Tributes to Cheddi Jagan - Remembering CJ
by Samuel A. Hinds
Sunday, December 23rd 2007
There was a great debate last Friday evening (2007-12-14) in our National Assembly. Our media seem to have missed it - we need our media to bring it to the notice of everyone - we need everyone seeing and talking about that debate - it could become an important turning point in our nation's history. It could help us turn to a new leaf in our political life, a new page with favourable conditions for the steady growth and development which we all so much want.
Of what debate do I speak? It is the debate on the motion to honour Dr Cheddi Jagan as an outstanding Guyanese, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his entry into the legislature of our country, on the December 18 1947. No busing down! No fireworks! But everyone quietly, sincerely, even reverently reflecting on how Cheddi contributed to our country.
Scathing criticisms of our politics and politicians and implicitly the majority of us Guyanese, is commonplace with many in the media: whosoever earnestly and honestly want things to be different should welcome and nurture the tentative step of our National Assembly when from all sides we recognized and honoured in unison that outstanding son of our soil.
Politics is necessarily contending and competing, often adversarial. Avoiding rancour, bitterness and acrimony is never an easy issue for any group of people. There is danger even in groups with long histories of being together. Moreso, we Guyanese whom history threw together here relatively recently; each group unto that time with its own integrated culture and world view different from each other, and into different slots here, which have coloured the way we see each other.
I am pained and want to shout out whenever I read or hear the listless description of us as a divided people! When were we one? We were never one. Becoming one was the challenging bitter-cup that fate placed before our ancestors and us. In my view we have been greatly underestimating how much we are to reshape ourselves in becoming one people? Nonetheless we have made significant progress.
I am pained even more, I want to shout even louder when our elections are described as nothing but racial/ethnic censuses by many who know better and should look deeper. One could just as well describe elections in the USA and UK as urban/rural censuses.
Politics arises from people seeing things differently, and accordingly putting different proposals to the group, on what is the problem and what is to be done. Broadly speaking, political groupings form on pre-existing clusterings. One such kind of clustering arises from the different experiences of rural, agricultural people and urban, wage-earning people. This kind of political clustering was starkly evident in the 2000 elections in the USA in the maps on TV which showed where the Democrats won, in coastal, high population density, urban areas whilst the Republicans won in the heartland, lower density, agricultural areas. Recall too the differing decisions of the Supreme Courts of Florida State and the Federal Government. Recall too the make up of those courts and recognize that any insistence that those courts, those judges, were outside the politics of their country would be greatly strained.
Recall too the last election in the UK when the announcer on BBC World was moved to warn that the initial count of say thirty seats for Labour versus six for the Conservatives was not necessarily a runaway landslide victory for Labour. It was just that Labour wins in the urban constituencies where the results are more quickly accumulated and tallied and hence come in earlier, whilst the Conservatives constituencies are reported later! Moreover Conservatives winning more rural constituencies, generally win a greater proportion of seats than would be the case if the UK had a PR system. The UK has not changed its electoral system to PR for greater democracy, but in 1964 quickly changed our electoral system from constituency to PR!
Political groupings often cluster also around different religions when present. Even when there is no hostility as in our country, there is a lack of social continuity. The major socializing activities - births, christenings, marriages, funerals - all take place in some religious context. We are uncomfortable in religious situations with which we are not familiar. Our social functions and socializing in Guyana is as much a religious census and socializing groupings carry through to political groupings hence our elections results could perhaps be described just as well as religious censuses.
The third clustering, which may lead to political groupings, is race and ethnicity. Different races and ethnicities are likely to have differences in religion, in history, in language and in culture. This is problem enough but even more is the problem of the obvious physiological differences and identifying markers of dress.
However strongly we may abhor and argue against profiling, all our science and technology flow along a path of extrapolating, inducing from particular experiences to generalized expectations and behaving as if those expectations were certainties.
The markers of race/ethnicity go beyond signalling a discontinuity, they herd people willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly into groups: each member expected to have the identical, stereotypical characteristics assigned to the group.
In different countries, the main political parties may be formed along the lines of any one of these main kinds of clustering. When politics came to our Guyana, these three main clusterings were all present and significant. However, they were not cross cutting, they overlapped, reinforcing each other. For me therefore, the wonder of Guyana is not that we are a 'divided' people, but that we have stayed together as "divided" people and did not rush to partition! For me, we were no more divided racially, than we were divided urban from rural, or by religion. Indeed I believe that a case could be made that the split of PPP Burnhamites and PPP Jaganites was a split not of race but much more a split along the lines of urban/rural sentiments. I believe that even today the differing urban/rural sentiments are still reflected in the positions of the PNCR and the PPP/C. I believe that there are real, normal political differences in the way we of the PPP/C see things and the way the PNCR see things.
With these three main kinds of political groupings, still overlapping and reinforcing each other, how do we engage in intense, political rivalry contending robustly, competing toughly and yet not threaten the continuity and cohesion within our nation? The answer is not easy but I feel intuitively that it would help greatly if we could clean our slate of happenings after the PPP split in 1955.
Life is very much about trial and error: doing, learning and advancing from lessons learnt. Allow me to propose that the route of the PPP Burnhamites was a trial that was an error. It was the route taken by a group which considered itself more urban, more sophisticated, more prepared to govern, and believed that it would do better for all Guyanese than the rural, still "foot-in-the-mud" PPP Jaganites. And the PPP Burnhamites for the most part Christians were very vulnerable to the call to oppose Godless Communism.
For me, there is no gainsaying the fact that the PPP Burnhamites succumbed to that most seductive temptation of doing a little wrong, to avoid a greater wrong! A few actively participated and all tacitly accepted the rigging of the 1968 election for what they considered the greater good for all Guyana and Guyanese; moreso as the equally Christian Americans and British indicated approval of the rigging. But already by the 1973 elections it was becoming apparent that many of the supporters of the PNC were uneasy with rigged elections and did not even go out to vote, leaving it to the rigging to deliver the election.
For me, it must have been an excruciating test for Cheddi to choose in 1973, to wait patiently, for nearly twenty years as it would turn out, for the majority of the PNC supporters to see the error and futility of that path and turn themselves from it. No doubt deliberate, directed action by Cheddi and the PPP could have degenerated too easily into bloody, racial confrontations and the splitting of our peoples and our country from which there would have been no return.
It was a great price that Cheddi and the PPP paid - but paradoxically he who has paid the greater price to keep Guyana whole has much more invested, has much more to lose if Guyana does not stay whole! The Cheddi legacy for us of the PPP/C is to keep Guyana whole and hearty.
