Tributes to Cheddi Jagan - Remembering CJ
by Bernard Heydorn
At 12.33 a.m. on March 6, 1997, a precious jewel of Guyana departed this world. Like the star of the morning, Dr. Cheddi Jagan guided Guyana to the dawning of Independence in 1966, and in its aftermath, valiantly fought to improve the lot of the working poor.
Ironically, the Caribbean suffered a double loss on that same day, when Michael Manley, the former Jamaican leader and a fellow socialist, also passed away.
I am not prone to praise politicians who by and large devote themselves to self-aggrandizement, but Jagan was an exception.
Through his long, distinguished life, this son of indentured plantation workers had an aura of incorruptibility. He was known as a political survivor, a populist, a Marxist, a charismatic figure whom I believe history will judge kindly.
The same cannot be said for his one-time colleague, the self-appointed Guyanese President for life, Forbes Burnham, whose name is rarely mentioned today by Guyanese, except as a quiet obscenity.
Jagan's political star dawned on the Guyanese horizon over 50 years ago in the late 1940s, incidentally not far from where I was toddling around at Robb Street, Bourda, in Georgetown, when the newly formed People's Progressive Party (PPP) held some of their first public meetings.
My next recollection of Jagan was during the turbulent, pre-Independence 1950s, when I lived with my family in New Amsterdam, and British troops were sent to what was then British Guiana. There was heightened political activity at that time as three political parties emerged -- Jagan's PPP, symbolized by the cup; Burnham's People's National Congress (PNC), symbolized by the broom; and Peter D'Aguiar's United Force (UF), symbolized by the rising sun.
In the end, Burnham installed himself as a dictator, using the minimum force required to subjugate the most, and for decades, the broom swept hundreds of thousands of Guyanese, including many PNC supporters, to all ends of the globe and beyond, most of whom would never return to their beloved homeland, as they voted with the feet!
Jagan had to face formidable opposition during the Cold War years, for the forces of British colonialism, American imperialism, and even at times the Churches, were marshalled against him. Slogans such as "Better Dead Than Red", and "The Cup Is Poisoned" rang out in Guyana.
Through this all, this son of the soil weathered the storms with equanimity, and like Nelson Mandela, lived to rise from the ashes. He fought for over 50 years, 28 of which as leader of the opposition (a Guinness Book of Records achievement), returning to power toward the end of his life, and calling for a new world order with is last breath.
I met Jagan just once, last year at York University. He shook my hands warmly as I stood there tongue-tied. He talked, and as he spoke, I was impressed with his concerned, down-to-earth manner, a true Guyanese in every respect.
He had admirers worldwide, including of all people, my elderly mother-in-law, Agnes Niles, and Englishwoman who lives in Manchester, England. Agnes has been a fierce fighter for a renewed social order all her life, and in fact attended the first Pan-African Congress, opened by Jomo Kenyatta, in Manchester, England, in 1945, where "the cause of subject people with little freedoms" was debated.
Jagan's legacy, I believe, is that he resisted the temptation to use the race card, which bodes well for the future of Guyana and the entire Caribbean.
Although his life and work will never be fully acknowledged in countries like Canada, which paid scant attention to his passing, reflecting mainstream attitudes towards citizens of countries like Guyana, his call for a New Global Order of democratic socialism, of the redistribution of the world's wealth, of resistance to unbridled capitalism, has found support in many quarters, including the Pope.
Some people might say that Jagan has made full circle, but perhaps it is we who have made the circle, for Cheddi Jagan never really shifted from his life-long vision of a better life for the working masses.
Ironically, the Americans who haunted him for most of his political life, cared for him in his last days in hospital, and gave him a 21-gun salute in Washington, D.C., as his body left for Guyana.
I pay tribute to the man and his times. It is the passing of an era, a historic time, not the best of times, nor the worst of times, but a historic time, never the less.
