Tributes to Cheddi Jagan - Remembering CJ
by Donald Ramotar
(An edited version of an address by the General Secretary of the People's Progressive Party Donald Ramotar at Babu John on March 3, 2002)
It is five years since Guyana's greatest son Cde Cheddi went to sleep forever. I had said shortly after his untimely passing that during his lifetime he had made such a great impact on every aspect of life in our country that his significance will become even greater the further we move away from that date.
I believe what I said then has been borne out in life. There is not a day that passes in which we do not consult Cde Cheddi. Whenever we engage in serious discussions, which is very often, we turn time and time again to Dr Jagan's works for guidance.
At a very important juncture in the long struggles he led against colonialism, building our country while in office in the 1950s and 60s, our Herculean struggle for democracy from 1964 to 1992 and in the four years in which he led the reconstruction of our country, Cde Cheddi and the PPP were able to come up with scientific analyses and propose solutions, which the masses could grasp and follow.
Undoubtedly, he had a great amount of charisma. He was correctly described as a charismatic leader. However in my view the strength and successes he had as a leader had much deeper roots.
In the first place was his scientific analyses, which more often than not proved to be correct.
Secondly, he was not just a thinker and an academic, but was also an activist. Indeed, he lived by the thesis that it was not enough to interpret the world, but he interpreted it in order to change it.
Thirdly, he took a stand on issues. His positions were patriotic, internationalist and firmly on the side of the working people.
Indeed, on the eve of the1961 elections he elaborated his position on the side of the broad masses of working people; on the side of the nation as he called for independence. He then ended his speech by saying "... here I stand and here will I stand until I die ..." He remained loyal to the working people and true to his pledge to the very end of his life.
Dr Jagan as a human being knew that a time would have come when he would have to depart. He therefore spent almost all of his time strengthening the positions of the working people. No doubt, too, he anticipated that even after he would have gone that that struggle would have to continue.
To that end he devoted great energies in building the People's Progressive Party (PPP). Our Party is and will forever be the living monument of Cde Cheddi Jagan. It is the PPP that will continue to carry out the work, which he took such a far way.
Throughout the history of the PPP and during his entire life, Dr Jagan worked tirelessly and often patiently to build national and racial unity in our country. That is a principle which guided us and will continue to guide us, as we endeavour to build a peaceful, progressive and prosperous Guyana.
There are those unscrupulous politicians whose drive for personal power is so burning that they do not care what harm they do to race relations.
They openly advocate racial politics and often do their damnedest to incite problems. We have to guard against this. We must never allow them to succeed!
Almost at the end of his life he kept working on theories and proposing solutions to many of the global problems. Dr Jagan was moved by the fact that some 1.3 billion people in the world existed on less that US$1 per day. He was concerned with the fact that the gap between the developed and underdeveloped countries kept widening. The concentration of wealth in a few hands up to the point where the wealth of the number one person in the Fortune 500 was greater than the GDP of all the Caribbean countries combined.
For him poverty was not just the lack of money but also the loss of opportunities and hope.
All the fighting spirit in him was aroused by the knowledge that more than 100 million children throughout the world were not attending school.
While extremely busy with affairs of state, he found time to elaborate and propose practical measures for a New Global Human Order.
Comrades, in conclusion, let me say that in the five years since Dr Jagan passed on, we in the PPP/Civic have been seriously put to the test.
Those who crave power for their own selfish gains thought that without him the Party and government would fall. They unleashed a deluge of lies, slanders and the worst of racial incitement. They also resorted to violence, using misguided elements in pursuit of their goals.
We have withstood that onslaught. Our people have emerged more steeled, a new group of cadres have been forged for the struggle. We are Jaganites ready to carry the torch that Cde Cheddi has passed. We will do our best to eradicate poverty, further improve education, health, housing and other social services. We will continue to find mechanisms to involve the masses in this work and deepen and broaden democracy which we regained in 1992 after a long but glorious struggle.
Cde. Cheddi Jagan lived! He lives! And will go on living! His name and work will endure throughout the ages.
by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds
(Speech by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds at Babu John on March 3, 2002)
Today we begin a month of events to mark the 5th anniversary of the passing away of dear Comrade Cheddi. Many of us naturally still feel some bit of grief at his passing, but more important is that as we recall his life, we seek to discern some precepts to guide us onwards so that we can make good our rallying cry, that Cheddi is gone but in us he lives on.