For all the wrong that was done to Cheddi and his supporters by Burnham and the PNC, Cheddi never put them beyond the pale. Indeed, he always spoke about the misguided supporters of the PNC. It seems as if he was willing to consider Burnham also as misguided. Take note of Cheddi's position of critical support and his reported readiness to talk again in 1985 with Burnham, even, perhaps, if only for the good of the children of Guyana. There is no doubt that Cheddi looked continuously for rapprochement between the PPP Burnhamites and the PPP Jaganites and he was always wistfully nostalgic about the national unity of the 1953 PPP.
At the 1993 Remembrance ceremony for the Enmore Martyrs, the first time that Cheddi was there as President(and the first time I was there), Cheddi recalling that event which crystallized the giving of himself to the political life of our country, it was inevitable that he would reflect on all that happened from that day in 1948 to 1993. After speaking with great emotion for more than an hour he ended, questioning "why can't old comrades be comrades again?" Some of my friends teased me, "move over Sam, make room for old comrades: you are a just - come, old firesticks don't take long to light!"
We need to free ourselves from that trial of Burnham that was a grave error on the one side to remove the adrenalin like feelings of guilt which at times sap the energy, restrain participation and at other times feed a suspicious, wild, blind anger in which to hide. On the other side, we need to be freed from the pain of seemingly to be forever having to give in, to pay the price.
Guyana needs political parties which everyone, whether a supporter or not, can consider respectable. We need to be aware of what Cheddi was.
We need to be answer of what Cheddi was aware, that for a political party's own good there is need for a respectable and respected, matching opposition!
We need to shake hands and free ourselves of the trial that was an error, as we turn to a new page.
Late into the might of Friday December 14, 2007, one could have gotten the feeling in the National Assembly that we the politicians were in the mood to shake hands and turn the page. We politicians were giving the leadership that Guyana needs.
We need the help of our media, to take our country, every one of our citizens along. May everyone watch the tape of that debate and get into a mood for healing and harmony.
Samuel A. Hinds
A Civic, and a citizen
by Hydar Ally
The month of March is significant in the life of Guyanese, but more particularly for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). It is the month in which the Father of this Nation, the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, was born and also the month in which he died. As we all know, Dr. Jagan was born on March 22, 1918 and died on March 6, 1997. No other leader in Guyana has had such a profound and indelible impact on the minds of the Guyanese people as Dr. Jagan did. Despite his extraordinary fame and stature, he remained humble and simple throughout his life. He never allowed the glare of political office to create a distance between him and the Guyanese people. He was also an honest and clean politician who never paid attention to the accumulation of personal wealth and riches.
Dr. Jagan certainly ranks among the most brilliant and progressive thinkers of our times. He was able to reshape the political and ideological landscape of Guyana in a way no other politician succeeded in doing.
In this and subsequent articles, I propose to focus on the life and work of Dr. Cheddi Jagan and the role he played in the creation of a democratic, free and just society. Since it is impossible to go into any detailed exposition on the manifold contributions made by Dr. Jagan during his long and eventful political career, I wish to deal with three important dimensions of his life - Cheddi Jagan, as a Person, Cheddi Jagan as a Politician and Cheddi Jagan as an Internationalist.
Dr. Jagan was born on March 22, 1918 in a plantation society where both of his parents lived and worked. His early formative years were shaped by the sociology of plantation life. This is how Dr. Jagan described life in the plantation:
“The plantation appeared to me as the hub of life. Everything revolved around sugar and the sugar planters seemed to own the world. They owned the cane-fields and the factories; even the small pieces of land rented to some of the workers for family food production belonged to them. They owned the mansions occupied by the senior staff and the cottages occupied by dispensers, chemists, engineers bookers and drivers. They owned the logies (ranges) and huts where the laborers lived the hospitals and every important building. At one time they also owned and operated a rice mill. Even the churches and schools came within their patronage and control.”
"The plantation was indeed a world of its own. Or rather it was two worlds: the world of exploiters and the world of the exploited; the world of whites and the world of non-whites. One was a world of managers of European staff in their splendid mansions; the other the world of the laborers in their logies in the “niggeryard” and the bound coolie yard. The mansions were electrically lit; the logies had kerosene lamps. It was not unusual to hear it said that the mules were treated better than human beings for the stables had electrical light. It was not that electricity could not have been taken to the workers quarters and residences. The owners could easily have generated more electricity at very little extra cost to satisfy the needs of all. But electricity, like so many other things was a status symbol.”
And, adding a touch of humour on the subject he went on:
“There is an interesting story about mules being treated better than the workers. Years ago, on first arrival, a director of one of the foreign sugar companies took his wife on a familiarization tour of the estates on the East Bank of Demerara. “What’s that,?” the good lady asked. “That’s a mule stable, replied the husband. After a while, as the driver drove she remarked: “My goodness, you have an awful lot of mules.”
The above, quoted in full from Dr. Jagan’s celebrated masterpiece “The West on Trial” painted a picture of the sociology of the plantation system and exposes the exploitative and derogatory condition under which the laborers were treated at the hands of the plantocracy. This was to have had a lasting effect on the minds of the young Cheddi Jagan who himself admitted that the raging fire within him and his passion for social justice and human dignity were triggered by the deplorable and inhuman conditions under the workers were subjected by the plantocracy and not out of any known inherited genealogical traits.
In the very opening paragraph of “The West On Trial” he wrote:
“I know very little about my ancestors in India. I presume they were no different from the millions of other peasants to whom it did not matter whether their country was ruled by a Hindu Raja or a Moghul Nawab or the British Government. I have no doubt that like most other peasants they were exploited by zamidars (landlords) and were ground down by poverty. Whatever might have been their struggles against the zamindars or the British Raj, it would appear that there was no rebel like me on my family tree”.
This sense of exploitation and injustice was further reinforced during his student days in the United States where he came face to face with the exploitative and discriminatory nature of the capitalist system. Immediately upon his return to the colony in 1943, Dr. Jagan and his wife Janet, along with a few others, began the process of exposing the evils of the plantation society and the need for it to be replaced by a more enlightened and humane political order. Thus came into being the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) and a few years later the People’s Progressive Party, which not only posed an effective challenge to the old order of things, but also provided for the first time a political alternative to the then existing status quo.
Karl Marx in one of his writings made the point that “philosophers have interpreted the world in several ways; the point however is to change it.” The PPP led by Dr. Jagan has done just that; the Party from its very inception sought not only to interpret the colonial society, but more fundamentally to change it.
