter and culminated in his defeat at the Congress. The famous statement by Fenton Ramsahoye, then Attorney General, that “the PPP works in devious ways,” was made at the Congress. Rai was expelled from the PPP for accusatory remarks he had made. His Justice Party secured only about 4,000 votes in the 1964 elections. He then migrated to the UK and has remained silent ever since. He is in his nineties and the state of his health is not known.

The PPP should have long recognized Rai’s contribution to Guyana. Brindley Benn left the PPP in 1968, a mere six years later, and became a fierce critic for 20 years. Welcomed back in 1992, he served as High Commissioner to Canada and in other positions. He was recognized with a national award. Ranji Chandisingh, considered to be Jagan’s deputy in the 1970s, crossed over to the PNC in 1977 with great bitterness, causing much consternation and upheaval in the entire PPP. He served as a Vice President, General Secretary of the PNC and Ambassador to the USSR. He remained loyal to the PNC to the end. However, at Chandisingh’s funeral in 2009, Donald Ramotar, then General Secretary of the PPP, spoke for the PPP in glowing terms about Chandisingh.

We should not allow Rai’s contribution to Guyana to be defined by the PPP’s antagonism, which has already devolved to another generation. Rai’s achievements in government have been recognized by many outside the PPP. Hamilton Green, Eusi Kwayana, Llewellyn John and Ashton Chase have become recognized as national icons. The time has come for Balram Singh Rai to be given due recognition in some way for his contribution to Guyana − to be literally brought in from the cold − and for his parliamentary pension, which he has sought for many years, to be paid to him. The government’s magnanimity, not only for Rai, but for so many others deliberately ignored by the PPP, including Fenton Ramsahoye, would go a long way in correcting egregious historical omissions.

Original Post
Originally Posted by Prashad:
Ramkarrran and his father bitterly opposed Rai.

Prash, people are entitled to change their views over time. In hindsight, lots of us realize that we made wrong decisions, supported unjust policies, followed others blindly, etc at certain points in our lives.

In the case of Ralph Ramkarran who was just a teenager in 1962, it's better late than never to pay due respect to Balram Singh Rai.

Originally Posted by Prashad:
When Ramkarrran was.speaker for almost a decade why did he not give Mr Rai his pension?

Good question, Prash. I can only assume that it was a PPP-regime decision not to pay Rai's pension.

Another thing, Ralph says: "I understand that Rai made an effort at reconciliation with Cheddi Jagan in 1992 but received no response."

Frankly speaking, Jagan was mean-spirited to rebuff Rai. A lot of party deserters crawled back to Freedom House in 1992 and they were accepted.

Rai just wanted to be a gentleman and show goodwill towards Jagan.

Balram Singh Rai has always been my hero. I admired his style of politics when I was in my teenager. He taught me the concept of "Satyamewa Jayate" meaning that the truth alone triumphs. Rai would have loved to do more for his country and his people but they derived themselves of his service. On a wall in my home is a large portriat of Balram Singh Rai.  

Originally Posted by Dondadda:

Balram Singh Rai has always been my hero. I admired his style of politics when I was in my teenager. He taught me the concept of "Satyamewa Jayate" meaning that the truth alone triumphs. Rai would have loved to do more for his country and his people but they derived themselves of his service. On a wall in my home is a large portriat of Balram Singh Rai.  

I know Bayto .

Originally Posted by Dondadda:

I am not Winston Mits. You know that. Now let get back on topic.What are your views on BS Rai. I'd love to hear it.

I heard about Rai from my father, but did not fully appreciate his contributions until Bayto's book: Against the Grain. If only he had been in the place of Cheddi Jagan by independence, I would say Guyana could have been today at the level of development of Barbados or Mauritius.

Originally Posted by Dondadda:

I am not Winston Mits. You know that. Now let get back on topic.What are your views on BS Rai. I'd love to hear it.