There is a lesson to be learned from this. We have only one time, this time, before we go to face the eternal, and Jagan showed us how a single life can count.
Cheddi has gone to take his place in the crown of the Almighty, an Almighty he may have doubted the existence of, especially when he saw the mess-here on earth. In the Almighty's crown he will shine brightly with all the poor ones, all the dear ones, all the precious ones he loved as his own.
I salute you, Dr. Jagan!
by Dr. Charles Jacob, Jr.
No one has made a greater impact on the political life of any colonial territory in the Western Hemisphere within recent times than Cheddi Beret Jagan. A young, unassuming man of remarkable good looks and unimpeachable character, with a burning desire to serve his country (he is Indian, but no racist, as even his enemies admit) and a keen sense of social justice, he is well qualified for leadership. He knows the sufferings of the Guianese people, the ailments of the country - and the remedy. The people trust him, but their rulers hate him. Although he would be the last one to think or even say it, Dr. Cheddi Jagan is indeed Guiana's "man of destiny."
Born in British Guiana on March 22, 1918, Cheddi Jagan is the eldest of eleven children of a former sugar-estate worker who rose to foreman. Young Jagan attended Queen's College, Guiana's leading secondary school for boys, later proceeded to the United States for higher education.
His parents were poor, as indeed were all those who, like his father, held similar positions in the British-owned sugar industry. But Cheddi was proud to admit to the writer, then a classmate of his at Queen's College, that he used to make his own shirts. His American education was made possible partly by the sacrifices of industrious and ambitious parents, despite their large family; partly by his own efforts, for Jagan worked his way through university by doing odd jobs for his upkeep.
Entering Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1936, he completed Pre-Dental studies, later transferred to Chicago's Northwestern University, from which he graduated Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1942. Dr. Jagan also attended the Y.M.C.A. College in Chicago and received the B.Sc. degree in Sociology.
In Chicago the study of the lives of India's great leaders, Gandhi and Nehru, and their heroic struggle against British imperialist domination greatly inspired him and brought home the realization that there was a job to be done in the land of his birth. The squalor, hunger and oppression which be knew existed in Guiana had to be removed.
It was also in Chicago that Dr. Jagan met and married (in 1943) his wife Janet, then student-nurse at Cook County School of Nursing.
Back in British Guiana in 1943, Dr. Jagan quickly entered the Trade Union movement and, together with his wife, began the struggle to end colonialism. Political education of the masses was badly needed and the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) was formed late in 1946. This marked the beginning of a movement which was to change the face of Guiana and raise the hopes of her downtrodden people.
The following year, 1947, Dr. Jagan won a seat in the Legislative Council, election to which was under a restricted franchise. his was the only voice raised against imperialist exploitation. The people heard it and thenceforth decided to follow him. Big business, though well represented in the Legislature by both elected and nominated members, feared this new star which had come to bring light to the toiling, oppressed masses and would ultimately lead them to freedom.
Out of the PAC emerged the People's Progressive Party (PPP) in 1950. Its first leader was Dr. Cheddi Jagan; today he still leads the Party, which has done more for Guiana's liberation than all other parties combined, because of its militancy and refusal to compromise with imperialists.
Dr. Jagan led the PPP to victory in 1953, became Chief Minister and holder of the important portfolio of Agriculture, Forests, Lands and Mines. After the overthrow of the PPP Government by imperialist intrigue later in 1953, Dr. Jagan was imprisoned for six months in 1954 for "breaking the Emergency Regulations." "Today Guiana is a vast prison'' he said at his trial.. " expect no justice from this or any other court. Justice has been dead since British troops landed."
He again led the Party to victory in 1957, and is presently Leader of the Majority Party in the Legislature and Minister for Trade and Industry.
Today Dr. Jagan is under constant attack by imperialists and their press both at home and in Britain, by former party colleagues whose treachery nearly wrecked the PPP, and by other reactionary elements in Guiana But in spite of all this, the overwhelming majority of the people consider him the only man who can lead Guiana to independence.