Cheddi was a family man, a Guyanese nationalist, an internationalist all in one; and for him there was no contradiction. Indeed each position informed and strengthened the others. Cheddi was a thinking man, reading widely, writing widely, but also a man of action, persistent action, courageous and willing when necessary to take a lonely stance against conventional wisdom.
As President Jagdeo was leaving last Wednesday morning I enquired of him, of what he might have spoken about were he to be here today. He pointed to a number of areas where Cheddi's long-held positions are relevant to the world today and are gaining acceptance - even if slowly.
Today, Guyana and a number of similarly heavily-indebted poor countries are enjoying HIPC relief which can be traced to Cheddi's lone call beginning since 1978. Conventional wisdom for many years maintained that was not possible. Thanks to Cheddi multilateral debt relief is being granted today to needy countries.
Today we are all aware of globalization and there is no way we could avoid recognizing the problems of the current system. Cheddi led the search for alternatives and improvement, not being limited by tainted ideological labels. Similarly his support of a Tobin tax that seeks to reduce the wild destabilizing money flows.
Cheddi's New Global Human Order (NGHO) has entered the discussion stage at the United Nations and we expect to hear more of it, and other variants and refinements being advocated. Cheddi's NGHO is based on a sense of the world being one, the human race being one, and the explicit recognition that the prevailing sense and approach to problems must be one of interdependence between all countries and peoples.
At this ceremony to mark the 5th anniversary of the passing of Comrade Cheddi let us refresh our resolve to continue the journey he started: to become one nation, one people born out of our common experiences, striving to make a better living in this land.
Cheddi in his lifetime led the way for national independence, the restoration of democracy, rights for the average Guyanese. These victories have brought us to a new situation, where many of the justifiable reasons for feelings of alienation have been removed. Cheddi has set the stage for the development of national unity and the material building of our country.
If we are to be true to the memory of Cheddi, if we are to continue the journey he started then all Guyanese must get down to working our way together from poverty to prosperity. We must be partners. And we could see examples in Cheddi's life: his welcoming and acceptance of Arthur Schelsinger's apology for detrimental things done by the US administrations during the 1960s. I think too that we must keep before us the symbolism in the Queen's visit of 1994 - sitting together at dinner symbolized a new relationship and putting behind such things as the suspension of the PPP government of 1953 and acquiescence in many things thereafter.
My fellow cabinet members, friends, supporters of the PPP and the PPP/C and indeed all Guyanese, the challenge for us is to build - with give and take - a sense of family.
Cheddi was a revolutionary, not for the sake of being a revolutionary, but one who made revolution to build a better Guyana, a better world.
This is his legacy to which we must be forever true.
by Mohamed Sattaur
Cheddi and Janet Jagan in 1953. During this period, they were restricted to Georgetown. Mrs Jagan even had difficulties visiting her doctor who was just outside of the city. Party stalwarts tell stories of how they had to smuggle Dr Jagan to meetings. He used to hide under a blanket on the floor of the back seat with his son sitting on top of him, hiding from police so he could visit his dedicate supporters.
The month of March is dedicated to commemorating and honouring the life of the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, who was born in the month of March. Coincidentally both Dr. Jagan and his wife Janet Jagan also died in the month.
This is a time also for individual reflection and acknowledgement of the impact these stalwarts had on our own lives. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have met them and who benefited from conversations with them can now remember those meetings fondly and be proud of having participated in the lives of these two Guyanese icons.
There is a special Cheddi Jagan Commemoration Committee, headed by Navin Chanderpaul, a Central Executive Committee member of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and chairman of the management committee of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, which plans and executes a series of activities held throughout the month of March to keep the memory of Dr. Jagan alive.
These activities range from formal lectures, a well organized fun day on the lawns of State House, educational activities by the PPP, The WPO and the PYO as well as a night of reflection and various cultural presentations. There are also a number of sporting activities ranging from volleyball to cricket, a fitness walk and cycle races.
The activities were first held in the city of Georgetown and in Berbice, but have grown over the years to include events all over the country. This year’s itinerary takes us from State House in Georgetown to Anna Regina, Bath Settlement, Tuschen, Three Friends, Babu John, Zeeburg, Lethem, Karasabai, Aishalton, Diamond, Arnaputa and other communities.
This is a month when all party supporters reflect on the contributions of Dr Jagan in his struggle for freedom from colonial rule, independence for the Guyanese people, against dictatorship and to the return to democracy in 1992 and his contributions as the President of Guyana until March 06, 1997.
