Biography of Dr. Cheddi Jagan
Three important issues were faced by Cheddi Jagan during 1966 the continued imprisonment of PPP leaders at Mazaruni Prison where they were held without trial; the May 26th independence of the nation and the Venezuelan border issue.
The People's Progressive Party led by Cheddi Jagan consistently and militantly led the struggle for Guyanas independence from Britain from 1950 onwards. The British Government backed by the USA manoeuvred to prevent independence from being declared when the PPP was in office and manipulated the PPP out of office in 1964. The People’s National Congress carried the unpatriotic slogan "No Independence under Jagan" and gave no support to the struggle.
The Colonial Office announced the Independence date for May 26, 1966 and on that date the Union Jack was lowered and the new Guyana flag was raised. Cheddi Jagan, despite the reprehensible actions of the British and US Governments and the PNC to prevent Independence while he was in office, attended the ceremonies and welcomed the final break with colonialism, but stated that May 26 would mark a new phase in the struggle against neocolonialism.
“Independence finally came on a platter to the PNC in 1966. Since then, under the past administration, it has been 26 wasted years. All we have to show are the symbols of Independence - the flag, the national anthem and the coat of arms. For the vast majority, Independence has meant misery, pain and haplessness... This is not how it could have been.” Cheddi Jagan 1993
The struggle to free the 34 detainees was intensified with countrywide petitions and protests, with the detainees being released in July 1966.
Dr. Jagan accused the Coalition government of the PNC and the United Force of selling out the interests of the Guyanese people when it agreed to establish the Venezuela Guyana Border Commission. Dr. Jagan stated that the border dispute was settled years ago and the setting up of the Commission was a serious retreat as it gave the Venezuelan claim the status it never had before.
At the 13th Congress of the PPP, Cheddi Jagan declared in his address: "We must carry out a relentless struggle against the government in defence of the peoples vital interests We must concentrate on day to day work in every front to achieve racial integration and unity of the working class."
He referred to the unemployment figure which was 17% in the city and 23% in the rural areas and to the cost of living which had jumped 5 points in only 1½ years compared to 10 points in the 7 previous years of the PPP government. He also noted that when the PPP left office at the end of 1964 there was $5.4 M in the Treasury but at the end of 1965 this was reduced to $0.6 M with a debt of $8 M.
This is a famous quote made by Dr. Jagan in 1966: "Those who say that we are irrelevant, that we are finished, should be reminded that the same tune was sung after the dark days following the rape of our constitution in 1953 and the breakaway by the right and left opportunists in 1955 and 1956. But we won in 1957 and 1961. Today, though defrauded and cheated, we remain the strongest force in the country. Difficulties there will be; the battle will be long and hard. But win again we will. History and time are on our side!"
This was another year of mobilizing Guyanese to resist the oppressive PNC/UF Coalition government. The PPP appointed its then General Secretary Janet Jagan to the Elections Commission, preparing for the first elections after Independence, 1968.
By May 1967, Ms. Jagan reported in the Partys official organ "THUNDER" that plans were already being put in place by the PNC to rig the elections. The Registration Officer was being handpicked by the PNC and the Elections Commission was not being allowed to supervise the registration of voters. These fears she had reported to the Governor General, but he said he had no authority to deal with such matters. In a public statement, the PPP said that all the moves confirmed the suspicion that there would be "fraud and tampering of the electoral process by the parties of the Coalition Government." Said the PPP "the question of free and fair elections is fundamental to the future peace and welfare of the nation."
In June, Dr. Jagan addressed the Guyanese West Indian Association at the Town Hall, Georgetown. He said: "Unity like peace is highly desirable. There can be no doubt about it. In peace, there is the peace of the police state, with its concentration camps, detention centres and prisons. And there is the genuine peace based on respect for parliamentary democracy, democratic institutions and civil liberties. So too with unity. Because of frustration, there has come a renewed call for Caribbean unity."
The People's Progressive Party under Cheddi Jagans leadership called a Week of Solidarity with Vietnam from July 8-16, 1967.
At the Partys annual Congress this year, in his address, Dr. Jagan referred to the victory of the workers in forcing the government to desist from enacting anti-strike legislation in the form of compulsory arbitration, which was altered to voluntary arbitration. He said: "Unity of the working class regardless of race is vital. If we are to go forward, the Party must have the backing of the working class, the peasantry and the intelligencia, not of one race, but of all races
it is necessary to have a Marxist and not a racist approach to our problems, to fight for genuine democracy and an anti-imperialist programme
Our future is bright and full of hope. This is no time to despair
We must now take the offensive. We must combat racism mercilessly and build a disciplined party of quality rather than mere quantity. We must relentlessly expose and attack the Coalition government for subverting the Constitution and making plans to rig the next elections."