More of this in my next article.
by Hydar Ally
In my previous article, I referred to some of the factors that shaped the political and ideological outlook of Dr Cheddi Jagan, whose life and works are being celebrated this month. I made the point that Dr Jagan’s “world view” was influenced by a constellation of factors, which included his early years in the sugar plantation where he saw first hand the inhuman and degrading conditions in which the sugar workers lived on the estates. According to Dr Jagan, there existed ‘two worlds’ on the plantation - the ‘world’ of the rich and powerful and the poor, and the world of the poor and downtrodden.
Other factors which impacted on his consciousness were his experiences in the United States of America during his years as a student of dentistry. Dr Jagan saw and experienced for himself the exploitative and discriminatory character of the capitalist system, especially with respect to minority groups.
He successfully demystified and ‘deglamourized’ life in the United States, which is often projected as the ‘land of plenty,’ where there existed as he puts it, “two chickens in every pot and a car in every garbage.” America is undoubtedly a rich country, but the riches are highly stewed in favour of a handful of Americans, while the vast majority of people has to contend, as it were, with the ‘crumbs that fall from the master’s table,’ especially the Blacks and the coloured, who were pushed to the bottom of the social ladder due to an unjust reward system.
Another important factor that influenced the thinking of Dr Jagan was his exposure to the literature of radical thinkers such as Marx, Engel’s and Lenin who provided him with a theoretical basis on the class character of the capitalist system which was inherently exploitative and anti-worker. These, along with other developments, such as the independence struggles of India and other developing countries fired his imagination and strengthened his resolve to become not simply an ‘arm- chair’ intellectual but an active participant in the change process.
Dr Jagan was possessed with extraordinary powers of intellect and reasoning. He was able to correctly define global trends and understood the dialectics of change and development. He was utterly convinced that the current system of capitalistic production relations could not solve the problems of humanity and could only lead to greater impoverishment and human degradation.
Dr Jagan was the author to several scholarly publications, which included the ‘West on Trail,’ in which he exposed the intrigues of Anglo-American vested interests to deny political independence to the then colony of British Guiana and to destabilize the PPP administration, with the active collaboration of local reactionary forces that included at that time the PNC and the United Force along with a section of the labor movement.
In his other works, such as the “Caribbean Revolution: Whose Backyard?” he showed how the current models of development based on unbridled capitalism and uncontrolled market forces were leading to the underdevelopment of Caribbean and Latin American countries. Dr. Jagan demonstrated by way of hard facts and figures how ‘aid with strings’ was resulting in a net outflow of resources out of the region to the major industrialized countries, in particular the United States of America. In order to liberate themselves come out of this vicious cycle of debt accumulation and balance of payments difficulties, developing countries were forced by circumstances to borrow money which in turn led to unsustainable debt burdens, not to mention the political and ideological undercurrents to which these countries were subjected to.
Dr Jagan was a strong advocate for debt relief and a New Global Human Order, one that puts people at the centre of developmental activities. Unlike some pseudo- academics that hide under the clock of academia, Dr Jagan’s writings reflect profundity and depth of analysis, which suggested workable prescriptions on this way forward.
This is a quite unlike “intellectuals” whose only claim to academia is to churn out useless articles based on gossips, lies and half-truths. Some of them have no credible publications to their names and their research profiles are at best minimal. The University of Guyana is basically research-oriented and to the extent this is lacking the university is operating sub-optimally and to an extent is failing to live up to its mandate as a major catalyst for change and development.
And for those who conveniently may wish to forget, it was Dr. Jagan who established the University of Guyana from which many of the ‘critics’ graduated and currently work.
by Hydar Ally
There is a saying that small minds discuss people, but great minds discuss ideas. There is a considerable amount of truth in this saying. There are some people who spend almost their whole lives on gossiping and name-calling and hardly find time to engage in any serious discussion on the bigger issues that shape the course of national events and impact on the lives of people in any meaningful way.
Such tendencies are particularly evident among those who lack the capacity for rigorous analysis. Such people are shallow and superficial and therefore tend to focus on immaterial and inconsequential matters which have little or no bearing on reality.
This fact became apparent during a lecture on the Essequibo Coast when, during a question and answer session, one participant asked me whether Dr. Jagan was a “communist” and whether he really believed in a ‘God.’ I thought that the question was interesting if only because it is one that has provoked the minds of several people, many of whom do not have the faintest idea of what communism really is except for some perverted idea of communism as being essentially “godless” and therefore “devilish” and something to be avoided like a plague.
This perception of communism was particularly pronounced during the Cold War period when the battle for ideas was at its peak. In an attempt to poison the minds of the Guyanese people against the PPP and Dr. Jagan, the opposition media and other reactionary forces which included at that time a section of the religious Right did everything possible to project the PPP as “communistic” and therefore “ungodly”.
Iremember being told by former Local Government Minister Harripersaud Nokta of an actual experience he encountered during his days as Party Organizer in one of the hinterland communities where an Amerindian virtually ‘disappeared’ into the nearby bushes on seeing his motorcycle coming from a distance out of fear of being consumed by an ‘evil’ spirit. There was another case of an Amerindian woman who was literally shivering with fear on being introduced to Dr. Jagan because of stories being peddled about Communists and their “devilish” characteristics.
The above two cases were not meant to cast our Amerindian brothers and sisters in any negative light, but simply to draw attention to the extent of the anti-communist hysteria that was generated by the churches and those who exerted influence among the Amerindian communities in those days.
Today, such perceptions no longer prevail and Amerindians no longer are subjected to such doses of anti-communist poison as was hitherto the case. In fact, they have come to have tremendous regard and respect for Dr. Jagan and the PPP. The Amerindian community of Karasabai in Region Nine has even erected a monument in his honour. Contrary to what was peddled, Amerindians have now come to the realization that it was this selfsame “communist” PPP that is responsible for enhancing the quality of life of the Amerindian and hinterland communities. It is the PPP that has built a network of schools and hospitals that have resulted in a better quality of life. Ironically, the United Force which was mainly responsible for peddling such preposterous ideas among the Amerindian people during the 1960s has been largely rejected by the hinterland communities and is being replaced by the PPP/C in terms of popular and electoral support as the recent elections so demonstrated.
Dr. Jagan can be described as a man of ideas. He was a thinker who put his mind to work on how to make Guyana and for that matter the world a better place. Responding to a question several decades ago during a visit to the United States of America on his communist leanings, Dr. Jagan responded as follows:
“I am, I believe, generally dismissed in this country (USA) as a communist. That word has a variety of meanings according to the personal views of the man who makes the charge.
