Tributes to Cheddi Jagan
Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s Commitment to National Unity and National Development
An Address by The Honourable Samuel A. A. Hinds,
Prime Minister of The Co-Operative Republic Of Guyana
At the Annual Cheddi Jagan Lecture
The Cheddi Jagan Research Centre
Friday - March 28th, 2014.
It is an honour and privilege to have been called upon to deliver the 2014 Dr. Cheddi Jagan Lecture, and, for me, an obvious topic on which to speak would be that of Cheddi’s lifelong work for National Unity and National Development.
National Unity and National Development, an ever-closer Unity and steadily further Development, are concerns of every nation, at all times. For us, the people of Guyana, these tasks have been particularly challenging, since, historically speaking, we have come together only recently and, in a manner somewhat like sailors three or four centuries ago, press-ganged and thrown together to serve on a sailing ship which had set out on a two- or three-year journey around the world. We were not asked to make that journey, nor did we choose who would be our companions: we have to make the best of it, working with each other. Cheddi, in working for National Unity and National Development, was working at the creation of the Guyanese nation.
My thoughts returned to that analogy of press-ganged sailors as we were called to order by Ralph Ramkaran, on commencement of the ceremony at Babu John on the Corentyne, in Berbice, in March 1997, to commit the mortal remains of Cheddi Jagan to the fire of cremation. Ralph asked what was there in the air and soil of Port Mourant, that so committed Cheddi to this land - to all the people who had found themselves within its boundaries, and to the tasks of the people becoming one and the development of people and country.
It was an earnest question on which each of us should ponder, even if not expecting to find an answer, but, in pondering, to commit ourselves, our lives, like Cheddi’s, to the fight for the Unity and Development of Our People and Nation.
Cheddi’s early days
It was a pertinent question to ask. Indeed, it was astonishing, for Cheddi Jagan was a first-generation Guyanese, and until he left Berbice at the age of 15 to attend Queen’s College in Georgetown, in 1933, he would have been living in a family of immigrants and first- generation people of Indian origin. Perhaps, as he says, it was in the larger estate-life at Port Mourant that he sensed a microcosm of the world: in its white European managers and staff; factory workers of African origin, mostly; Indian field-workers; and the various quarters, with their earlier, factually-descriptive names of “nigger-yard”, “bound-coolie-yard”, “creole-yard” and “Portuguese quarters”, names of which some persist unto today, in Port Mourant. As Cheddi says in his book, ‘The West on Trial’ (on pg. 19), no doubt the experiences of estate-life were the factors which led to his early interest in social and economic questions.
In Georgetown, and at Queen’s College, Cheddi came upon the clash of cultures, upon the clash of urban versus rural country life, and, in particular, the urbanization, with its Western and Christian overtones, of second- and third-generation Indian families who had earlier made it to the city.
Cheddi was never restrained in acknowledging that it was two of his Afro-friends at Queen’s College, particularly Orrin Dummett, who had encouraged him to go with them to Howard University in Washington, U.S.A., to study dentistry - a germane decision in his life.
Seven years in the USA: The New Deal, Segregation, Marriage.
And so it was that Cheddi, just over 18 years old, found himself in 1936 in the strange, new world of North America and, in particular, Howard University, where he completed a two- year pre-dental course.
Cheddi moved to North-Western University Dental School in Chicago, Illinois, for his Dental Degree studies, but in inter-acting with other students, he became “conscious that his education was not so liberal, but lacking in many important respects: he was being trained to become nothing but a glorified technician and craftsman, and while he liked what he was being trained for, he did not know enough of what was happening around him in the world outside”. And so, he enrolled in summer and evening classes at the YMCA College in the Loop, filling the sensed need for education in Civics, Economics, Political Science, Philosophy and Sociology. Thus, in 1942, Cheddi graduated successfully at both the Dental School and the YMCA College.