Address At The Babu John Celebration Of The Second Anniversary Of The Death Of Dr Cheddi Jagan, March 6, 1999
by Earl Bousquet
Madam President of the Republic,
Members of the Leadership of the People's Progressive Party, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
My Fellow Caribbean Brothers and Sisters of Guyana, here and everywhere,
It was with much pleasure and gratitude, and with equal humility that I readily accepted the honour of being asked to speak to you today about someone we all knew and of whom we still know; about a man who we loved and still love; about a leader whose ideas still offer us much direction two years after, without much notice, he left us.
Dr Cheddi Jagan's positive influence on the development of progressive political thought outside of Guyana, in the rest of the Caribbean and on the world stage, has been widely acknowledged.
Between the 1960s and the 1980s, Dr Jagan, as the General Secretary of the PPP of Guyana, attended the launching of every single progressive political organisation that developed in that period in the Caribbean. He was also a steadfast builder of political movements in the Caribbean, Latin America and the world. He was indeed a committed Caribbean integrationist and an internationalist by name and nature.
When Dr Jagan addressed the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations in the early 60s, his appeal was for independence, not only for British Guiana, but for all colonised people all over the world, for freedom for tri-continental people from Africa to Asia to Latin America and the Caribbean. The consummate teacher, he always provided the historical and other data to support his analyses and conclusions. That is the Cheddi Jagan that I remember and whom we all remember today; your teacher, my teacher, our teacher.
Dr Cheddi Jagan always said in 1964 and for three decades after, that his party and people were "cheated but not defeated." That was his essential message throughout his 28 years in opposition.
History indeed absolved Dr Jagan and the PPP on October 5, 1992. On November 9 that year, when all of us throughout the Caribbean, Latin America and the rest of the world watched him take that oath of office as President of the Republic, we all breathed a deep sigh of relief -- that same sigh we breathed again when Nelson Mandela eventually took his oath of office a few years later in South Africa.
Dr Jagan remained a leader and guide in Guyana and the Caribbean. He was a living, legendary inspiration, a fine example -- the best example we knew -- of a gentleman and leader, a simple man of great political and intellectual depth, a warrior with the heart of a lamb, a consistent advocate of world peace, a leader at home whose single most important mission was to achieve once again that level of racial and political unity which existed before the party and people experienced what has proven to be a costly split.
It would be no exaggeration to say that everything Cheddi Jagan said and did while President of the Republic was aimed at that one major objective: unity of the Guyanese people. He lived for that. It meant more to him than being President.
Fate dealt him -- and us -- a major blow on March 6, 1997. But it is worth noting, that while Cheddi had been unable to achieve the level of national unity he strove for in his later life, he did achieve it in death. Indeed, his death brought together over 350,000 Guyanese who participated in the various activities associated with his funeral in Georgetown and Berbice. I would never again like to feel the way I did when we all witnessed his cremation as it took place here two years ago today.
I was not able to return to Babu John last year. But no reason could have prevented me from returning this year to pay reverence and tribute to this great man who, not only Guyanese and Caribbean people miss, but one who the world continues to miss.
That was the Cheddi Jagan I knew and the Cheddi Jagan we all pay tribute to today, two years after his unwelcome departure from our lives.
Dr Cheddi Jagan was a visionary, whether at home or abroad. And if I may be permitted to say so, he was also considered by many the world over to be a man ahead of his time.
Dr Jagan wrote books, he delivered lectures, he told the world that the British and Americans, through their intelligence services the MI-S and the CIA, had collaborate to remove his governments from office in the 50s and 60s. They both denied it. But he lived to see and hear the British and Americans confess that all he had said over the years was true, that all those he named as collaborators and conspirators were in fact guilty.