The People’s Progressive Party, the Weekend Mirror newspaper and the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre feature prominently in all of the activities, as members of the Party fan out to participate in and attend functions in all parts of Guyana. Visible at all events will be a special booth that showcases the books, pictures and other items, which depict and highlight Dr. Jagan and Janet Jagan’s contributions (protests, overseas meetings, sit ins, freedom marches, denial of their rights, etc) to the struggles of Guyana’s causes over the years.
This is a time also for individual reflection and acknowledgement of the impact these stalwarts had on our own lives. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have met them and who benefited from conversations with them can now remember those meetings fondly and be proud of having participated in the lives of these two Guyanese icons.
In some cases, our connection to the Jagans go back to our parents and grandparents who were instrumental in introducing us to their leaders and thus transferring the work that they were involved in on to us. I for one grew up hearing tales about the work of the dentist who was brave enough to challenge the colonial empire for the betterment of the people of Guyana.
My father would take us as little children to the various activities he participated in and I can recall being taken to the offices of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) when it was located at the Rice Board Wharf in Kingston, where most of the work to establish the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary Rice Development Project was being spearheaded. Dr. Jagan, as we all know, was the life force of this project and he made good on his vision to develop the rice industry in Guyana through providing at least five acres of land to farmers in a bid to enable them to earn a sustainable livelihood.
Over the years, we made contact occasionally when he visited North America and later still on my return to Guyana and after he became President. I have always enjoyed a lively and cheerful series of conversations with both Cheddi and Janet and I count them as two of the most interesting and motivational people I have had the pleasure of meeting in this lifetime. I always came away from such interactions with a feeling of goodwill and an understanding of their assurance that it was possible to serve Guyana and indeed humanity at large if one were to only seek out ways in which to get involved.
I for one will always count myself lucky to have been associated with these two leaders and I encourage anyone who is interested in the lives of the father and mother of our nation to visit the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre in Kingston, Georgetown to see the exhibits and read the documents, watch the videos (approx 180) and listen to the audio recordings (over 300) of their speeches so that we can understand and appreciate the enormous sacrifice they made individually and collectively for the people of Guyana.
by Eddi Rodney
A full capacity auditorium last Wednesday (March 6, 2002) afternoon was the expected response to a public symposium sponsored by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) that is part of the month-long series of commemorative activities to mark the 5th anniversary of Cheddi Jagan's death as well as to celebrate the historical contribution that he has made to the Guyanese people.
The panel discussion was chaired by Dr Nandakishore Gopaul and was held at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, Kingston, Georgetown under the theme Cheddi Jagan - Patriot and Trade Unionist.
The three panelists were Dr CY Thomas of the University of Guyana - a prominent figure in the University Workers Union and the University of Guyana Staff Association; Mr Grantley Culbard, executive member of the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU) and Mr Komal Chand, President of GAWU.
Cheddi Jagan's consistent pursuit of knowledge
In his discourse Dr Thomas described Dr Jagan as a "patriot in the development of Guyana." Referring to the nature of his association with Cde Cheddi (who in addition to being General Secretary of the People's Progressive Party was also for many years the Honorary President of GAWU) the Guyanese academic said this could be divided into three periods of time.
The first of which commenced whilst Dr Thomas was still working at the University of the West Indies and resident in Jamaica.
Cheddi always set out to establish a bond between himself and the intellectual community and during the 1960s these would have been connected in some way to the New World grouping that itself emerged from campus foment and research programmes. Illustrating how difficult this time had been for left-wing political activism, Dr Thomas cited the incidence of state repression.
The political repression that characterized the banning of some academics from entering certain territories in the region, the monitoring and searching of residences and the general harassment were more or less a shared experience that affected the left-wing activists as well as Cde Cheddi and those closely associated with his political ideas.
Whilst staying as a guest of Dr Thomas in Jamaica, Dr Jagan had forgotten his umbrella. "It took some considerable effort to get someone who would return the item to Cheddi" Dr Thomas stated.
Alternatives: class solidarity and meaningful development
Throughout the years of his political and trade union struggles there was always the principled determined position which Dr Jagan maintained, especially with regards to the labour movement, the rights of the working people and the critical importance of (what was central to these objectives) the legislative process.
The second period relative to the association the speaker had with Cde Cheddi was that of the struggle for alternatives. According to Dr Thomas there was a high level of discussions ranging from the perspective of orthodox socialism to that of theoretical assumptions and concepts that arose from the development (rice, sugar, bauxite, tourism and social improvement) process itself.
