Tribute to Terence Holder – by Rafiq Khan

Tribute to Terence Holder – by Rafiq Khan

By: Rafiq Khan – 15 January, 2014

Rafiq Khan

For those of us of a certain age, memories are our only happiness. I would like to share with you some unforgettable memories and reflections about my friend, Terry Holder – not all of them happy.

My most recent happy memory was one of Terry just a few days before Christmas, when he up-ended the purpose of my visiting him by cheering

Terry Holder

Terry Holder

me up instead of my cheering him up.

There was I, on my arrival in the country, full of anxiety for Terry’s welfare, being whisked to his home by our mutual friend Vic Insanally. Unknown to me, Terry had just moved into the very street where my Guyana home is located.

Anticipating a one-on-one visit, I did not know I would be joining a  select group who had fore-gathered at Terry’s request, so that he could be with them for what, it is now sadly clear, he foresaw would be the last time.  

And then, Terence Holder, made his entrance, wheel-chaired and frail, but with a mind, memory and wit as sharp and sparkling as ever, holding us all in his thrall. With me, he joshed as to whether, by finding himself now on the same street where I lived, he had moved up or down in life.

And he recounted some minutiae of our past encounters which I, in allegedly better condition, was hard put to remember.I doubt that any of us who were there would have left not uplifted by Terry’s last hurrah.

Curiously, although of the same country and broadly of the same vocation, Terry and I had been distant journeymen on separate routes, until fate brought us together, not in Guyana, but in the wider Caribbean sphere – Terry as President, then Secretary General, of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and I responsible for UNESCO’s communication inputs in the region.

It was at a time when the CBU, a once vibrant organization founded by another Guyanese, Hugh Cholmondeley, had  fallen prey to that well known and still-going-strong Caribbean syndrome of ramshackle glossed over by big-talk.

And here was Terry Holder, coming from an operational background, steeped in the then heady wine of Guyanese broadcasting at its best, and blessed with a non-abrasive personality and an equable temperament.

Here indeed was Terry, artful and gifted, on a mission to unite a disunited Union and energize it for the advancement of all its member systems.

If you ever thought Terry had his hands full dealing with one radio station in his earlier career, consider his new theatre of operations – at least 35 radio and television systems in 18 countries, each system, each country with its own needs, its own priorities.

At the same time, Terry had to contend with a CBU Board, forthcoming with directives to the Secretary General, but backsliding with resources. Yet he made the best of what he could muster, while becoming the convenient football for board members who preened themselves on the presumption that by making demands they had done their work.

Terry kept his cool- until at one meeting he had had enough and made a simple retort, to which there was no comeback, and which is now legend in the CBU. Terence Holder, under attack, quietly asked: “If bashing the Secretary General is the answer, what is the question?”

Into this milieu stepped UNESCO with money-bags and expertise, but also with – to use an ugly word – conditionalities.

Maybe it helped that we came from the same country and background, but importantly we subscribed to the same standards of professionalism and quality, and Terry took it to heart that for every privilege there was an obligation.

Our negotiations therefore tended to be conducted in a kind of shorthand, and out of a free-flowing partnership between the CBU (i.e. Terry Holder) and UNESCO emerged improvements in broadcasting capabilities and outputs at a level and of a spread never before or since achieved.

Then, in the midst of a thriving relationship that was short on talk but big on delivery, Terry got homesick, forsook the CBU and returned to the country he loved to begin the third phase of his remarkable career.

I, on the other hand, remained around the CBU long enough to cement my view that Terence Holder was the most productive, indeed the best Secretary General, in the history of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union.

It was with the ending of our institutional relationship and his return to Guyana that our personal relationship truly began – one in which Terry felt free to decry the decline in the quality of broadcasting in this country and his helplessness to do anything about it.

And not only in broadcasting, he told me, but in so many other areas was Guyana caught in that decelerating vortex of being spun down to the lowest common denominator.

Terry was passionate about this loss of standards and despaired that it may be beyond reclaim. He feared that the mediocrity of yesterday had become the excellence of today. This insight brought to mind these words of a poet, slightly misquoted:

“Degradation is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs to be seen.
Yet, seen too often, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace”.

The question therefore becomes: How can a generation that has embraced degraded values be made to recognize perennial excellence?

Fossils like me are long forgotten. But Hugh Cholmondeley strove, failed and is gone. Terry Holder agonized, failed and is now gone. And what of my other proteges – Vic Insanally, Ron Robinson, Rovin Deodat, Carlton James, who are still among you? Perhaps it is more expedient to send them too into pre-mature fossilage?

Terry Holder, among the last holdouts from an era when standards really mattered, lamented what has become of his beloved country as a whole…while I, an ancient mariner with a narrower perspective, have been searching in vain, amidst the tawdriness of a garbage and concrete jungle, for the Garden City of my youth.

Is anyone even noticing that the philistines are taking over our city and our country? Even in the little elegant avenue where Terry and I last lived, I see the philistines rising.

And I am left to wonder how paltry is any tribute of soon-forgotten words to such as Terence Holder? How long will we ignore our prophets? When will we gather the collective will to stand behind them and say: Enough?

Or shall we continue to stand aside and look?

The life and stifled dreams of the prophet, Terence Holder, should bestir us to think on these things, and to rise up and act so that, one day, we who survive can lift our voices triumphantly in Guyana’s Redemption Song.

 St, Andrew’s Kirk, Georgetown. – Rafiq Khan 15 January, 2014.

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  • de castro  On 01/21/2014 at 4:01 am

    A very nostalgic read…unfortunately we cannot turn back time and time waits for no man….if our expectations are too high we can be disappointed.
    Rafiq your expectations are indeed admirable. Good luck…in the future.

