In beginning this tribute to Basil “Bung Sukarno” Cato, who died in the USA three weeks ago and is due to be buried today, my condolences go out to the bereaved; my sister La Ferne, the children and grandchildren and the wider extended family. They must have been as pleased as I was to note the tributes, especially by the footballing and calypso communities which he worked so hard to develop.
Incidentally, the calypso community also lost another of its stalwarts around the same time, “Sir D”, real name Francis Mayers of “Woman Gone, Woman Dey” fame. My condolences also to those he left behind. The departure of these two adds to the significant losses to the Caribbean cultural community over the past year, especially here and in Trinidad and Tobago.
In the case of “Bung”, who earned a reputation as an uncompromising heckler, who often earned the enmity of persons for his hard-hitting jibes, it is good to note that persons who knew him would rise above any personal animosities and see him in the wider context of national development. “Bung” certainly made a significant contribution in that regard.
He is perhaps best known for his legendary contribution to local football, as an administrator after his playing days with Eagles football club, managing national teams and heading the local Federation. “Bung’s” lasting mark was in spreading the popularity of football with the slogan “Soccer, the Game of the People”.
In my time and his, we grew up when football was largely a game played in Kingstown and its environs. There were limited rural enclaves, Barrouallie, Layou, Calliaqua and Mesopotamia, for example where football was played on an organized basis. I was indeed fortunate to be part of a crusading drive by a team we called Spurs, driven by the late Dick Lowe, eldest of the famous Lowe footballing fraternity, to regularly take football to the rural areas on Sundays. ‘Bung’s’ “Game of the People” gave popular impetus to these efforts.
“Bung” was also a calypsonian of note. He came to prominence rather late, and I took fun in always reminding him that he began his calypso career at an age when some who started young were getting ready to retire. But for all the picong, he persevered and just as his slogan for football became enduring, so did his soca contribution “Sukarno rock”. By the way, how many people realize that the Sukarno in his nickname came from a prominent Indonesian President and founder of the global Non-Aligned Movement who led his country to independence.
As in football, ‘Bung’ also assisted in the development of the calypso community and promoting the art form. He assisted many fellow calypsonians with developing the craft and helped to advance the cause of the calypso community. For those who knew him, this was not sur
In addition to these, Basil Cato was also a politician in his own right, devoted to supporting the party of his relative and namesake, Robert Milton Cato, first Prime Minister of SVG. He was not one to wear his heart on his sleeve and it was no surprise that when Labour lost government in 1984, he was one of the casualties, dismissed from his post as manager of the Housing Corporation.
Dismissal did not silence him, however. As an avid reader, it was no surprise that he had command of the English language and he used his skill to good effect, not only criticizing the many shortcomings of the Mitchell regime, but on an even more positive note advancing ideas for national development.
‘Bung’ was a regular contributor to the newspaper I edited, JUSTICE. It mattered not that he was a “Labour man”, out and out, and I was, of course, a “dyed in the wool” UPM man, his contributions were welcome as they were developmental in content. Let me conclude with quoting snippets from his writings:
SOCCER -THE GAME OF THE PEOPLE
In a series of articles in November/December 1987, ‘Bung” developed this theme. He began as follows:
When in 1975/76 in a spirit of hilariousness, and carried away perhaps, by a feeling of profound nostalgia, I shouted through the microphone at Victoria Park, “Soccer, the game of the People”, I never dreamt that these words were going to be turned into a national slogan, nor would their usage be the remedy for getting almost the entire nation to become re-involved in some form or other……….in this area of the field of sport…
(from JUSTICE, Nov. 20, 1987)
ON HOUSING DEVELOPMENT
In modern times it has come to be recognized that the home is the base for the family and proper family life and thus the prerequisites – social and economic development of the individual and the nation as a whole.
In countries like SVG it is accepted internationally that government must play the leading role in housing development especially among the lower income groupings of the society……
With these glimpses of his philosophy, I say farewell, my dear Brother. Hope to have the opportunity to share more of his writings in the future.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.