The first time I heard the word Chatri, it was in relation to Balram Singh Rai. 

 

The comment was, "He was a Chatri, and he made certain others were aware of it."

 

Now, I seek to understand where the word come from. I doan seem to find it the caste of India.

 

Is it a Guyanese interpretation of an upper caste?

Originally Posted by VishMahabir:

Hey,

Do anyone of you know how to get in touch with the author, or how to get a copy of Rai's book?? I have my own copy but I do not want to lose it....someone else needs a copy. I bought mine at Austin's, apparently they are out of stock. 

Thank you kindly.

Still a few copies remaining on Amazon.

Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by Dondadda:

I am not Winston Mits. You know that. Now let get back on topic.What are your views on BS Rai. I'd love to hear it.

I heard about Rai from my father, but did not fully appreciate his contributions until Bayto's book: Against the Grain. If only he had been in the place of Cheddi Jagan by independence, I would say Guyana could have been today at the level of development of Barbados or Mauritius.

Wasn't he an Indian Advocate (maybe supremacist)...so how would he have done better than Cheddi?  Just asking...I am not very familiar with his political stance; I am just going from hearsay.

Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by VishMahabir:

Hey,

Do anyone of you know how to get in touch with the author, or how to get a copy of Rai's book?? I have my own copy but I do not want to lose it....someone else needs a copy. I bought mine at Austin's, apparently they are out of stock. 

Thank you kindly.

Still a few copies remaining on Amazon.

TK, it would be nice if Baytoram makes the book available in Amazon Kindle format. After 10 years, time for him to consider a second edition.

Originally Posted by VVP:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by Dondadda:

I am not Winston Mits. You know that. Now let get back on topic.What are your views on BS Rai. I'd love to hear it.

I heard about Rai from my father, but did not fully appreciate his contributions until Bayto's book: Against the Grain. If only he had been in the place of Cheddi Jagan by independence, I would say Guyana could have been today at the level of development of Barbados or Mauritius.

Wasn't he an Indian Advocate (maybe supremacist)...so how would he have done better than Cheddi?  Just asking...I am not very familiar with his political stance; I am just going from hearsay.

I was alluding to his politics. He was rabidly anti-communist. He would have found a better way to work with Forbes Burnham because those guys, including the BGEIA, were pragmatic. There would have been less need for foreign destabilizations of Guyana.

Originally Posted by Gilbakka:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by VishMahabir:

Hey,

Do anyone of you know how to get in touch with the author, or how to get a copy of Rai's book?? I have my own copy but I do not want to lose it....someone else needs a copy. I bought mine at Austin's, apparently they are out of stock. 

Thank you kindly.

Still a few copies remaining on Amazon.

TK, it would be nice if Baytoram makes the book available in Amazon Kindle format. After 10 years, time for him to consider a second edition.

Doubt whether the authors have that ability unless they self-publish. The publishers have to do that.

Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by VVP:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by Dondadda:

I am not Winston Mits. You know that. Now let get back on topic.What are your views on BS Rai. I'd love to hear it.

I heard about Rai from my father, but did not fully appreciate his contributions until Bayto's book: Against the Grain. If only he had been in the place of Cheddi Jagan by independence, I would say Guyana could have been today at the level of development of Barbados or Mauritius.

Wasn't he an Indian Advocate (maybe supremacist)...so how would he have done better than Cheddi?  Just asking...I am not very familiar with his political stance; I am just going from hearsay.

I was alluding to his politics. He was rabidly anti-communist. He would have found a better way to work with Forbes Burnham because those guys, including the BGEIA, were pragmatic. There would have been less need for foreign destabilizations of Guyana.

Okay, got you.

Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by Gilbakka:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by VishMahabir:

Hey,

Do anyone of you know how to get in touch with the author, or how to get a copy of Rai's book?? I have my own copy but I do not want to lose it....someone else needs a copy. I bought mine at Austin's, apparently they are out of stock. 

