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|The grim reaper stalks Chronicle as …|
|Tuesday, 08 May 2012 23:13|
Veteran Journalist M.Z. Ali dies
- Uncle of Housing and Water Minister
THE Chronicle family has been hard hit twice within as many weeks, as death visited - first the youngest brother of General Manager (ag) Mr. Nandkumar Puran, who was murdered on May 2 last, and then 67-year-old Assistant Editor, Mohamed Zaman Ali, paternal uncle of Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali, who took ill and died yesterday. ‘MZ’, as he was popularly known, was simple, unassuming, helpful, and always ready and willing to lend an ear. He loved debates, and his nephew, Minister Irfaan Ali, in reminiscing on days when his uncle would engage him in discussions - often heated and confrontational - explained that his uncle was his harshest critic, because he tolerated nothing less than perfection. This characteristic of ‘MZ’ helped to shape his own identity, revealed the Housing Minister, who ascribes his single-minded focus on his own responsibilities in national development imperatives to the influence of his parents and his uncle.
A little-known facet of ‘MZ’ was his love for cooking, and Minister Ali recalled the fun times shared together as they competed in preparing traditional and non-traditional dishes, often experimenting with new recipes together.
“He was more than an uncle,” Irfaan related, “we were a close family and he was always advising me on matters pertinent to politics and the media. I will miss him greatly because we shared a really special relationship.”
Minister Ali recalled that his now-deceased uncle had an exceptional facility for writing and a deep love for literature and recounted many instances when his uncle would draw him into hours-long topical discussions on every subject imaginable, which added to his own repertoire of knowledge.
President Donald Ramotar, in an invited comment last night, also expressed both shock and sadness at the passing of ‘MZ’, as he is fondly called.
“I met M.Z. Ali more than 45 years ago; we met at GIMAX (Guyana Import Export ) when we were both militants of the PYO (Progressive Youth Organisation). He came from a very strong political background and his mother has been a great inspiration…” President Ramotar said.
The President noted that ‘MZ’ is the product of a family that had outstanding political acumen, with his mother having been a great contributor to Guyana’s freedom fight as a very active member of the Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO).
This catalysed his own interest in political activism and he joined the People’s Progressive Party’s youth arm, the Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO) at a very tender age. ‘MZ’s’ facility for writing diverted his energies toward another avenue of struggle, which is as a journalist at the Mirror newspaper, where he played a dynamic role, in his own quiet way, in the fight for the restoration of democracy and a free press in Guyana. He, along with former President and journalist Janet Jagan, continued this fight even after he had joined the media corps in Suriname.
After the 1992 elections, President Ramotar noted that ‘MZ’ returned to Guyana to help in the Herculean task of rebuilding Guyana from the destruction of prior years. He was assigned to work as Director of the Guyana Information Service (GIS).
‘MZ’ was described by friends and family as a simple, loving, humble person, who performed the best he could in whatever capacity he served.
“Outside of politics, I have always admired the way he carried himself…’MZ’ was always neatly dressed, his shoes were always shiny and they glittered; he was also a very meticulous guy…someone who was always very jovial and witty,” the President told the Chronicle.
“…we had a lot of fun together during the days especially when we worked together at the Mirror newspaper. I remember those were very difficult days when persons were severely beaten and even locked up under the PNC dictatorship…those were very vicious times,” President Ramotar said.
He noted that ‘MZ’ went to Suriname for a while where he did a lot of work for the PPP. “When he returned to Guyana, there was this brief period when he was ‘led astray’ but , having realised his folly, he came back into the fold of the PPP where he carried on the struggle…I am happy that I have known ‘MZ’ and worked with him. He was very kind and loving,” the President added.
President Ramotar also extended, on behalf of himself and family, very heartfelt sympathy to ‘MZ’s’ wife and children, his entire family circle including his nieces and nephews (among them Irfaan Ali, the current Minister of Housing and Water) as well as the staff at the Guyana Chronicle where he last worked.
Chronicle’s Editor-in-Chief, Mark Ramotar, who was instrumental in securing employment for ‘MZ’ at the Chronicle, said that he worked under ‘MZ’ as a junior reporter in the GIS and owes a lot to the guidance of the veteran journalist, who mentored many of the young reporters that came within his ambit as head of the agency.