The Official Secrets were officially and compulsorily revealed after 30 years, but in the end, the truth came out and he was vindicated. The British published their secrets -- and the American ones supposedly got burned by accident. But the Clinton administration itself acknowledged to President Jagan that America had been wrong to him. The Queen of England came here while he served as President and the British government took the opportunity to tell Dr Jagan and the Guyanese people that England was wrong and sorry.
But that was not all about Dr Jagan's visionary abilities. I always remember how he used to talk about protection of the environment and concern for ecological matters, long before everyone else.
Throughout his years, Dr Jagan warned that the international financial institutions such as the World bank, the IMF, the IDB and others were not functioning in the interest of poor people and developing countries, that their programmes were designed to cause persistent poverty in the Third World, that their policies were geared to keep nations and people in eternal debt. Today, the President of the World Bank and the Managing Director of the IMP and the President of the IDB are all saying the same thing. Today, they are all talking and doing things like debt relief and establishing of special funds for poorer countries, just like Dr Jagan had been calling for all those years.
Today, Brothers and Sisters, world leaders are also calling for a New Global Human Order in exactly the same way that Dr Jagan called for all those years in opposition and which he put on the world agenda as soon as he became President of the Republic.
Today, Brothers and Sisters, the same Caricom leaders who Cheddi Jagan walked after and lobbied and urged to get involved in saving Guyana, today, that same Caricom, as an institution based in Guyana, has finally seen the wisdom of his words and the timeliness of his urgings. Today, though somewhat belatedly, CARICOM is involved in Guyana at the level at which Dr Jagan had urged ever since the establishment of the Caribbean Community in 1973, the same year when ballot boxes were hijacked by the army after the general elections.
Such is the man we pay homage to today -- a man whose vision transcended the boundaries of Guyana and the Caribbean, whose existence was not only for his people but for the people of the world. That is the Cheddi Jagan I know and the Cheddi Jagan that we pay tribute to today.
It was always Dr Jagan's dream that all the people and all the races of this country -- especially the two major race groups -- should live as one. He struggled for that both in and out of power.
He and the earlier PPP Leadership had seen it and the people had lived it before in the fifties and into the sixties, in those early days of struggle. They had also seen the fruit it bore.
During his time as President of the Republic, Guyanese showed once more how it was possible to live together and build their nation together.
In the Caribbean, he was viewed as the grand old man of Caribbean politics, the one among them who had most trod the length and breadth of the Caribbean turf. He, for example, when he died, had the distinction of being the only head of government to have been present at every single CARICOM Summit since the establishment of CARICOM, whether as President or as Opposition Leader.
The Leaders of CARICOM over the years respected him even though they did not like his politics. It was difficult for them to evade or ignore him. He worked the floor of the summit venues and called press conferences. He granted interviews, distributed articles and pamphlets and in many other ways informed the decision makers and the press on what was happening in Guyana. The images of Dr Jagan imprinted in our minds are many. He was a revolutionary and a statesman; a humble man with worldly ideas; a fine leader by example; a fighter for peace with the heart of a lamb.
We have all known him in many ways and he has touched each of our lives in one way or another. But no matter how he touched us, no matter what way we have known him, no matter whether as Guyanese or as Caribbean people, no matter where you come from, once you have known Dr. Cheddi Jagan, you cannot help but admit that he was a man worth remembering, a man who left his footprints in Guyana's sands, a man whose words and works shall continue to live with us for as long as we ourselves may live.
Long Live the memory of Dr Cheddi Jagan!
May his fine example as a world citizen guide us in these trying times for Guyana, the Caribbean and the world!
May his vision, his ideas and his ideals inspire us as we enter the new millennium, always remembering that, though gone in body, the spirit of the Great Warrior lives with us, not only here at Babu John, but in our hearts and minds.