Thank you kindly.

Still a few copies remaining on Amazon.

TK, it would be nice if Baytoram makes the book available in Amazon Kindle format. After 10 years, time for him to consider a second edition.

Doubt whether the authors have that ability unless they self-publish. The publishers have to do that.

Chakra Publishing House printed Bayto's book. I just sent Chakra a request to consider e-book format in addition to print edition.

Originally Posted by Gilbakka:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by Gilbakka:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by VishMahabir:

Hey,

Do anyone of you know how to get in touch with the author, or how to get a copy of Rai's book?? I have my own copy but I do not want to lose it....someone else needs a copy. I bought mine at Austin's, apparently they are out of stock. 

Thank you kindly.

Still a few copies remaining on Amazon.

TK, it would be nice if Baytoram makes the book available in Amazon Kindle format. After 10 years, time for him to consider a second edition.

Doubt whether the authors have that ability unless they self-publish. The publishers have to do that.

Chakra Publishing House printed Bayto's book. I just sent Chakra a request to consider e-book format in addition to print edition.

Man...you like dem young bais...can you really read a book on dem electronic readers?

Originally Posted by seignet:
Originally Posted by Dondadda:

I am not Winston Mits. You know that. Now let get back on topic.What are your views on BS Rai. I'd love to hear it.

The first time I heard the word Chatri, it was in relation to Balram Singh Rai. 

 

The comment was, "He was aChatri, and he made certain others were aware of it."

 

Now, I seek to understand where the word come from. I doan seem to find it the caste of India.

 

Is it a Guyanese interpretation of an upper caste?

sege..Chatri real word is Kastriya is second in the hindu caste

system most Guyanese with the name Singh claim to be from

that caste.Our ancestors will define themselves being from Brahamin,Kastrya,Vaishya and Sudra,when i was growing my

mom told me i am Chatri inherited from my father,i never paid

any attention, it does not matter to me, i was even told  my

grandmother was a Sudra.I am more inclined to Atheism due to

exploring science.

 

Originally Posted by Django:
Originally Posted by seignet:
Originally Posted by Dondadda:

I am not Winston Mits. You know that. Now let get back on topic.What are your views on BS Rai. I'd love to hear it.

The first time I heard the word Chatri, it was in relation to Balram Singh Rai. 

 

The comment was, "He was aChatri, and he made certain others were aware of it."

 

Now, I seek to understand where the word come from. I doan seem to find it the caste of India.

 

Is it a Guyanese interpretation of an upper caste?

sege..Chatri real word is Kastriya is second in the hindu caste

system most Guyanese with the name Singh claim to be from

that caste.Our ancestors will define themselves being from Brahamin,Kastrya,Vaishya and Sudra,when i was growing my

mom told me i am Chatri inherited from my father,i never paid

any attention, it does not matter to me, i was even told  my

grandmother was a Sudra.I am more inclined to Atheism due to

exploring science.

 

Thank You. It is like a sub-caste from the kastyra. I read a detailed account of the invasions of the different tribes(if that is a good word) in India. Everytime, one tribe displaced another tribe, the kastyras made off with the treasury and  set up a separate kingdom. That is how, Indian had some many Rajas and Ranis.

Originally Posted by Wally:

I don't read anything written by Ralph anymore.  But I will say this.  It is up to the PPP to honor BS Rai and not the PNC.

I do not get your logic Wally. We are honoring people's contribution to our history. The PPP refused to honor Rai, and as Ralph said, he should have been given his parliamentary pension. The has a chance to correct this wrong and do justice to Rai.

Vish, BS Rai should receive some type of honor for his contribution to Guyana but I cannot see the PNC being part of the present government honoring him. There are still several people in that party who feel deep hurt by some of his actions in the past. Similarly there are some powerfull folks in the PPP party who also feel deep hurt because they perceive him as being a CIA informer who stool pigeoned on his brothers and sisters.  He should be given his pension and he should receive some type of award but I just don't know from whom.   

