Former Guyana diplomat in Canada dead at 86

By RON FANFAIR

Former Guyana High Commissioner to Canada, Brindley Benn, has died.

The longtime People’s Progressive Party (PPP) member and former Deputy Prime Minister passed away at his Guyana residence last weekend after battling Alzheimer’s disease. He was 86.

Benn served as Guyana’s top diplomat in Canada from 1993 to 1998. During that time, he and his wife Patricia became actively involved in the Palm’s Home for the Aged restoration project. Patricia Benn chaired the committee charged with raising funds in the Canadian Diaspora and elsewhere to help refurbish the decrepit geriatric institution.

Other members of the committee included Wilfred McCalmont, Mary Tucker, the late Cleveland Moore and community worker Ned Blair.

“Though it was his wife who was out in front as the chair spearheading plans to get funds for the building project, Brindley also took a leadership role and spoke authoritatively on this and other issues,” said Blair. “It was obvious that he had huge experience and he brought this to the fore in our discussions as to how we should go about meeting some of our requirements as a committee. He was a very pleasant person and he acted very professionally.”

After graduating from high school, Benn worked as a clerk in the bauxite industry and as a teacher before opening his own school which lasted for three years. He returned to teaching at Indian Educational Trust College (now Richard Ishmael Secondary School) and it was during this period that he attended a political meeting where the late PPP leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan was the keynote speaker.

Benn was impressed by Jagan’s message and joined the party that night, launching his political career. He formed the Pioneer Youth League that was the forerunner to the Progressive Youth organization (PYO) and was elected party chair and executive committee member in 1956. He represented the Essequibo Islands in the 1957 general elections which the PPP won.

Benn held the Minister of Community Development and Education portfolio and was named the Minister of Agriculture following the 1961 elections. During his tenure as head of the agriculture ministry, he conceptualized the Guyana School of Agriculture and oversaw the implementation of several major drainage and irrigation schemes.

Philosophical differences led Benn to sever ties with the PPP in 1965 and he formed the Working People’s Vanguard Party. He later helped establish the Working People’s Alliance before returning to the PPP in the run-up to the 1992 elections.

At the conclusion of his diplomatic assignment in Canada, Benn served as chair of the Public Service Commission for three years and as a member of the Teaching Service Commission and Police Service Commission.

One of Benn son’s – Robeson – is the Minister of Public Works and Transport in the Guyana government.

 

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