Rohit Persaud Sacrificed Self for Upliftment of Others
It is with sadness I read of the passing of Rohit Persaud, a PPP stalwart who served the party and the country with distinction, honor, integrity, commitment and dedication. While we were not friends, I admired and engaged him because of our Port Mourant connection and his service to Corentyne. He would have a huge impact on the politics and in championing the plight of others.
He was a hero of political struggle and serving others. It is well known that he sacrificed his life, family, high office, and wealth for the party.
Though from Upper Corentyne, RohitPersaud was encouraged to settle in Port Mourant, home village of Cheddi Jagan. Rohit grounded with activists in Tain, Port Mourant and throughout the Corentyne where he was very active in PPP politics.
When I left Port Mourant at the tender age of 16 in 1977 for tertiary education abroad, I knew of the political activism of RohitPersaud. In America, I continued to monitor political activities in Port Mourant, the Corentyne, and the nation. Like Rohit and others, I remained committed to the struggle for free and fair elections and against the food ban. Whenever I visited Port Mourant during holiday breaks, I would engage Rohit. So I knew of his politics and leadership, especially after Cheddi Jagan appointed him Chair of Region 6 in 1992. And we had engagements post-Regional Chair. He wanted to tell of his political life and his views of politics. Rohit was a kind, caring, and compassionate worker, political activist, and Regional Chair. He was honored by President Cheddi Jagan for service to nation.
Persaud underwent depravations similar to those encountered by PPP post-independence under the dictatorship. But his persecution made him more determined to champion the rights of people. He did not betray friends or party.
There were/are few like Rohit in the PPP and in the country who committed their life the way he did to uplift the lives of others, particularly the working class (sugar workers and farmers). I know of his political work because of my grounding in Port Mourant where his name was well known (and beyond) from the 1970s thru the 2000s.
Today’s PPP politicians may not know him. Some had had no regards for his contributions during very hard days of the 1970s and 1980s. He helped to build the party, to get into office in 1992. He was an outstanding party organizer and a dedicated warrior against the Burnham dictatorship. I grew up admiring the political activism of the likes of Rohit, Swasi Deola, and others from Port Mourant. As it was for so many of us during the era of our youths, Dr. Jagan was their hero. Rohit, like Swasi, and several others were committed foot soldiers, fearlessly organizing activities for Jagan’s party. He was a committed Jaganite, a man of principles and integrity refusing lucrative offers to betray the party and leader.
A story was related about his encounter with Burnham who made a financially rewarding job offer to him. Rohit had driven to Georgetown for a party meeting at Freedom House. On his way back to Port Mourant, his vehicle broke down on the East Coast at dusk. Burnham happened to pass the same time. Burnham’s vehicle drove past Rohit’s old, broken down car on the parapet, and recognized Rohit. After being driven for some two miles past Rohit, Burnham ordered his driver to turned back and stopped next to Rohit’s disabled vehicle. Burnham came out of vehicle and warmly greeted Rohit, telling him: “Comrade Rohit, Look at your condition! Look at how Jagan punishing you. Sand flies and mosquitoes are eating you now. Join me and you will have a better life. Here is my phone number. Call me tomorrow. Any job, any position you want is yours. And you will also get a vehicle”.
Rohit related the incident to Jagan and several of his colleagues. I too heard of it. Jagan was worried that Rohit would cross over to Burnham as several opportunists did and pleaded to Rohit not to join Burnham. Rohit was a man of principles. He would never entertain the thought of joining Burnham. He was a Jagan loyalist. Rohit declined Burnham’s offer. He could not join a man who oppressed and persecuted people and who rigged elections. He remained committed to his party to the point that he became estrange from his family.
I’ll never forget how Rohit, Swasi Deola, and others traveled around by bicycle and on foot throughout the greater Port Mourant area soliciting funds and goods to help striking workers during the long strike of 1975 for GAWU recognition.
Regrettably, Rohit would become disappointed in the politics of the country. He was deeply hurt by Moses Nagamootoo’s betrayal of the party. His comrades told me that while others benefited from his political struggle, he was neglected. Rohit was marginalized, used, abused, discarded, and put to political pasture. His last political will and testament is an indictment of some.
During the last decade, while party comrades seemed to have forgotten about him, I regularly queried about his welfare in visits to the Corentyne. I also visited him a few times at his Topside residence. He felt very honored that I visited him. He applauded my political activism and writings and revealed a lot to me about his views of politics and about party figures. He cheered the return of the party in government last year.
Rohit died a disappointed man. He lived in poverty with very few showing appreciation of his work. As happened to so many stalwarts, they were never recognized, rewarded, or honored for their sacrifices to the party or their service to nation.
Rohit was disappointed with some political positions of the party and didn’t have very favorable things to say about certain individuals although he respected their views and applauded their activism. He spoke fondly of Feroze Mohammed and other old guards of the party; the new guard does not know him that well. He also spoke well of Harry Nokta and Indra Chanderpal, both of who also visited him occasionally. Clement Rohee, Hyder Ally, Donald Ramotar, Seeraj Dharamkumar, among a few others would also visit him when on the Corentyne.
Rohit’s positivity to politics and his contributions was an inspiration for the party on the Corentyne. The party owes him a debt of gratitude! Thank you Rohit Persaud for your contributions to nationhood and against the dictatorship. While his remains were consigned to flame as per Hindu custom on Wednesday Sept 29, his memory will live on in those of us who know him.
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