Guyana news. I learnt of Rafiq Khan’s passing with a profound sense of sadness. He and I were rivals when we managed radio stations that competed for audiences and advertising revenue in the 1970s in an era where television did not exist and radio was the only form of electronic communication.
But, we were also friends. We both recognised that added value was brought to broadcasting in Guyana by the spirited efforts we made to have our stations outperform themselves in high quality programming.
But amidst our exciting rivalry, we also enjoyed engaging co-operation. Together, we started the Guyana Publishing and Broadcasting Association to set and self-regulate high standards for the media and to draw up a Code for advertising.
Beyond that, we found easy ground on which to agree that joint coverage by the radio stations of important events better served the interests of the Guyana public.
Our friendship endured after our Guyana sojourn when he was a Communications Consultant for UNESCO and I served as an elected member of its Executive Board. Rafiq took to his communications role in the Caribbean, the same passion, vision, intellect, and managerial skill that was so plainly obvious in Guyana.
In more recent years, Rafiq lived in Jamaica where I called on him whenever I visited. In every visit our conversations resumed as if time had not passed in between, except when he lost his wife – his childhood sweetheart and life-long friend. He was never quite the same after that. But, he never lost his interest in broadcasting – and particularly in Guyana – once asking me, by email which I still have, if I thought the authorities in Guyana would accept an offer from him, Hugh Cholmondeley and me to conduct training programmes.
He was a consummate broadcaster. Possessed of a mellifluous voice, he knew that excellence in broadcasting required preparation and diligence. He was a voracious reader and his attention to detail even in what appeared to be a simple broadcast distinguished him from many others and made his broadcasts renowned. One such broadcast was the joint coverage by Radio Demerara and the Guyana Broadcasting Service of the funeral of Guyana’s Governor-General, Sir David Rose. Rafiq was the final commentator in a relay of broadcasters, including Vic Insanally and me, who described the funeral procession through the streets of Georgetown to the Place of the Seven Ponds in the Botanical Gardens.
I cite now the words that Rafiq spoke as Sir David was laid to rest. They are taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and are Horatio’s farewell to his dying friend Hamlet. They are wholly applicable to Rafiq Khan.
“Now cracks a noble heart.
Goodnight, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”.
(The writer is a former Programme Director and General Manager of the Guyana Broadcasting Service, President of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, Board Member of the Caribbean News Agency and Member of the Executive Board of UNESCO)