May his memory live on and on and on and on and on.....
by Hydar Ally
The PNC/R in its most recent press statement (November 1, 2007) made the ridiculous assertion that “Guyana has been fortunate to benefit from the change in policy on the part of the International Financial Institutions, which now allows them to give debt write-offs.” As a result, the Party claims, the country has benefited from substantial write-offs, from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The underlying assumption behind this particular mode of thinking is that debt relief was something inevitable and would have come about as a matter of course and regardless of the objective and subjective conditions obtaining in or outside the country, debt relief would have materialized.
This thinking is flawed in a number of important ways. To begin with, debt relief for Guyana and for that matter the rest of the developing world did not come about on a platter as the PNC/R suggested, but came about as a result of strong advocacy on the part of outstanding leaders and institutions, who were convinced that so long as the debt burden remained as high as it was, it was impossible for development to take place on a sustainable basis.
One such leader was the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, who way back in the early 1970’s, recognized the stultifying effects of the debt burden on the ability of poor countries to grow and develop.
Even in the latter period of his mortal existence, Dr. Jagan remained undaunted in his advocacy for debt relief for developing countries. Speaking to the Sixth Meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas Working Group on Smaller Economies at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown on February 13, 1997, in what could be regarded as his last official public speaking engagement, Dr. Jagan spoke of developing countries being subjected to onerous debt burden, grinding poverty, high unemployment and increasing social disintegration.
He remarked: “A definite solution must be found for the Third World’s crushing external debt burden. It has now reached unmanageable levels…..
The present mechanism whereby “the more you pay the more you owe” is in need of urgent review. It is some consolation that the IMF and World Bank leaders are now recognizing the need for urgent solutions to these problems. The IMF seems willing now to sell part of its gold reserves to assist poorer countries with their debt problems. Debt relief in the form of debt cancellations, grants, soft loans and rescheduling is urgent if the developing countries are to eradicate poverty, protect the environment, play their meaningful role in expanding world trade and help end stagnation and recession in the industrially developed countries.”
Thanks to the robust and unrelenting efforts of Dr. Jagan, Guyana was able to benefit substantially from debt relief under the Highly Indebted Countries Initiative (HIPC), as a result of which the debt burden was substantially wiped off to more sustainable levels. This momentum was continued under the presidency of Mrs. Janet Jagan and Bharrat Jagdeo, facilitated in part by the return of democracy to the country and the high levels of fiscal discipline and economic prudence displayed by the PPP/C administration.
What the PNC/R did not mention in its release is the fact that it accumulated a staggering debt burden of over US$2B with very little to show for it. Most of the money was wasted on ill-conceived projects such as the glass factory, which was constructed at a huge cost, but which, as it were, never saw the light of day. The returns from these borrowed sums hardly yielded any returns. Instead they accumulated huge interest payments that exacerbated the debt burden to a point where the country was rated as the highest in the hemisphere in terms of per capita debt.
The point in all of this is that debt relief for Guyana did not come about as a result of the magnanimity or kindness of the heart on the part of creditor institutions and nations as the PNC/R is claiming. It came about as a result of hard work and painstaking efforts by the PPP/C administration, in particular Dr. Jagan, who never gave up despite some prophets of doom who felt that debt write-off could never happen.
Of course, one cannot reasonably expect the PNC/R to heap praise on the current administration for the great strides it has been making in the area of debt management, but at the very least one expects that some amount of recognition would be given to the hard work being done to restore this country to a state of creditworthiness after having had to suffer the shame of being declared un-creditworthy by the IMF after the country consistently defaulted in loan repayments.
Today, the debt burden has been brought to much more sustainable levels even though it still remains high. In this regard, credit must be given to our creditors, both at the bilateral and at the multilateral levels for the generosity shown in writing off our debts which now makes it possible to put more resources in the social sectors in particular education, health, housing and water.
by Prem Misir
The presence of the University of Guyana (UG) today is a product of Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s guiding light and resoluteness; and a remarkable testimony to the heroic people who stood their ground to ensure that the University continues to have breadth and to be of high degree.