It was at some time during this transition that the slogan of "Bread and Justice" was adapted by Dr Thomas (in a publication of that title). This was an innovative way to broaden the appeal of a meaningful system of eco-social and political development during the years of PNC dictatorship.
Building a viable and progressive movement
Dr Jagan always outlined those "orthodox socialist" ideas he held and was always willing to engage in dialogue. He often quoted as references the publications of Drs Brewster and Thomas on regional integration to demonstrate how exploitative the structures were. In his several articles, pamphlets and papers he gave prominence to essays of notable merit dealing with the sugar industry and its structure as well as other sectoral analyses.
His most recent (prior to 1996) work "A New Global Human Order" however drew extensively from World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and anti-globalization economists as well as academics such as Professor Tobin, and in fact culminated his argument for a replacement of the President George W Bush World Order.
His efforts directed towards building a progressive movement commenced with his involvement in the Man-Power Citizens Association (MPCA). Having failed to bring about any genuine movement from within that union that would favour the working people, he then launched a union to defend the rights of sawmill workers. He was subsequently involved with agricultural workers mainly but not exclusively from the sugar industry.
This was brought out in the contributions of Mr Culbard, the introduction of (former trade unionist) Dr Gopaul and GAWU's Komal Chand.
Amongst the points made by the above-mentioned as a focus on the trade union strategy Dr Jagan adhered to were that he "had the priviledge of working alongside Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, that every time he visited a community where Guyanese resided he made time to discuss issues of concern with them and that he believed if the people were to have effective representation then those representations had to be based on an adequate knowledge of comparative governance as well as labour and industrial legislation."
He firmly believed that political work should establish the principle of electoral democracy. He called for the establishment of the 8-hour working day. He called for equal pay for equal work. He called for the right of workers to have trade union rights and for a minimum living wage. He never failed the labour movement and for that his example is all the more exemplary.
by Ronald Harsawack (Jr)
Five years ago, on March 6, Guyana and the world lost a great visionary and statesman, Dr Cheddi Jagan. Dr Jagan made significant contributions to the development to this dear land of ours, the massive improvements in the lives of all Guyanese, whether they voted for him or not.
If not enough he was also instrumental in the return of democracy on October 5, 1992. As a result we continue to progress and flourish.
Dr Jagan was many things to many people; Dr Jagan was seen as a man of the people, a worker’s champion and a man of world vision and very fitting, "the father of the nation".
Thus, I would like to present our late President Dr Cheddi Jagan in a sphere that the world is now recognising. That is, Cheddi Jagan the internationalist.
The Cheddi Jagan we know is a leader who fought vigorously to break the system of our colonial masters and represent the proletariat - all in an effort to create a better life for every Guyanese. We know that as a distinguished national leader, Cheddi Jagan was a dynamic individual and represented his country well.
As a political leader, teacher and organiser of the working class Dr Jagan’s goal was to bring freedom, equality and prosperity to Guyanese people; as an internationalist his struggle included the fight against injustice and poverty around the world. Economic growth, human development and national unity were central in achieving his goad.
Dr Jagan was by far one of the most significant individual and equally by far one of the most amazing political figures, not just in the history of the Caribbean, but in the world. As a result Dr Jagan is recognised globally as a politician and visionary of world stature.
He was deeply concerned with the problems of development particularly since these impacted on small developing countries. In his book, A New Global Human Order, is stated that: "our times called for clear thinking: to diagnose the ills of our globe, to ascertain the cause of society’s growing problems and to formulate what must be done- a set of guiding principles and a programme of action…the economic base is inter-related and must interact with the political, ideological, institutional and cultural superstructure.
Economic growth is necessary for the satisfaction of basic needs and human development, as much as human development is necessary for economic growth. There is a disease population explosion, environmental degradation, migration, narcotics production usage and trafficking and crime".
As you can see these social and economic problems were not only internationalised but was, simultaneously, the forefront problems faced by developed countries around the world; especially the North. This saw the emergence of the renowned "New Global Human Order". In letters sent to the world leaders on May 1, 1994 Dr Jagan in his book a New Global Human Order wrote: "in response to a memorandum issued in October 1993 by the commonwealth Heads of Government in a meeting in Cyprus…I introduced in March 1994 at the Inter-Sessional Meeting of the conference of the Heads of Governments of the Caribbean Community in St Vincent and the Grenadines, an item: "The emergence of a Global Humnitarian Order". Caricom heads discussed the item and agreed to work together at the Regional level and in concert with the Commonwealth high level group to advocate the concept Globally".
