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Sunday, 2 November 2008

Remembering David de Caires

It is not everyone who is able to find their vocation in life and by so doing make a real difference to the society in which they live, but such was the case with David de Caires, Editor-in-Chief of the Stabroek News.... Mr de Caires was clear from the beginning about the objectives of the newspaper, and while experience modified his style, he never deviated from its founding principles. From the very first issue the new editor committed the paper to espousing the cause of a free and open society in which the rule of law prevailed, and independent institutions were allowed to flourish....

"To run a newspaper one has to have a bit of a mission," he once remarked, "that is why I started."

-- From the editorial in today's Stabroek News.

My heart is too full to say much on the spur of this terrible moment but I want to express my life-long admiration for a man of great stature whose dedicated work in the cause of creating a free society was, I believe, extremely valuable and historically important....

David was an outstanding newspaperman, a clear and beautiful writer of prose, and he was the Caribbean's greatest and most eloquent advocate for free speech and a free press as an essential part of the foundation of a free and decent society and a well-run state.

-- Poet Ian McDonald, from a Stabroek article that also quotes tributes from the newspaper's senior editorial staff, President Bharrat Jagdeo and other Guyanese politicians, and other friends and colleagues of de Caires.

No one has yet quantified the value of the Stabroek News to the consolidation of post-Burnham freedoms, but it is huge, it is enormous. It is not only that the Stabroek News, under the modifying influence of David de Caires, put pressure on the then rulers to democratise even further, but it provided the society with two invaluable avenues.

It informed the nation what the pro-democracy forces were doing, and it offered its pages to those who wanted to be heard.

-- Freddie Kissoon, writing in the Kaieteur News.

Outside the world of Caribbean journalism, few people will have heard of David de Caires. He was trained and qualified as a lawyer, but in 1986 he founded the Stabroek News newspaper in Guyana, and ran it against all the odds and against all sorts of pressures for 22 years. He was its chairman and editor-in-chief.

It's hard for many, especially in the younger generation, to grasp just how difficult things were in Guyana for an independent newspaper or a non-partisan journalist in those days. We take for granted freedom of speech and expression, the right of the press to publish and report. But in the Guyana of 25 years ago, that was a freedom that had to be struggled for, and that struggle was a very risky business.

-- Jeremy Taylor, writing at the Caribbean Beat blog.

De Caires gave me the gift of being able to grow up in my generation in Guyana with courage, a humane world view, and a deep sense of care for the welfare of society.

This he was - a man with a deep sense of care for society. He lived to better the world. The best tribute I can pay him is to emulate that simple philosophy - I live as he taught me - to care for the betterment of society, to see every human being in society benefit from a fair playing field.

-- Shaun Michael Samaroo, from a letter published in today's Stabroek News.

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