The history of UG’s conception and early years acknowledges significant political resistance to its existence. However, these early years saw an evolving UG as the wellspring of education amid serious political turmoil. Just focus on 1963 to assess the political resistance against UG.
Former PPP Minister of Education Vernon Nunes on-September 29, 1961, established a Working Party on the feasibility of setting up a local University. A University was possible. Nunes then submitted a document for Cabinet consideration on December 6, 1961, gaining approval. The University of Guyana Ordinance was approved by the Senate on March 18, 1963 and by the Legis1ative Assembly on April 5, 1963. Governor Sir Ralph Grey signed the Bill into law on April 18, 1963. The University of Guyana’s inauguration was held on October 1, 1963. Classes started at UG on October 2, 1963.
Once Cabinet approved the proposal for the establishment of a University on December 6, 1961, Jagan rolled out intensive communications with academics abroad to assist him in this needed project. A few examples of his indefatigable efforts to make university education a reality in Guyana will suffice.
January 4, 1962: Jagan wrote to Harold Drayton in Ghana requesting his assistance.
January 13, 1962: Drayton responded that he would like to return to Guyana immediately, as the University of Ghana was willing to release him quicker by not applying the customary three months.
December 17, 1962: Jagan asked Horace Davis whether it would be possible to recruit lecturers in 23 fields.
January 2, 1963: Horace Davis replied by indicating that both Professor Alan MacEwan and he would like to work in British Guiana (now Guyana). He believed that a two or three-year budget would assist in attracting staff. On the question of the library, Davis advised that Jagan should establish a committee for staff recruitment, equipment and building, and to appeal for entire libraries from deceased scholars or moribund institutions.
January 10, 1963: Jagan wrote to Professor Paul Baran of Stanford University, Professor Joan Robinson, Cambridge University, Professor Lancelot Hogben, Birmingham University, and Professor David Glass, University of London. Jagan’s letter was a request for assistance in staff recruitment. In this letter, Jagan also outlined the university’s role; he suggested that the university should strive to develop the community through producing graduates for the civil service, teachers for high schools, and scientists and technologists for industrial and agricultural development. Jagan advocated too that the university should administer action-oriented research into Guyana’s problems.
January 10, 1963: Jagan wrote to Felix Cummings in New York asking him to mobilize funds for a library and laboratory equipment. Jagan also indicated that they were attempting to have Joan Robinson of Cambridge University as the first Vice-Chancellor.
February 2, 1963: Lancelot Hogben replied accepting the position of Vice-Chancellor.
March 1, 1963: Jagan thanked Hogben for accepting the Vice-Chancellorship, and invited him to make a preparatory visit on March 18, 1963.
Professor Harold Drayton, first Deputy Vice Chancellor of UG, in The University of Guyana Perspectives on the early History, noted that in the months leading up to the university’s inauguration and especially in the first year of UG’s life, many local and regional newspapers, and some U.S. respectable journals, frequently published items unfavorable to the proposed national University, referring to it disapprovingly as Jagan’s ‘night school’; and that it was a training ground for communist activists.
Drayton also noticed in early 1963 that some senior Education Officers in cahoots with the Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Education wrote disapprovingly of the proposed national University. And their paper was presented in tandem with the Ministry’s White Paper on Higher Education to the Senate and Legislative Assembly.
These diversions to negatively impact the University’s development followed and in some cases accompanied direct political resistance, aimed at removing the PPP Government in 1963; those actions to shelve the UG’s growth and to dispose of the PPP from office in 1963 had a nexus. Keep in mind that UG commenced classes on October 2, 1963.
And while these dastardly oppositional acts could be misconstrued as having nothing to do with the proposed national University, the actions even latently were intended to rob the Government and a colonial people of any credibility and innovativeness associated with the founding of an institution of higher education; quite clearly, the principles of integrity and creativity in institution building certainly would enhance the stature of any Government; and further such improved eminence, indeed, would undermine any Opposition’s intent to overthrow an Administration.