  • Deen  On 01/21/2014 at 3:04 pm

    What an eloquent and poetic tribute to Terence Holder by his friend Rafiq Khan!

    Rafiq Khan’s nostalgic reflections are touching, especially to us, the group of “fossilized” Guyanese. While he wrote a tribute to Terence Holder, his comments also sadly touched on the degradation of Guyana’s golden age, the continuing sacrilegious destruction and decay of Georgetown, the loss of exemplary national standards and the prevailing hopelessness of the country and its people,
    Rafiq Khan posed three provoking questions to all Guyanese:

    “How long will we ignore our prophets? When will we gather the collective will to stand behind them and say: Enough?
    Or shall we continue to stand aside and look?”

    Perhaps it’s late to address these troubling questions, but it’s better to be late than just continue “to stand and look,”

  • de castro  On 01/21/2014 at 7:29 pm

    Deen …I share your sentiments but have my concerns on whether the
    people are ready for another revolution/civil war….it can be bloody
    as no one surrenders power without a fight.
    It will take a revolution to bring about the changes necessary for
    Guyana’s races to unite but I am certain it will happen.
    Just observe what is happening in Syria today …. can Guyana afford
    to go down that road.? I hope not….would much prefer a “bloodless”
    revolution with the peoples of Guyana united demanding change in peaceful protesting…..forcing mass resignations in government….power to the people.
    An interim government established until new elections are held….supervised
    by a UN mandate to rule…. Guyana’s reformation.
    Now that I have struck the spark that lights the fire let’s see how far/fast it spreads.

    In optimism for the future of Guyana ….my first love hopefully my last.


  • Deen  On 01/21/2014 at 8:37 pm

    Kamptan, my friend, my comments were not intended to suggest any belligerent action. I’m more of a pacifist, who believes in non-violence, but I think to curb the downward spiral in Guyana requires persistent, assertive and constructive methods to resuscitate the country from its pathetic state.
    Guyana’s retrogressive situation today is a results of the divisiveness created by politicians, who pandered on the blind allegiance of their party followers. As we know, a house divided will never stand.
    Also, the apathy of the Guyanese people “to stand aside and look.” while political leaders and those in power have the liberty to do as they please…..and they have enjoyed a long period of corruption and destruction to many progressive industries.
    Irreparable damage has been done to the country because of poor political leadership, inept mismanagement and continued political feud. There has been no cooperative effort among the parties to work together for the good of the people and country.
    Unless the leaders unifying themselves, work together by making compromises, and influence the people to do the same Guyana will continue to go down the road to perdition.
    As we all know, Guyana is a large country of 83,000 square miles which is blessed with a lot of natural resources. With a small population of less than a million people, there is no reason why it should be one of the two poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. It’s a sad fact that poverty creates a breeding ground for drugs, corruption and social decadence.
    Guyana desperately needs good leaders to unify the people to work together as One People, One Nation, One Destiny.

  • de castro  On 01/21/2014 at 9:07 pm

    Revolution does not have to be bloody….it is the peaceful protests
    by Ghandi and Mandella that changed their world …our world…
    National unions by peaceful protesting can force the changes necessary
    for the leaders to resign or be removed by the electorate next time round.
    Democracy in action not words.
    We shall see !

  • detow  On 01/22/2014 at 2:20 am

    de Castro while I agree that revulotion does not necessarily mean armed conflict (bloody), I have to ask what alternative is there to stop/reverse the the type of mismanagement and blatant misappropriation of Guyana’s wealth by the present government and the ineptitude of the opposition parties as alternatives. My question is after the present government is gotten rid of who is there to steer Guyana back to a healthy state? As I suggested in another blog, the solution does not lie in killing off everyone in sight but in getting the idiots who sheepishly follow the established political parties to come together and kick the PPP/c, the PNC/r and the AFC off the political map. The problem lies in how can the populace, racially divided as they are,
    be convinced to come together for the common good.

    • de castro  On 01/22/2014 at 2:58 am

      The trade union movement in Guyana with the support of the media
      can destabilise the government…by peaceful protests.
      Even as one blogger suggest a new “independent party” be formed.
      Guyana s politics needs a complete break away from the old school
      of a two party state….the trend today is to have “coalition” governments
      A”compromise” situation which is decided after the results are announced.
      Even a few “independants” in politics is a way forward.
      UK and most of euroland are governed by coalitions…
      UK Cameron Clegg …conservatives and liberals V labour in opposition.
      A decision made after results were announced to avoid another election.

      Next time round it could be a merger of Cameron and Ferage ….conservative and
      UK independent party….newcomer nationalist party….or a merger of
      three parties to form a government…..Party politics.!!
      Maybe Guyana needs a new/third party/fourth party to split the votes.

      Not sure how the presidential office is determined…..was Jagdeo de selected
      to be succeeded by Ramotar ….? Or was a there an election for president.

      The complexities of politricks cash be confusing.


      • detow  On 01/22/2014 at 6:11 pm

        I agree with most of what you say but my problem with a coalition government in Guyana made up of the existing parties, and their existing corrupt members, is tantamount to encouraging a feeding frenzy, greater than the one that presently exists. Sounds to me that an interim government situation, created from select members of the Caribbean community may be a scenario that aught to be looked at. The Guyanese people would have to be the ones to determine how this is achieved; a general strike maybe. Whatever they decide there may be need for the armed forces to be on side, but herein lies another problem.

        Like you said,the complexities of politricks can be confusing.

  • Robin McCallum  On 01/26/2014 at 6:32 am

    Excellent Tribute by Rafiq Khan to a Giant in Broadcasting in the Caribbean and around the world.Terry will be missed.

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