This call for a New Global Human Order was further presented on October 24, 1995 to the United Nations. Dr Jagan stressed that in order to obtain this, it is necessary to establish a sound and just system of Global governance based on genuine partnership between countries and democratic cultures of representative, participatory and consultative democracy and a lean and clean administration.
Cheddi Jagan was an advocate on distinguished foreign policies, coupled with his New Global Human Order.
The foreign policies were for the better standard of living of his people. He advocated extensively for debt relief for third world countries, better neighbourly, regional and international relationship with countries. According to him better relationships procreated more economic activities, which will stimulate economic growth, economic development and raise the standard of living for the working class.
The New Global Human Order is the newest widespread ideology of the late President. Under this idea he traversed continents advocating the reduction of poverty and general amelioration of the standards of living of the third world countries.
Cheddi Jagan the internationalist outlined a global strategy, which would benefit both the North and South and which would lead to sustainable development, democracy, peace, freedom and social progress. Cheddi, the internationalist, spoke at the Commonwealth conference in Auckland in 1996, at a summit of the Americas in Miami. As an internationalist he achieved much for the Caribbean and his country. To illustrate: in 1996 the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to grant debt relief for a number of poor countries including Guyana. Prior to this many from the international bodies doubted the late President had advocated that the multi national financial institutions should explore the idea of debt relief.
Our late President Dr Cheddi Jagan was indeed a dynamic internationalist with a flair for diplomacy. Guyana is now in the spotlight of the international arena for Cheddi’s ideology. He said in his book: "The PPP/ civic looks forward to fruitful dialogue; through which we hope one can attain our common objective of sustainable economic growth and the eradication of poverty. We have a rich experience in and out of Government. In the 1957 to 1964 period the PPP government has made great strides in socio-economic development".
In his famous book" The West On Trial "Cheddi said, "I regarded my victory at the 1947 general elections as the people’s victory". In a brief post ballot count speech I said, "we the people have won now the struggle will begin". In response to the Enmore Martyrs tragedy he wrote "there was to be no turning back there and then I made a silent pledge - I would dedicate my entire life to the cause of the struggle of the Guyanese people against bondage and exploitation".
This is the Cheddi who fought throughout his life to promote Guyana and Guyanese. He did so efficiently as President in 1992, but it didn’t stop there, he draped himself with the garment of the internationalist where he continuously advocated the cause of the Guyanese people.
Today, as a young individual I am proud to say that Dr Jagan’s international policies are being realised. His vision for a new Global Human order is turning into a reality for national and Global Governance. As young people we should carry on the torch and legacy left by Dr Jagan in a bid to ensure that internationalism continues to put Guyana into a spotlight that will bring multiple benefits for Guyana and the future generations.
by Moses Nagamootoo
(The following was taken from a Viewpoint and a feature Article to celebrate the birth and life of the late Guyanese President)
He had taken us on a late evening stroll at the seawall between the Bandstand and the Kingston jetty. A pair of lovers huddled closer, turning their faces away as the female warned in mild alarm, "look, is Dr. Jagan!" At the mention of his name, he said without looking at the couple, "Hi, there!"
It was a lovers' night at the seawalls. Or so it seemed as we had to steer our way through lovemaking couples. In a jovial mood Dr. Jagan looked over his shoulder and said, "Pandit: close you eyes, Pandit!"
Pandit Tiwari, whom we also called "Churkiman", had put together a team of volunteers from Corentyne to help lay the foundation for Dr. Jagan's house in Bel Air. Whenever he could, Dr. Jagan would invite us out for a ride, and would invariably take us to Brown Betty for ice cream.
On this occasion, while we were discovering the nocturnal mysteries of the Kingston seawall, Dr. Jagan's interest was focussed elsewhere, at a few vagrants under a tree. He pointed to the trees that were planted along the seawall road, and expressed disappointment.
"They should have planted fruit trees, instead, " he complained. 'If they had planted mangoes, dunks or ginnips someone hungry enough would find something to eat, and not forced to beg for food, or steal."
That was in 1965, and from then on Cheddi Jagan planted in me a tree of memories that would grow with the passing of every anniversary of his death.