And in this case, the Opposition PNC’s ‘X-13’ plan craved such intentions of ousting the Government; but UG as a reality saddened the PNC’s illegal efforts. So let’s present some actions relating to the nexus alluded to earlier.
A Police raid on Congress Place, Headquarters of the PNC, in May 1963, found large quantities of weapons and a document outlining the ‘X-13’ terrorist plan; the plan clearly indicated that the PNC possessed a road map to violently remove the democratically-elected PPP Government. And those today who believe that there was nothing to the X-13 Plan, then let the media carry it, so the people may decide for themselves.
Later, the Police developed a research document on the PNC as a terrorist organization, but Governor Sir Ralph Grey refused to make it public; however, Janet Jagan was able to secure this document and made its contents available to the public in early 1964, almost a year after the police found the PNC’s ‘X-13’ plan.
These early months in the evolution of UG saw serious developmental constraints produced by the 80 days’ general strike from April 18 through July 8, 1963, the declaration of a State of Emergency on May 9, rioting, bombing and arson, and racial attacks on person and property.
June 12, 1963 recorded the beating of PPP Minister of Education Vernon Nunes; then there was Premier Cheddi Jagan’s narrow escape from a similar fate when he left the Public Buildings with his two bodyguards and Superintendent Carl Austin; a mob stoned and surrounded Jagan’s car; Austin and the bodyguards then opened gunfire, at which time, the driver maneuvered a quick exit. Also, quite a few Government Ministries and buildings suffered bombings from June 11 through June 25, 1963.
During this same month of June 1963 in England, the London’s Public Record Office (June 30, 1963) carried a document showing a meeting between President John Kennedy and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, where they both agreed to amend the Constitution of British Guiana to provide for a new electoral system — Proportional Representation (PR), in order to remove Dr. Cheddi .Jagan from office. Note that Burnham and D’Aguiar, four months later, proposed PR at the Independence Conference of October 22, 1963.
After the talks failed, Colonial Secretary Duncan Sandys then acquired political space to institute PR in British Guiana. The country held its General Elections on December 7, 1964 and established the PNC/UF coalition Government. All these indecent goings-on during the PPP Administration in 1963 and 1964 did not block the establishment of UG.
The PNC-UF Coalition Government in 1964 exhibited enormous indifference to UG, and pursued severally the reintegration of UG with the University of the West Indies (UWI).
And a few years later, according to the then Vice Chancellor Dr. Dennis Irvine, the PNC Government, after ridding itself of the UF, established a committee, that included a well-known senior UG staff, to determining the course of action for effecting this reintegration, aimed at ending UG as a Jagan-created institution.
Dr. Irvine claimed that through his valid standpoints and a threat to resign, he convinced then Prime Minister Burnham to throw out this quest to bring an end to UG as a university institution. And so UG became firmly established, notwithstanding all this nastiness. Clearly, Jagan was the founder of the University of Guyana. And all brochures of this University need to prominently acknowledge this fact.
Remembering Dr Jagan's death anniversary
by Victor Yacoob, President, ACG
March 6, 2016 marked 19 years since the passing of one of the most remarkable personalities who was instrumental in shaping modern Guyanese history – Dr Cheddi Jagan. I was privileged to know, and be influenced by, this illustrious son of the soil who has left an indelible impression on me and who I vividly remember on his death anniversary.
I met Dr Jagan during the nineteen-sixties through my father, the late Mohammed Yacoob, who was a member of the People’s Progressive Party and a representative of the East Canje, Berbice Group of the PPP.
Our Comrade Leader, then heading the Parliamentary Opposition, was attending a bottom house meeting being chaired by Village Councillor, the late Sidney Sukhu, who was Chairman of the No. 2 PPP, East Canje Group. At the time I was Secretary of that Group.