“But first of all, I am a passionate anti-colonialist. I, like your foreparents, believe that colonialism is wicked. I believe so strongly that colonialism is utterly wrong that I would gladly accept any help from whatever quarter to help me in my fight against it.
‘I wish to see my country prosperous and developing, its people happy, well fed, well-housed, and with jobs to do. Second only to my passion for the independence of my people is this dedication to their economic advancement, so that their lives may be more abundant. Now, in this I am a socialist. By this I mean that I am in favour of the workers reaping the full fruits of their labour through public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.”
Cheddi Jagan was certainly a man of ideas. He was a propound thinker, one who has transformed ideas into a powerful liberating force. In this regard he was a liberator in every sense of the word. He was instrumental in leading the assault against the colonial authorities to grant constitutional changes which ultimately led to universal adult suffrage. He led the struggle for independence to Guyana and even though independence was denied him by the colonial power, there could be no doubt that it was he who blazed the independence trail by externalizing Guyana’s case at the United Nations and galvanizing the Guyanese people around the idea of a free and independent Guyana. He fought for democracy after it was taken away from the Guyanese people by the PNC regime. He fought for debt relief and debt rescheduling which he saw as a yoke around the necks of people in the developing world. And in the later period of his mortal existence, he championed the cause of a New Global Human Order which incidentally was endorsed by the UN General Assembly.
At the Babu John memorial function held recently, President Jagdeo announced the posthumous conferral of the Order of Liberation on the late Dr. Jagan. This is indeed a fitting tribute to a fighter who had dedicated his entire life for the liberation of Guyana from the bonds of colonialism, neo-colonialism and undemocratic rule.
by Dale A. Bisnauth
Beginning with his own “The West on Trial,” there is a considerable bibliography on, and, by, the late President Cheddi Jagan. That material is more than adequate to enable the modern historian to construct the saga of a bare-foot boy, born to Indian indentured immigrants, who rose to the pre-eminent position of President of the Republic of Guyana. In his life-time, he was dubbed by many of his supporters as, “Awee Mahatma.” Friends and opponents alike are agreed that he is the “Father of the Nation.” My feeling is that he would have been dismissive of both claims. Such was the modesty of the man.
The written and oral material on Dr Jagan provides a multi-dimensional prism through which to look at, and marvel, that such a man – statesman and fine human being – shared our common dust and transformed it from a mean little place, to a country where decency and hope might still be possible. While too many people have shaken the dust off their feet as they exited Guyana, Cheddi Jagan remained committed to Guyana. That he did, because he believed that this land was worth the struggle, that being Guyanese was a thing so desirable as to merit the sacrifice, is as commendable as it is scarcely believable.
In C.J’s breast must have throbbed with terrible, all-consuming passion the heart-beat of a consummate patriot. That this erstwhile periphery of Empire, this Mudland threatened by swamp in heavy rainfall, and burnt-brown in drought, this society broken by shame and human perfidy, and characterized by raw hate and exploitation of man by man, could breed a person such as he, must indeed signal that still out of this country, could come greatness and heroism; that being Guyanese is a matter of great pride. This, we can learn from Cheddi Jagan.
In my imagination, I can envisage him standing there some time in the past, in times marked by simmering race-hate that could vent itself in open violence, in times characterized by dangerous political pettiness that was going to be a threat to his life’s vocation, with that characteristic smile that was the window to his soul. There he stood, like a shining beacon, beckoning the rest of Guyana, with a characteristic flailing of the arms like windmills, to catch up with him, if it dared, if it can.
And to me, that challenge is still there. But it is not a call to imitate him, except in spirit. To imitate the unique is vain. It is vanity to try to walk in his shoes. But a call is there, nonetheless. It is a call to learn of, and from, him. Not to copy him detail upon detail, even if that were possible; but to learn from him how best to continue the work that was his life, how to carry his baton as it were, in our stage in the relay-race, to build a modern society in which people matter above all things, a truly human and humane society.
Cheddi Jagan has taught this nation that revolution or radical change is born of the passion for humanization; that without that intensity of concern for the well-being of humans, whatever else parades as revolution will, in all possibility, devour its own children. People-centrism characterized Dr Jagan’s politics. So, too, did the life-style of truth. In politics, he refused to be the hypocrite (that is, in the etymological meaning of the word, “mask-wearer”). While his opponents vacillated from one “principled” position to another, as they reckoned the political game demanded, C.J. remained constant in an ideological position that put people first.
One can only surmise where Dr Jagan came by his supreme commitment to people, by his simple yet profound belief in people, when the first stirrups of the revolutionary would be born in him. When was it that the human in him would seek to break out from “being cramped to “being free” for himself and for his people? It might have been on the sugar plantations at Port Mourant where the teenager worked, co-opted by his parents, to help support a large family. Was it there that he developed an abhorrence for colonial domination in the world of sugar? Was it there that he first experienced the vicious, iron-clad operations of class oppression with overtones of racism, as the white oligarchy distanced themselves socially and spatially from labourers? Maybe it was in the United States where racism manifested itself at every turn and of which he was a victim; maybe it was a tailor working for an establishment that was exploitative of the poor, or as a peddler of “quack” medicine in the slums of Harlem, for a small commission; or as an elevator boy working the graveyard shift from midnight to 8:00 am; that he came consciously to commit himself to the welfare of the common folk, for the rest of his life.
Or, was it that devastating occasion when the Enmore martyrs were slain, and he vowed that their sacrifice would never be in vain, not as long as he was alive and able to do something about it? Whatever combination of factors it was, Cheddi Jagan would base his struggle for radical change on class issues as he sought to unite urban Blacks and rural Indians in a pitched battle for self-governance, adult suffrage and economic and social justice.
In the twilight years of his life, the concern for the human shone through in the passion with which he spoke and advocated for: “Development with a human face,” “A New Global Human Order.” He declared: “Economic Development without Human development is unacceptable.” And he supported a positive response to liberalization and globalization, but not at the expense of the poor and the working class. In all things the HUMAN remained central, constant, unchanged!
We remember Cheddi Jagan best, by enshrining all our fellow Guyanese of every colour and creed, age, sex, status and derivation, in our hearts. Peace!
by Jeronimo Carrera (from Caracas,Venezuela)
This March 22, our Guyanese neighbours will be remembering with a naturally marked patriotic sentiment, the principal impellor of its national independence, Cheddi Jagan, one of the most eminent – and less known outside of his country – of the Marxist revolutionaries that in all of the twentieth century confronted the domination of the United States in our continent.