It was that idealism of overcoming hunger and providing for the less fortunate among us that I believe has formed the kernel of Cheddi Jagan's life, his national and world outlook which, much later, blossomed into his quest for a New Global Human Order.
Cheddi Jagan placed great faith in man's ability to feed himself, and to be self-sustained. Years later when we would return to his place, he would show pride in walking us around his garden from which he reaped vegetables and fruits. His favourite fruit was the dunks, which he would collect in paper bags and take to Freedom House for distribution to office employees. At his desk he would unobtrusively plop a dunk into his mouth, and silently chew away as he worked on his papers and articles.
Sometimes he would take in a plastic bag tiny chunks of sugar canes from his garden, and offer them to comrades, often recommending them as cures for bad gums and as a recipe for bright, healthy teeth. His harvests included hard coconut jellies, ripe mangoes, bananas and golden apples.
Cheddi Jagan understood the root-cause of poverty, and explained the ravages of world capitalism in poor countries. But it was not his entire outlook. He also believed in the genius of man and the bounty of the soil. He felt that we have the capacity to feed ourselves by hard-work, labour efficiency and an astute approach to resource utilization.
Cheddi's desks on which he worked at Freedom House, and at home, always had a pair of scissors. He used the scissors to cut off extra paper from letters and documents, which he re-used as writing paper for draft articles, statements and, yes, many reminders to comrades about unfinished assignments.
I have many notes from him which were scribbled on scraps of paper and used envelopes. Nothing went to waste. He never threw away a used envelope, he had them recycled. His driver would be placed at a desk to paste strips of clean paper over his name and address on the larger envelopes.
Dr. Jagan wrote on anything, including the face of used envelopes, the back of invitation cards and the reverse side of discarded news bulletins he would get from all parts of the world. He always fretted against the use of one side of a sheet to stencil documents. What a waste, he would say with obvious disgust!
Paper was a scarce resource. He always thought about a paper-recycling plant in Guyana. Once, after we had visited places such as Cow's Island and Skull Point in the Mazuruni River, he took me to see a pilot pine forest in Bartica which an earlier PPP government had started He thought that as a young journalist I should know that Guyana has the capacity of making newsprint, and so save foreign exchange. He showed me a particular tree with a plaque bearing his name, I believe, as the country's Premier.
His attitude to the careful utilization of resources applied to the things we threw away. Once while I was with him in his car negotiating the Conversation Tree turn towards Georgetown, he looked north over his shoulder
"Turn back, Ramesh. Turn back," he said to the driver with some urgency. I was taken by surprise, and felt that Dr. Jagan had forgotten something at home. Ramesh tumed back at Sheriff Street. And as we came opposite Conversation Tree, the father of the nation's freedom said, "stop here."
He opened the door, got out, and walked towards a discarded, burnt mattress. He placed one foot on top of the springs, and made up his mind that what he had seen was good for his purpose.
"Come back with the pick-up van for that", he told Ramesh. He explained how the springs could be used in vehicles to cushion amplifiers and batteries when the PPP was holding meetings in areas with bad dams and roads.
With him around, nothing went to waste. Or nothing should be wasted. Years later while I served him as a Minister, I recounted the story of the springs to Dr. Rovin Deodat the Public Relations Advisor to the President, when we were in the office of President Cheddi Jagan. All the lights, except one, were turned off. The President wanted to save on electricity even in his office!
While we were there before him the phone rang.
"Hello! Cheddi here," he answered. And while he listened to the caller on the line, he reclined in his chair, and closed his eyes.
I whispered jokingly to Rovin that that was the vintage Cheddi Jagan at whom we were looking, and that he must always remember how our President had conserved not only on electricity in his office, but on his own eye batteries as well!
Since his death. my emotions would be drenched in tears every time I remember him. This is not because of any lofty idealism or glorified ideology that might be associated with Cheddi Jagan. It is his attitude towards human and other resources, and concern for things on which human survival depends that has left a void where Cheddi Jagan once stood.
by Bharrat Jagdeo
Five years have passed since the untimely death of the greatest patriot that ever walked this land. How quickly time passes, yet how fresh are the memories of those pure in heart. The anniversary of Dr. Cheddi Jagans passing is more than an occasion for reflection on his life; it is a thanksgiving for someone who fathered the political struggle of our nation. He was a towering political giant who will be remembered as long as there are men and women who cherish freedom and justice.