What came out of that meeting helped to shape my political consciousness and influenced my youthful sense of the world of politicians and political struggles. Of the many remarkable things said, I cherished one statement from Dr Jagan: “You can’t fight from the outside; you have to fight from within.”
In attendance at that meeting were also some PPP stalwarts, such as Feroze Mohamed, Ranji Chandisingh and a few of my fellow villagers – Balchand Persaud, Jerome Jaipersaud, Albert Budhoo and several other Comrades of the East Canje Group of the PPP.
Sukhu and Chandisingh, now deceased, later crossed the floor in Parliament, and went over to the PNC; Feroze Mohamed served the later (1992) PPP government as a Minister of Home Affairs and is currently an executive member of the Central Committee of the PPP.
The late Albert Budhoo served as President of the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union and passed away recently in the USA.
Balchand Persaud, MP, resigned from the PPP Government and currently resides in Toronto. Jerome Jaipseraud, fondly known as Jerro, is a Jaganite and a true Comrade of the PPP. He remains a supporter of the Association of Concerned Guyanese and resides in Toronto.
During the sixties, I had several interactions with Comrade Cheddi Jagan, then Leader of the Opposition and who later became President of Guyana in whose interest he dedicated his entire life and fought so valiantly.
After I moved to Canada in the seventies, Dr Jagan was a frequent visitor to Toronto and would meet supporters of the party and members of the Association of Concerned Guyanese (ACG). I recall that on many of his visits, whether on business or for personal reasons, he would invite members and supporters of the party to meet with him and update them on Guyana.
The news was invariably bad: "things are getting worse with the government and we in Canada must continue with the fight for free and fair elections in Guyana."
I'm proud that as a member of the A.C.G, we took up the challenge, lobbied the Government of Canada and with the assistance of several Members of Parliament and support groups, we were able to achieve our goal of a return of democracy in Guyana, with free and fair elections.
For nearly three decades, despite constant harassment by the PNC regime and their hacks, Dr Jagan was steadfast in his resolve and did not turn his back on his supporters.
Dr Jagan was the epitome of decency, honesty, integrity and tolerance. These were the qualities that guided him in his struggles and which became the cornerstone of his life's struggles. Even those opposed to his political philosophy admitted to his moral rectitude and his unswerving devotion to truth and fairplay.
I recall at PPP meetings while being opposition leader, Dr Jagan often spoke about the wrong doings of the government of the day and of their dishonesty and corruption. He was openly cursed and stoned at many of these meetings by activists and henchmen of the ruling clique but he refused to succumb to their violence and threats. Despite these assaults he kept on fighting for the freedom and welfare of all Guyanese.
After 28 years of unremitting struggles in the opposition, Dr Cheddi Jagan and his PPP won the elections on October 9th, 1992 and he became President of Guyana. The country finally breathed some fresh air after 28 years of suffocation from a despotic and callous clique.
Dr Jagan visited Canada after his 1992 electoral victory and met with his supporters and members of the ACG. Among other things, he requested us in Canada to adopt schools in Guyana to assist with books and other materials and to help improve and upgrade the country's education system that had fallen into decay.
We took up the President's offer and contacted persons from different villages who formed Committees to assist their schools in what became the "Adopt-a-School" drive.
Today, the Committee of the Sheet Anchor School, East Canje is still at large under the presidency of my fellow villager, Mr. Krishna Rampersaud, who now resides in Oakville, Ontario, and remains a supporter of the ACG.
After less than five years in office as the first democratic President of Guyana, Dr Cheddi B. Jagan passed away on March 6th, 1997.
After Dr Jagan's death, his wife Janet was sworn in as Prime Minister as well as First Vice President on March 17, 1997 later to become the first woman President of the country.
I urge that we continue with the legacy of our great leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan, as Guyana today needs us no lesser than when he was among us.
The Association of Concerned Guyanese, of which I am the current President, is inviting persons in the Guyanese community to become members so we can continue the struggles of our people. Should you need any further information, please contact me at 416-636-8104.