On this date in the year 1918, Cheddi was born, son of immigrants from India, who had arrived in the then British Guiana in 1901 under conditions of semi-slavery imposed by Great Britain on those Asian immigrants after the abolition of slavery of Africans. These origins indicate to us the magnitude of the obstacles that he had to overcome before culminating a glorious life, ten years ago, on dying in office as the President of the Republic of an independent Guyana on March 6, 1997, exactly 16 days before reaching the age of 79 years.
For me, his accomplishments in life are magnified with the passing decade after seeing his party remain in government, by winning in repeated elections. In fact, the People’s Progressive Party, known abroad simply as the PPP, has been able to preserve its unity and also its prestige among the people. A historical legacy that is comparable, on the global stage, to the example of Ho Chi Minh and his Vietnamese Communist Party.
I have had the good fortune of being a friend of Cheddi Jagan – whom I first met on a flight from Caracas to Havana to celebrate the 1st of May, 1960 - a flight on which I was accompanied by our unforgettable comrade, Eduardo Gallegos Mancera, and also during which we met the great Chilean Socialist, Salvador Allende – I could discourse extensively on details of his condition of a true communist, as I had been able to prove in various opportunities over long conversations we had in the forthcoming years, during his visits to Venezuela and mine to Guyana.
But I think it would be more interesting for today’s readers to know Cheddi’s own words in the following intervention:
“Comrades, we would like to thank you for your kind invitation to come here to participate in the discussions. For us, coming here is like coming home to a family united by an ideological community.
“Not only in theory, but also in practice have we become convinced that we belong precisely in this family. The repeated attacks that we have come under from the conservative governments of Churchill, Macmillan and Home and by the liberal administration of Kennedy, as well as the traitorous policies of the social democratic governments of Attlee and Wilson have demonstrated that only the international communist movement, in alliance with the democratic and progressive forces of capitalist countries and the liberating movements in the colonies and in the neo-colonial countries – in no way the conservative, liberal and social democratic leaders – can help the workers of Guyana (British Guiana) and of other countries to free themselves of imperialistic exploitation and oppression.
“Our presence here will give rise to new attacks, but that does not terrify us. We have long known the main weapon of the imperialists: anti-communism. We were attacked twenty years ago, when encouraged by the feats of the soviet people, carried out under the magnificent leadership of the Soviet Union Communist Party, we formed in 1946 the Committee of Political Action and in 1950, the People’s Progressive Party, which proclaimed national independence as its programme and raised the flag of scientific socialism. “(International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Moscow 1969, Documents, Peace and Socialism Editorial, Prague 1969, p. 740)
Eternal honour to the memory of our comrade Cheddi Jagan!
(Published in the weekly La Razon, No. 635, Caracas, Sunday, March 18, 2007)
(Translated from the original Spanish)
By Dhamramkumar Seeraj, General Secretary, Guyana Rice Producers’ Association.
(Progress Youth Organisation (PYO) Night of Reflection on the Life of Dr. Cheddi Jagan Friday 4th March 2005 at Freedom House.)
Thank you Cde. Chairman, Honourable Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Former President Cde. Janet Jagan , General Secretary of the PPP, Cde. Donald Ramotar Hon. Minister of Agriculture Cde. Sash Sawh , Ms. Mencedes of the Cuban Embassy President of GAWU Cde. Komal Chand , First Secretary of PYO Dr. Frank Anthony. Ladies & Gentlemen
You would agree with me that to be given ten (10) minutes to make a presentation on the life of Cde. Cheddi Jagan on this, the PYO’s organized Night of Reflection is totally inadequate, and puts the best presenter (and I am not one) under tremendous pressure to do justice to the programme and at the same time leaves you, the audience ( the most important people here) with a beginning and an end.
I will to the best of my ability present to you some aspects of Dr. Jagan’s contribution to the development of the Rice Industry and Rice Farmers in Guyana. History will show that since his birth on the 22/03/1918 on a sugar plantation, throughout his childhood days, and until his untimely death on the 6/03/1997 Dr. Jagan was always close to the sugar industry particularly the ordinary sugar workers.
However, this Great True Son of the Soil also found the time to play a very critical role in the development of Guyana’s Rice Industry and the peasantry.
Speakers before me have more eloquently highlighted aspects of Cde. Cheddi’s life in other areas. I will try to stay with rice. The Guyana Rice Producers’ Association commonly called the RPA was established on the 14th September 1946 under British Rule. This Association’s main function was “to promote , protect and advance the interest of rice producers generally”.
But in 1946 who were the producers of Rice? The production of rice and ownership of rice land was mainly in the hands of the British hence the RPA was servicing the interest of the colonial rulers who were guaranteed a high price on the export market.
The establishment of the Rice Marketing Board by the colonial rulers also contributed to the control of the industry by the colonial masters. Small producers and millers were manipulated and prevented from becoming executive council members of the Rice Marketing Board.
Dr. Jagan fought tirelessly for the inclusion of farmers in the decision making process and also for a comprehensive scheme of water control and for Drainage and Irrigation. Even today Cde. Chairman we hear the name F. E. Hutchinson being mentioned so often, but we do not make the connection to the 1940’s. During that time Mr. Hutchinson was a British Consultant Engineer attached to the Public Works Dept and fully supported the campaign by Dr. Jagan for the earlier mention water control scheme. One that will serve all not a selected few. Sad to say Mr. Hutchinson left shortly in disgust because of the interest to support only sugar with Drainage and Irrigation.
Small farmers who were renting land from the big land owners were also very vulnerable and unprotected. The establishment of the Rice Farmers Security of Tenure Ordinance in 1945 was fully supported by Dr. Jagan who even made suggestions on its improvement.
Today this Act is very much alive and is providing a great deal of protection to rice land tennants. The empowering of farmers under the Rice Producers’ Association was greatly accelerated and speed up by the great organizational skills of Cheddi Jagan at all levels especially at the grass root where he was always welcomed as one of their own.
He actively participated in this process but was not a rice farmer not a rice land owner. To overcome this hurdle in 1956 the father of Pariag Sukhai former General; Secretary of RPA fine Cde. Cheddi two acres o rice land in Hague ,West Coast Demerara.
Armed with the legal requirement to join of the RPA Dr. Jagan quickly became a full member and contested the various elections of the RPA. He soon became the President of the Association and served in this position until 1961 when the PPP won the national elections.