They remained very close friends over the years and Ramotar recalled fun times shared with his former boss who, ironically, worked in reverse position with Ramotar until his passing yesterday.
Ramotar, who, along with colleague journalist Chamanlall Naipaul was at the hospital yesterday when ‘MZ’ passed away , is quite distressed at losing such a valued and valuable colleague and said that replacing such a hard-working and dedicated team member in the Chronicle’s Editorial Department would be a difficult task indeed.
“MZ was an extremely close friend and colleague of mine. We shared many fond memories together over the years and his death has certainly created a void, not only in the Chronicle’s Editorial Department, but in the wider journalistic fraternity in general,” Ramotar commented.
Former Director and fellow Assistant Editor at the Chronicle, Ms Parvati Persaud-Edwards, said that MZ’s personality was the exact opposite of her volatile emotionalism, and his placidity often cooled her passionate temperament to rational levels, because he would quietly listen to her until she became calmer, before engaging in discussions in which he many times played devil’s advocate, albeit with his legendary smile. She also expressed shock and regret at his sudden passing.
Ms. Shanta Goberdhan, Editor-in-Chief of GINA, expressed shock on the passing of ‘MZ’. She said, in an invited comment to the Chronicle, “I am shocked and profoundly sad at the passing of a very good friend of many years, M. Z. Ally, therefore, condolences are expressed to his family and friends.”
Continuing, Goberdhan said, “MZ, as he was familiarly known, was one of these rare human beings who combined all the good graces of life into a personality that could only be described as uniquely decent, in a world where basic courtesies and humanness are not ubiquitous. He was the epitome of politeness, always respectful to everyone he encountered, never displaying any form of arrogance or related attitude.
“I have had the good fortune to work with him at the Government Information Service (GIS), and discovered in him a man who was creative and dedicated to his job. That was a period that shaped me as an editor.
“His belief in the universality of man and his decent personality will endure always in my fond memories of MZ”.
Entrepreneur and former Chairman of the GNNL Board of Directors, during whose tenure ‘MZ’ served as director, Mr. Bish Panday said he is very saddened to hear of ‘MZ’s’ passing. Panday recalled that ‘MZ’ expressed his views in a very impartial manner and was always supportive, with the general good of the newspaper in mind, as did all the other directors who served under his stewardship.
“That was a very professional Board,” related Panday, “and the sum total of their contributions was greater than the individual parts. Ultimately there was no division in decision-making because everyone worked in the interest of GNNL and the Chronicle newspaper.” He extended his condolences to the friends and family of the deceased.
GNNL Director, Mr. David De Groot also lamented the death of ‘MZ’. “His passing is quite sudden; it was a shock to me. I think ‘MZ’ was very dedicated and a very hardworking person. He is going to be missed,” De Groot said.
Veteran journalist, George Barclay, said: “He was one of my trusted colleagues at the Chronicle. His advice was always comforting. He was always pleasant and never seemed to have a problem. He will be sadly missed. May his soul rest in peace.”
Mr. Michael Mohamed, who joined the Mirror newspaper in 1971 as a linotypist, when ‘MZ’ was a sub-editor, recalled that MZ always had a smile for everyone, and was an impeccable dresser, with shoes always ‘shining like a mirror’. He said ‘MZ’ had one of the greatest personalities of anyone that he has ever met, because he was always pleasant, with no unkind word to say to or about anyone.
He was a well-liked colleague of all the PPP veterans, including the late former presidents, Dr. and Mrs. Jagan; as well as current president, His Excellency Donald Ramotar.
Former colleague in the journalistic fraternity, Moses Nagamootoo said: “I’ve known MZ since 1967, first in the PYO…he never became ruffled in even the most pressing assignments. He was always calm and focused on his work. I am shocked now to hear of his untimely death. This was a man who had a very colourful life…and I am sure he will be remembered by his colleagues as someone who has made a mark in journalism in Guyana.”
MZ’s health had deteriorated over the past several weeks and, on Monday morning, his nephew, Minister Irfaan Ali rushed him to a private city hospital but, unfortunately, the younger brother of the minister’s father succumbed at about 14:00 hrs yesterday.
He leaves to mourn, apart from his extended family, his four children, sons Mark and Yuri, and daughters Rockielle and Nicole.
The funeral of the late Assistant Editor of the Chronicle, Mohamed Zaman Ali, will be announced later.
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