Much has bee said and written about Cheddi Jagan, yet so much remains to be told about his epic political career spent in tireless struggle for the liberation of our people from the shackles of colonial bondage, and exploitation. I can only add my perspective to the discourse on his life and work.
I am now the President of Guyana and sit in the office that he once occupied after his historic victory at the elections in October 1992. It is an honour that fills me with humility. I will not attempt to be a Cheddi Jagan, even though there is enough inspiration to last a lifetime. I only seek to be faithful to the things he stood for, especially his selfless ness and unstinting dedication to the people of Guyana.
From a very young age, I was actively involved in the work of the Peoples Progressive Party and thus was very familiar with the tireless efforts of Dr. Cheddi Jagan. When I returned from my studies abroad, I met regularly with him to discuss the ongoing economic crisis that our country was facing at the time. The crisis was deep and endemic, yet for him as then Leader of the Opposition it only strengthened his resolve to advance the interests of the working class who bore the brunt of the hardships.
He blended principled philosophical positions with pragmatism, ever prepared to analyse the problems and put forward specific remedies. I believe that his practical approach to issues rubbed off on me. I also learnt from him to be rigorous in my analysis and not to avoid the fine print. Dr. Jagan was always very scientific in his analysis. He was not given to sweeping generalizations or rigid dogmatism. He had a solid grasp of economic theory and made good use of statistics to support any position he adopted. Dr. Jagan was an empiricist and his command of theory and numbers made his arguments more compelling since they were well researched and supported by a wealth of sources.
When he assumed the Presidency of Guyana, I was assigned responsibilities at the Ministry of Finance and this often brought me in close contact with him. I worked very hard in those days, knowing fully well that we faced a formidable task to restore confidence in our country. Often I would meet with Dr. Jagan and we would have long exchanges over policy issues. It was clear that we shared many views on the general approach to the task of economic reconstruction.
The rapport between us was always frank, cordial and respectful and before long Dr. Jagan elevated me in 1993 to the position of Junior Minister of Finance. I was thrilled by the vote of confidence. Two years later, Dr. Jagan promoted be to Senior Minister of Finance, entrusting me with the responsibility for he management of his economic manifesto. I suppose in many ways there was little time for celebration since I was already an apostle of his, committed to working just as tirelessly to ensure that our plans were successful.
We had numerous problems at the time. There was huge foreign debt with over ninety per cent of revenues being utilized to service this overhand; the countrys infrastructure was in tatters; we had to fix our electricity generation system, and attend to a host of other matters. The fact also that people had very high expectations did not make it any easier.
It was Dr. Jagans wisdom that guided us in the formidable undertaking of providing a cohesive development strategy to address these socio-economic problems. We crafted a number of strategies in order to bring about transformation within the constraints we faced. One of the things that we immediately settled on was that adjustment was necessary but that this adjustment must have a human face. Cheddi Jagan was a great teacher of development who believed that this process must in inclusive: this is, it must involve all persons. We knew from our own experience that adjustment could be painful and we set out to humanize the process in order to improve the lot of the poor without hurting the rich.
We also took the conscious decision in our negotiations with the donor countries and agencies that some things would be non-negotiable. These were: (i) There would be no real decline in income of the workers; at the minimum growth in wages and salaries should compensate for inflation. (ii) The "list approach" to privatization would be banished. It was our view that there had to be better approach to the disposal of state assets than simply lining them up for sale. In this regard, we tabled in parliament a Privatisation Policy Framework Paper that outlined out our philosophy on this subject. (iii) It was fundamentally necessary for a paradigm shift in our expenditure priorities to one that favoured the social sectors. This is why today so much resources are pumped into education, housing and health. (iv) Revenue collection must be enhanced. (v) Debt relief must be relentlessly pursued in order to increase the resources to fix the many things that had to be attended to. (vi) The importance of human capital and attracting investment was enshrined among our priorities. In addition, strong emphasis was placed on reducing the housing deficit, resulting in government giving out thousands of house lots. (vii) Our democratic institutions must be strengthened; democracy must be institutionalized.
The success of our economic policies are now heralded internationally. We have demonstrated that as a government we were capable of transforming the lives of our people while ensuring fiscal discipline. For this, we owe a great deal to the legacy of Dr. Cheddi Jagan. It is now our task to continue on the road to progress despite the fact that we still face serious challenges in the international economic and political order.