In the early 1960’s the Rice Industry was regulated by the Government agency the Guyana Rice Board or GRB. Under the Jagan led PPP Government the empowerment of rice farmers continued and of the seventeen (17) members Board of Directors and twelve (12) were farmers from the RPA and the Chairman was also a farmers. Men like Mr. Mooner Khan served in this capacity and production increase was a healthy average of 10.6% per annum.
Of course Cde. Chairman such phenomenal growth was not only as a result of good management by the stakeholder in the industry but also gracious budgetary allocation and the will of the farmers to produce in a free environment. Because of the level of support from the Government we could all recall the Jagan led PPP Government being labelled “Rice Government”.
Unfortunately Ladies & Gentlemen the great achievements of the Dr. Jagan Government and his Progressive Policies were closely scrutinized by the United States and Great Britain. Dr. Cheddi Jagan was deemed Communist and we all known very well what happened in the 1963/64 period.
In the post 1964 era events reversed for the Rice Industry. Farmers composition of the Board of Directors of the GRB was gradually reduced by the PNC from 13 of 17 to three by 1978. Finally these three left in disgust in 1978.
The destruction of the Rice Industry accelerated. The Guyana Rice Board(GRB) was divided to from three entities , the Guyana Rice Milling &Marketing Authority (GRMMA), the Guyana Rice Export Board (GREB) and National Paddy &Rice Grading Center (NPRGC). Their basic role was to provide employment for party faithful.
Situation in the fields also deteriorated and drainage and irrigation allocation were scandously low and inadequate. Production drop from over 300,000 tons in the early 1960 to a ridiculous low of 93,000 tons in 1990. The same year we had to import low quality rice from Italy for local consumption.
During the period 1964 to 1992 whilst Dr. Jagan was very active on the political front numerous meetings were still held with farmers. We never give up hope because of his inspiration and finally after 28 years in the political wilderness October 5, 1992 brought the Dawn of a New Era for Cheddi Jagan and Guyana.
The transformation, ladies and gentlemen was awesome. Budgetary allocation for Agricultural infrastructure were increased tremendously, the three entities, GRMMA,GREB and NPRGC were merge to form the GRDB and the farmers through their Association RPA were once again involved in the governance of the Rice Industry.
Rice Production increased from that low of 90,000 tons in 1990 to consistently over 300,000 tons per annum. Through it all President Cheddi Jagan still found time for consultation with the RPA and ordinary farmers. A trait in his character that makes him stand as the genuine stuff, a true leader. We at the RPA still cherished fond memories of Dr. Cheddi Jagan .
We remembered his numerous consultations with Fazal Ali the former late General Secretary of the RPA especially their attendance together to the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996 and their meeting with the Pope.
His premature death on the 6th March 1997 was truly horrifying for all Guyanese. The entire nation was plunged into grief.
Today Cde. Chairman we find some level of comfort in his writings and we take inspiration from his teachings. In particular the New Global Human Order is our most dynamic working document in these troubled times. He will be remembered forever.
by Bhoj Tharay
When the PPP/Civic took office in 1992, the entire country was in a state of disrepair. The treasury was in dire need. No money was available to conduct the process of rebuilding the destroyed infrastructure in the various communities.
The late President Cheddi Jagan recognizing the need to uplift the lives of the common man and woman, came up with the brilliant idea of organizing the citizens into Community Development Councils (CDCs).
Each village or in some cases set of villages elected their residents into bodies to overlook the specific needs of the locality, in terms of roads, drains, schools, health centres etc. Fund-raising events were carried out and the money was spent on projects. It was and still is a system, whereby residents cooperated together to help themselves by building their communities.
Since the formation of these bodies, Ms Philomena Sahoye-Shury aka "Fireball", has been actively involved in bringing together people in their communities to jointly put their efforts in development. In 1997 Ms Shury was appointed Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and as Director of CDCs.
In an interview with the 'Fireball' lady, she told me of her efforts, successes and difficulties she underwent in achieving the high standards set by the CDCs in spearheading the huge numbers of projects, countrywide.
Phil, as she is also popularly called, said she had no problems convincing residents in the various urban and rural locations that their participation was vital in fostering the development of the environs in which they live. People irrespective of race, colour, class or political affiliation willingly by presented themselves to cooperate with each other to execute plans that determine their upliftment in all the ten Regions, she visited.
Her personal commitment to help people made her listen to their pains and suffering, assisting them in many ways to overcome their ails.
A number of projects were facilitated through co-ordination by 'Philo's' office. Apart from roads, bridges, schools, health centres and sports- halls in the different neighbourhoods throughout Guyana, residents of West Watooka, Linden were organized into an agricultural group so as to open a venture to cater for the needs of the community. A sector of forest was cleared and cultivation of ground provision and cash crops were embarked upon.
This successful enterprise has seen the upward movement in the standard of living for West 'Watookans', so much so that the Ministry of Crops, Livestock and Fisheries was impressed. The Ministry presented the participants with a tractor to further enhance their productivity. Seedlings were also made available. The locality is now progressing through this tangible assistance.
Ms Shury made it clear that the intention of the PPP/C government who she represents is not bent on giving out handouts, but is genuinely interested in making concrete, material contribution to the CDCs.
"The involvement of a broad cross section of the people is guaranteed with the establishment of CDCs", Ms Shury noted. "This is what we mean when we say, we are a government of inclusiveness", she further explained.
Political opponents who claim that this idea of Cheddi Jagan is simply for political mobilization, are mistaken. The Director of CDCs said she invites those who utter this nonsense to visit the CDCs to see for themselves, the broad cross-section of people taking part in these activities.
In conclusion ,Ms Philomena 'Fireball' Shury alluded to the large turn out at the 3 conferences on CDCs she organized in Regions 2, 5, and 10 as an indication of the support this idea of Dr Cheddi Jagan is receiving.
"I and all of us in the PPP/Civic are committed in our own way to carry out the legacy of Dr Cheddi Jagan - to bring prosperity to our Nation," the Member of parliament remarked.
by Ralph Ramkarran
For the PPP March has become the month of Cheddi Jagan. I have written and spoken much about the inspirer of the People’s Progressive Party and will again be speaking shortly at an event organized in his honour. In the meantime I would like to celebrate the beginning of this month by offering for re-publication an article, with an amendment only to the first sentence, which I did on him for last year’s Independence celebrations entitled “FOR CHEDDI JAGAN THE INDEPENDENCE OF GUYANA SURPASSED EVERY OTHER CONSIDERATION,”
As we enter the month of March once more, it is about time that someone challenges the hate campaign that is being daily waged in some quarters about Cheddi Jagan’s politics and his record of service for the freedom and development of Guyana.