Originally Posted by VVP:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by VVP:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by Dondadda:

I am not Winston Mits. You know that. Now let get back on topic.What are your views on BS Rai. I'd love to hear it.

I heard about Rai from my father, but did not fully appreciate his contributions until Bayto's book: Against the Grain. If only he had been in the place of Cheddi Jagan by independence, I would say Guyana could have been today at the level of development of Barbados or Mauritius.

Wasn't he an Indian Advocate (maybe supremacist)...so how would he have done better than Cheddi?  Just asking...I am not very familiar with his political stance; I am just going from hearsay.

I was alluding to his politics. He was rabidly anti-communist. He would have found a better way to work with Forbes Burnham because those guys, including the BGEIA, were pragmatic. There would have been less need for foreign destabilizations of Guyana.

Okay, got you.

Thanks for clarifying this, TK.

Originally Posted by Wally:

Vish, BS Rai should receive some type of honor for his contribution to Guyana but I cannot see the PNC being part of the present government honoring him. There are still several people in that party who feel deep hurt by some of his actions in the past. Similarly there are some powerfull folks in the PPP party who also feel deep hurt because they perceive him as being a CIA informer who stool pigeoned on his brothers and sisters.  He should be given his pension and he should receive some type of award but I just don't know from whom.   

He was respected among those who sought independence without confrontations with the British-the British Guyanese favorable to the colonials, Indo and Afro alike. A small circle of people.

 

Just like Forbes, he also suffered from the smear campaign. He wanted to balance the Police Force. It became the rumor that he was anti-black. Especially since he raised hell about the rigging of Benn's election.

Originally Posted by Dondadda:

I am not Winston Mits. You know that. Now let get back on topic.What are your views on BS Rai. I'd love to hear it.

You sound like someone I know from the Abary area.

 

Balram stood up to the Jagans. He did not allow them to bully him. He refused to retract his statement that the Jagans rigged the PPP elections for Party Chairman post in 1962. When the Jagans went into hiding, he single-handedly avoided the break out of a Civil War in 1962.

 

Where were you on Feburary 16th, 1962?

Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by Gilbakka:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by Gilbakka:
Originally Posted by TK:
Originally Posted by VishMahabir:

Hey,

Do anyone of you know how to get in touch with the author, or how to get a copy of Rai's book?? I have my own copy but I do not want to lose it....someone else needs a copy. I bought mine at Austin's, apparently they are out of stock. 

Thank you kindly.

Still a few copies remaining on Amazon.

TK, it would be nice if Baytoram makes the book available in Amazon Kindle format. After 10 years, time for him to consider a second edition.

Doubt whether the authors have that ability unless they self-publish. The publishers have to do that.

Chakra Publishing House printed Bayto's book. I just sent Chakra a request to consider e-book format in addition to print edition.

Man...you like dem young bais...can you really read a book on dem electronic readers?

That's how I've been reading all my books for the past 3 years. Besides buying from Amazon.ca I borrow books from the Toronto Public Library and read on my PC, smartphone and Kindle. Immediate downloads, and the best part is that I don't have to spend public transit fares to visit the library or a bookshop.

Originally Posted by Wally:

I don't read anything written by Ralph anymore.  But I will say this.  It is up to the PPP to honor BS Rai and not the PNC.

That is nonsense, Wally. The PPP has despised Balram Singh Rai since 1962 and will not honour him.

Regarding the PNC, you may be surprised to learn that Forbes Burnham personally regarded Rai with respect even after Rai left Guyana. In fact, after the PPP had rigged internal congress elections and kicked out Rai, Burnham said that the PPP had dispensed with one of its best.

President Granger is a historian and he is more likely to look at Rai as a Guyanese, not merely a PPP man. In any case, it's an open secret that Rai and the Jagans hardly got along even when he was in the PPP.

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