Ten years ago, Dr. Cheddi Jagan placed his faith in me, then still a young man. He saw in me then, what I see in our young people today, hope and potential. I am therefore supremely confident that this journey I started ten years ago will continue and that we will surmount the difficulties that lie ahead as we take our country into a prosperous era.
by Prem Misir
TODAY marks the 10th death anniversary of former President Dr. Cheddi Jagan.
But this is not the time to lament his death; this is a time to celebrate his vision, the vision he had for this country, and, indeed, the world.
And history will remember Cheddi Jagan as a world leader who struggled for social progress among the dispossessed and the disadvantaged; who vigorously implanted progressive political thought; who was a resolute builder of political movements; who forged the political-labour nexus; who was an unwavering Caribbean integrationist; who was a true internationalist in his unrelenting promulgation of the New Global Human Order (NGHO); and whose authentic local legacy has to be his tireless fight for national unity, working-class unity, and racial unity.
His ideas and his indefatigable promotion of these ideas have not only redefined the Caribbean, but have impacted the world of the poor. These writings and his grassroots work have a superlative nexus with current philosophical debates, particularly in the philosophy of history and the social and behavioural sciences coupled with moral and political philosophy.
This understanding of history sees economic, social, and political influences of human life as the most important factors shaping human experience, personality, ideas, and social arrangements.
And it is through this understanding of history that he was able to construct a proactive and empowering vision for this country.
Today, as I attempt to pen a few words on Dr. Jagan’s achievements, what really stares you in the face through his many writings is his profound sense of vision.
Dr. Jagan had this vision since about 1945 -- that colonialism, in order to be successful, had to subordinate to its interests, the critical institutions and processes of the colonized society.
And so the former President evolved as a tenacious fighter for Independence; and he is among the first few, if not the first, to have kicked off this struggle against colonial domination.
This novel idea of Independence emerged in 1945 in Dr. Jagan’s pamphlet titled `COOPERATIVE WAY’. Dr. Jagan said: “It therefore behoves the working class people to get control of government through their constitutional ballots in our forthcoming election, with a view towards complete independence. A free and independent Guiana can easily cooperate and eventually federate with her Latin neighbours, especially Brazil.”
We see his active vision at work, too, on April 3, 1962 during his Budget Speech. Dr. Jagan spoke about the dynamics of globalization, even though he did not use the actual term. He said: “…The fact is that we are living today in a world which has become closely knit together. We are not living in the days when communications were difficult, when countries were more or less economically content. We are living today when international trusts, combines and cartels are devouring the world; the big giants are swallowing up the little giants, the sharks eating up the sardines...”
He warned then of the dangers of globalization, echoing the West’s domineering stand in relation to the developing world. And within the same sentiments as former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Gujral would later aptly say: “my globalization is good for you but yours is not good for me.”
But Dr. Jagan’s vision shows his mastery at work in countering this inhuman globalization as far back as 1945, and making the case for the New Global Human Order (NGHO). The NGHO would empower people so that they would not be cowed down by the dynamics of a callous globalization; the people would be in the forefront applying the tools of internationalism to their advantage, creating a niche for themselves in this global economy.
The NGHO represents a remarkable vision not only for Guyana but for all countries.
And he expressed, too, his vision for developing a cultural mosaic in this multiethnic society. Jagan points to the utility value of cultural differentiation in the pursuit of national unity. Jagan noted that race was never a serious problem in Guyana. He believed that the problem was one of class.
The early division of labour produced and reproduced racial antagonism and cultural loss to divide and exploit the working class. In fact, Indians as indentureds were then perceived as outcasts, culturally different, and economically subservient.
The 1928-53 years struck a blow to Guyanese unity through the British divide-and-rule techniques, with accompanying racial alignments and divisions. In the early 1920s, there was no Indian public servant higher than a Third Class Clerkship. In 1931, Indians only held 8 per cent of the public service positions when they comprised 42 per cent of the population. And in the 1960s, Burnham’s defeat at successive elections produced a greater emphasis on African-race consciousness, a unified African front, with Indians as the common enemy.
Clearly, Jagan found that ethnic relations in colonial Guyana were acrimonious to promoting cultural identity; an acrimony not primordial to Indians and Africans, but constructed and manipulated by politicians.
Here, too, political institutionalization of each ethnic group’s culture may dissipate the emotive language of race and race conflict and contribute to national unity. In this sense, Jagan really advanced the case for apportioning political space to all cultures in the drive toward national unity.
And so there is no question that former President Dr. Jagan’s authentic legacy has to be his vision and tireless fight for national unity, working-class unity, and racial unity.