The people of Guyana spoke decisively about Cheddi Jagan when he died. They recorded their judgment of him in their thousands, in a quiet and dignified surge to pay tribute, in an outpouring never seen in the known history of Guyana. They sealed that judgment permanently with their grief and it will be forever etched in the consciousness of all who witnessed it and all who come after. In the city, towns and rural communities, the Guyanese people gave final recognition to and gratitude for the life of a man who committed himself at a young age to their liberation and sustained that commitment throughout his life, without expectation or hope of reward. They thanked him for it even though some may not have supported him in his lifetime. Had it been possible he would have witnessed for himself the true, forgiving, noble character of the Guyanese people which he always knew existed and in which he had placed lifelong confidence.
The formation of the Political Affairs Committee in 1947 by four intrepid revolutionaries, Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan, Ashton Chase and Jocelyn Hubbard, set the stage for the formation of the Peoples’ Progressive Party in 1950 and for the demand for universal adult suffrage, independence and social justice. The daunting road to that goal did not seem to faze those in the leadership of the PPP. They were inspired and motivated by the American Revolution and the constitution it gave birth to, the principles underlying the Atlantic Charter, India and the Soviet Union. Their youth and revolutionary fervor gave them energy and confidence. They brought hope to the Guyanese people.
The astonishing success in bringing together such broad forces under the umbrella of the PPP, the winning of universal adult suffrage and the astounding electoral victory of 1953 set the stage for Guyana’s independence. The setback of the suspension of the constitution and the split in the PPP, although devastating, were temporary. As he did all of his life, Cheddi Jagan shrugged off these defeats and setbacks, focusing instead on the larger picture and the final goal. Having won the 1957 and 1961 elections, the latter under an advanced, self-governing constitution, independence was now within reach, a realizable goal. But as we know, the massive intervention in Guyana by foreign elements with the collusion of their local henchmen between 1962 and 1964, paralysed the PPP government and eventually ensured its removal.
The professional Jagan/PPP haters, motivated by nothing more than common ill-will and spite, barely capable of stringing two credible thoughts (or sentences) together, constantly whip up sensationalism, hurling epithets, in a frenetic drive to sustain a post retirement dollar. They seek endlessly to distort Cheddi Jagan’s record and history, constantly boasting of their own tarnished democratic credentials, forgetting their dedicated commitment to a “communist” regime (as described by those they now uphold) which refused to hold elections and which collapsed from its own dead weight, inviting the worst foreign intervention in this region since our countries gained independence.
Cheddi Jagan is constantly portrayed as a ‘monster communist,’ in scenes plucked right out of the discredited Joe McCarthy era of anti-communist hysteria in the US, and regularly regurgitated to us from hack writers pretending to be ‘analysts,’ ‘essayists’ and ‘theorists,’ who wouldn’t recognize a theory if you hit them over the head with one. But we are never reminded that he is the man who, in desperation at the prospect of independence being postponed, agreed trustingly to place reliance on the self-proclaimed British sense of justice and fairplay to mediate the differences between himself and the opposition, even though he recognized that he might be the loser. He placed his own political future on the line knowing that independence for Guyana surpassed every other consideration and could not be delayed, whatever the internal political consequences. This noble act of selfless patriotism has been lost on those whose motives in criticizing Cheddi Jagan are not based on honest and objective analysis but reek to high heavens, the aroma drifting upwards enshrouded in the big coat of a government television programme from which they were rightfully thrown off and now intent on mean and vulgar revenge to him, his people and his works. However, it was not forgotten by the thousands of all races, creeds and classes who, in the final moment of judgment in March, 1997, rendered a verdict for the ages.
On May 26, 1966, Burnham, then Premier, was stunned by an unfamiliar act of forgiveness and generosity - the appearance of Cheddi Jagan, no longer in power, at the National Park to celebrate with him Guyana’s new status as an independent country and the realization of his dream and pledge in 1949 at Enmore to devote himself to the liberation of Guyana. The now famous embrace between these two leaders, who have shaped so much of Guyana’s political consciousness, says nothing about Forbes Burnham, the victor, but everything about Cheddi Jagan, the vanquished. This man who, then aged 47, dedicated most of the remainder of his life to delivering the Guyanese people from the clutches of authoritarian rule, which was aided and abetted by the Western powers, is the most eloquent answer to all those of his detractors who accuse him of supporting dictatorship and of dictatorial conduct.
Cheddi Jagan’s legacy is now in the hands of history which in due course will analyse his works, including his ideological orientation, world view and sympathy with the socialist world during the Cold War. It will take into account Arthur Schlesinger’s (President Kennedy’s Special Assistant who helped to devise the US’s policy to destabilize Guyana) apology to him in 1993 for conspiring against him and his belated judgment that a “great injustice was done to Cheddi Jagan.” It will consider whether, having regard to the attitude of Western powers to Guyana and their complicity with the events of 1962/4 and 1968/1985, Cheddi Jagan had any alternative but to seek alliances with the socialist world. That history is already being written. Professor Rabe’s book, “US Intervention in British Guiana” (Ian Randle Publishers Limited 2005) chronicles the ignoring of the positive reports about Cheddi Jagan, his demonisation and the “destruction of Guyana.”
by Janet Naidu
(Presented at the Celebration of the Life and Work of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Sunday, March 8, 1998 at the Travel Lodge, Scarborough, Ontario)
During his endless years of struggle for freedom and democracy for the people of Guyana, Cheddi Jagan was committed to overcoming the hardships facing Guyana -- economically, socially and politically. No one can dispute that he gave his heart to the people of Guyana and it was such devotion that led him to inspire us with his insightful awakening and decisive action towards progressive change. As a political activist, he quickly advanced the inclusion of women in the political arena, recognizing their contribution as an inevitable factor towards the development of a nation.
Imparting such a labor of love for Guyana, Dr. Jagan has been an inspiration for our humanity. Above all, he will live in our minds as a man who struggled peacefully against visible corruption, and who, ultimately became the only influential champion of women for all the peoples of Guyana.
For generations to come, his unmistakable legacy will be recorded in newly created pages, for Dr. Jagan’s distinctive journey into Guyana’s freedom and new hope for its peoples came with rare political skill and love for Guyanese.
No other has ever displayed such an enduring dedication for economic growth and human potential as he vigorously influenced efforts to bridge the gaps in Guyana’s economic devastation and its challenges in race, class and gender.
