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memories of Sash Sawh
April 21st. 2007 - By Odeen Ishmael
Read also Assassination of Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh
One year ago, Sash Sawh, his brother, sister and security guard were brutally murdered. This cruel, heinous deed left us totally devastated and shocked by what had occurred. Those of us who associated personally and politically with Sash were thrown into a dark night of horrible despair. Today, one year later, we continue to mourn for him and we ponder how things might have been if he were still around.
My memories of Sash go back to 1971 when I first met him in Georgetown where he was already politically active as a member of the Progressive Youth Organisation. He was that jolly, affable boy attending Indian Education Trust College, where I was one of his teachers, and was every popular for his wit and roaring laughter - trademarks which remained with him to the day he died.
When Sash went away to Canada, we never lost touch. An occasional note now and then would come from him, but I did not see him again until 1980. I was in Moscow as part of a PPP delegation having a meeting with Soviet officials at the hotel where we were staying. Suddenly I heard an animated jolly laughter outside and I immediately told my hosts that the laugh sounded very familiar - like that of someone I knew back in Guyana.
I pushed open the door and, sure enough, there was Sash in active conversation with a group of Canadian political activists who were on a visit to the Soviet Union. It was indeed a joyous reunion with him and we had a few lunches and dinners together before he and his group left for a visit to another part of the country.
Back in Toronto he was ever busy, between his studies, to masterly conduct political activities to build awareness in Canada for the struggle for democracy in Guyana. He and his comrades in the Association of Concerned Guyanese participated in numerous public demonstration and meetings with Canadian politicians as part of their lobbying exercise to urge the restoration of free and fair elections in their homeland.
I remember how excited he was about the monthly Guyana Current which he edited and made very popular in Canada, and from time to time I received letters from him requesting me to write articles for the paper which informed readers of political developments in Guyana.
In particular, I recall vividly his convincing argument in August 1992 to a group of Guyanese businessmen resident in New York that the PPP/Civic would win the forthcoming elections in Guyana. Dr. Jagan had asked me and Vic Oditt to meet with the businessmen who were not at all politically friendly to the PPP which had languished for almost three decades in the opposition. Sash, who was in New York visiting his relatives, somehow learned about this meeting and he managed to contact me since he wanted to join us at the function. I asked him to come along to the meeting which was held on a rainy evening at an up-scale restaurant in Manhattan. There he assisted me and Vic in a gruelling debate with the business group who, after about three hours, were convinced that the PPP/Civic would convincingly win the elections in the light of the much-struggled-for electoral reforms and the presence of international observers.
Within a year after the PPP/Civic rolled to victory, Dr. Jagan called Sash back to Guyana and then sent him as Ambassador to Caracas where he went through a period of anxiety before he was finally accredited. By this time, I was already posted to Washington and almost every day during that trying period, Sash and I spoke on the phone and I assured him that everything would work out all right. Everything did turn out all right and Sash proved to be a very resourceful, successful and much admired diplomat in Venezuela.
The last time I saw Sash was on March 5, 2006 at Babu John where he chaired the commemoration activities marking the death anniversary of Dr. Jagan. We did not get to converse much since he was very busy but he took the opportunity to announce to the audience my presence at the ceremony.
One incident will remain with me forever. On Friday April 21, 2006 Sash sent a letter asking me to represent him at the meeting in Caracas of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. He said that he had to deal with some personal matters outside of Guyana and would be unable to attend the meeting. That very night the assassins struck.
Then on Monday morning April 23 Sash's secretary called to say that the last instruction he left with his staff was for them to remind me of the meeting! I guess all of that symbolised the organised manner in which he carried out his duties.
As an aside, I must state that he always held very great admiration for Dr. Jagan. When Dr. Jagan died he came with the group to Washington to accompany the body of the Guyanese President on the trip back to Guyana. He held on to me and wept like a heartbroken child; no doubt at that moment he was openly expressing his emotions after losing someone he greatly loved and admired.
And that was how I myself felt when I heard the news of how he was cut down. His life was snuffed out in the flash of a moment and the whole world turned upside down for his wife Sattie and his two sons and all those who loved and admired him.
But he left with us the lessons of his own life and his struggles and his optimism and hope for the future of our country.
May the glorious memories that Sash left behind live within all of us forever!
21 April 2007