Bringing women to the forefront was one of his outstanding contributions as he struggled towards an atmosphere of cooperation and common interests. He charted the way for Guyanese women to be empowered, to act as pressure groups on concerned issues, to struggle for social justice, to be involved in Trade Union and political parties and to stand for high office.
Having witnessed the subjugation of women internationally, he broke great barriers in his fight for the recognition of women’s rights and freedom to participate in the national platform. He held a personal abiding duty to the Guyanese people – to free them of oppression - and was unstoppable as he brought issues concerning women to the forefront.
Indeed, this legendary crusader of peace made a significant difference in not only promoting the understanding of women’s legal rights, but in the continuous development of women in national life.
Even before setting up his People’s Progressive Party in 1950 in which he included women, Dr. Jagan inspired the struggle for women’s rights and social progress. Some of these landmarks can be recalled as early as 1944 the vital question of adult suffrage was raised, exposing how women were oppressed and suppressed - the law did not quality women and therefore, they did not have the right to vote. Housewives who had no income and owned no property and domestic workers who earned meager wages did not have a vote in the system of government.
Very early in his life he recognized how women in underdeveloped countries were at a disadvantage not only socially and economically but they were never called upon to play important roles in the fabric of our society - especially in the political structure.
He pioneered the path for bringing women to the forefront in the creation of the first Women’s Organization in Guyana. Established in 1946 as the "Women’s Progressive and Economic Organization" and strengthened in 1953 as the "Women’s Progressive Organization," it was led by Janet Jagan. Only then, women were able to come together for the first time on issues of common interest. Janet Jagan was Cheddi’s companion and friend. It was this kind of thinking that revealed he was a man who viewed women as an inclusive segment of society, particularly their participation in national life. The right to vote in an election should not be denied to women whose voice are equally important.
As a result, he inspired many women to be involved in the trade union movement and political activities. They held demonstrations and agitated for adult suffrage and equality for women. They won the right to be jurors. It was not until the 1953 general elections that women won the right to vote. There is no record of any other women’s political organization except the WPO which is now celebrating 45 years of struggle for improvements in the lives of women.
Having had an early opportunity to express their interests amongst themselves, they develop ways of improvements where they exposed the living conditions of lower income bracket people in Georgetown, held seminars on a wide range of topics from politics to care for women and children, provided live-in courses on political education, organized protest activities and promoted activities to create awareness of women’s issues and the rights of children.
As early as 1953, for the first time, 3 women were elected to Parliament and in the House of Assembly -- Jessie Burnham, Jane Phillips Gay and Janet Jagan. With enfranchisement, women could be better able to actively participate in public affairs.
There is no doubt that the Women’s Progressive Organization has contributed tremendously to the development and nurturing of women’s causes, and today still continues to strengthen its influence in women’s income levels, employment opportunities, health care, education and the prevention of violence against women.
Shaping the aims of the women’ movement was one of Dr. Jagan’s difficult role in his effort to bridge many barriers facing women as well as race and class disparities. Women succeeded in participating in citizens’ committees, sports and recreational activities, in world peace and disarmament dialogue.
Women’s representation at international conferences continue to strengthen equality for women. We have observed at the Beijing Women’s Conference, Indra Chandarpal, then Jr. Minister Labour, Housing, Human Resources and Social Security presented the voice of Guyanese for a sense of renewal and inspiration to continue to move forward. Among key concerns were the inequality of men and women in decision-making capacity; gender equality; women’s Human Rights and violence against women.
In his book "The West on Trial," Dr. Jagan illuminated that "As long as there are inequalities that arise from a class society of exploiters and exploited, all the people do not stand in equal relation to one another." Although the heart of Dr. Jagan’s commitment to equality was nation-wide, he inherently meant that women were inclusive in "all the people" and therefore, they must struggle to achieve a balanced relation in society.
In tackling issues facing all Guyanese, Dr. Jagan brought Guyana into the limelights on issues such as Equal Rights, Equal Pay for women and introduced for the first time in Guyana, legal protection for women who were Leave and financial allowances via the National Insurance Provision. As early as in the 1960s, he helped to alleviate the hardship women faced doing hard work in the canefields and having to be responsible for childcare and domestic life. They were allowed to perform lighter duties.
Dr. Jagan was the architect for our people to obtain higher education. He was a strong advocate for children to receive a higher level of education. He grew up witnessing first hand how his mother and other Guyanese women could not read or write. Illiteracy was high among even young girls and he strongly advocated for women to not only obtain education, including university level. He helped his brothers and sisters to obtain a higher level of education, up to university level.
When additional secondary schools were being built, he advanced the extension of them throughout the country, making it more affordable and accessible through which the masses benefit. In addition, during his early struggle, the University of Guyana was established and it was easier for women to access higher education.
Quite clearly seen in Dr. Jagan’s return to power in 1992 were his remarkable feats in speaking up for women. We have seen how this glorious leader, amidst the rapid rebuilding of Guyana’s infrastructure, unfailingly ensured that the rising concerns of women were acted upon.
He made sure women were included in his team. From his early influence of 3 women elected in Parliament to 2 Cabinet Ministers, Gail Texiera and Indra Chandarpal, and Chief Justice Desire Bernard and several women holding management positions in government.
Evidenced in his efforts to eliminate discrimination against women, he advanced the implementation of legislation such as the Domestic Violence Bill and established national frontiers for women’s participation in public affairs such as the National Policy on Women and the National Commission on Women. Fundamental changes also included Cabinet’s approval for 30% to be the minimum for women in decision-making positions.
A significant progress has been made when Parliament approved the ratification of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, thus sending a strong message to the population that the rights of women will be taken seriously and protected against violation.
In the 1995 Budget, $500M were allocated for the alleviation of poverty where 2,000 young people will be trained in technical and vocational programs and 500 women will be trained in conscious awareness programs.
Dr. Jagan acted swiftly to ensure that the implementation of fair employment practices and worker protection legislation (non-discrimination, sexual harassment and union choice) were taken to protect women who are often vulnerable in the employment environment. He was instrumental in the passing of the Discrimination in Employment Bill to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion, disability, etc. Additionally, he took many steps including the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Bill. For the first time in our history, working people were allowed to legally gain some returns for their years of service in employment.
Dr. Jagan’s legacy of love for Guyana continues to strengthen our nation and women continue to make a significant contribution in Guyana’s national development. His life partner, Janet Jagan, has been democratically elected to the highest office as our President - the first female in our hemisphere.
We are indeed fortunate to have had such a man in the depth and breath of Guyana - Cheddi Jagan...
He believed that "the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world."