Cheddi remarked that even so, formal education was only part of the education he was having. Perhaps, more importantly was the education he was receiving by just living and working in the United States of America. The first thing of which he became very conscious, was colour, an entirely new experience, and the issues and manifestations of Jim Crow and segregation. Cheddi was also living through, and was very impressed with, the era of the New Deal, the period during which U.S. President Franklin W. Rooseveldt managed the recovery from the economic depression of the late 1920’s/the early 1930’s, and superintended America gearing up for its leading contribution in the defeat of Naziism, in World War 11, and becoming the world’s super-power.
As we would recall, Cheddi, not yet 24 years old, met Janet Rosenburg in December 1942. They were married in August 1943, with Cheddi returning to Guyana in October 1943 and Janet following him about six weeks later. As Cheddi remarks, neither family was happy with the marriage, with each family seeing in it a breaking with tradition, indeed, an act of great rebellion. Cheddi and Janet, with much personal deferring, contributed greatly to the education and training of his younger siblings, so that they could better their lives: a very personal example of Cheddi and Janet breaking with some traditions, but conforming to others.
And thus, we see this young Guyanese, Cheddi, returning to British Colonial Guyana at 25 years old, having seen, and lived in, America, having imbibed from their Declaration of Independence and being so impressed that Cheddi introduces Chapter III of his book, “The West on Trial”, with the following extract.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.
The argument may be advanced that Cheddi was essentially guided by this ideal!
American Liberalism in Colonial Guiana
Cheddi, being sure that change for the better in Guyana was needed and possible; full of optimism and taking on the task of driving change for National Unity and National Development, and for which he saw National Independence as a prerequisite, immersed himself in that self-imposed task from which he would never waiver. He paid his dues, was ever ready to pay the price, and was ever ready to pick up the pieces and try again.
The challenges to the national unity of us, the people of Guyana, are wide and deep, and each of us must make that journey along a road marked out by events in which intense feelings are aroused, as we open up to each other. The manner of speaking in describing Guyana as a divided nation and splintered society, is grossly misleading and misdirecting. We were never one; we were never a whole that became divided: rather, we are fragments from different distant societies, each fragment complete with its own peculiar package of different and differing cultures.
Having been thrown together, our challenge is in keeping together as one, as we journey onwards on the road of life, and living, in this land. I think in terms of the physical analogy of crystal growth in solids, or of magnetising a piece of iron - there is a lot of heat, explosive heat at times, in bringing about a common realignment of the axes of the individual crystals. With a population of less than one million, and taking account of all the different ways in which people could seriously differ across race, religion, urban-rural divide, class and language, we can recognise, potentially, a hundred separate and distinct groupings in our society, many of which would be occupied by only a few. To that extent, and to that extent only, is the connotation of splinters true.
Knitting together, like a Quilt, a Nation from Six Races.
In the time of Cheddi’s youth, and as sung in the third verse of our National Anthem, we Guyanese were conscious of ourselves as being within a land of six races. Whilst, from the split of the PPP in 1955 unto the present, we have been most conscious of the African-Indian contact, there would be fifteen contacts of any two of our six peoples, and many more, when considered in groups of three.
Unto the end of slavery, there would have been three races in Guyana, with three one- to-one contacts: firstly, the European-Amerindian contact; secondly, the European African contact – the story of African slavery; thirdly, the African-Amerindian contact, mostly thought of in early times, in terms of the capturing and returning of runaway slaves.
With the abolition of slavery in 1834, came the three other races - Portuguese, Indian and Chinese - raising the total number of one-to-one interfaces to fifteen. Of these, the African-Portuguese confrontation, as reflected in the Angel Gabriel and gil-bread riots of 1856 and 1889, were the racial conflict of my grandfather’s childhood.
Anyone with a sociological bent and interest, can discern at various times in our history, features of all the possible contact surfaces with their contestation, competition and cooperation.
Of growing importance, now, is the coastlanders-hinterland contact, in general terms, within which there are the contacts of the Amerindians with the individual races from the coast. And the Amerindians, themselves, are of nine tribes, with their different languages and other historical constraints between themselves.
We have to be aware, too, that our peoples, in the 1940s, were each still in the midst of struggling with their own transitions, each going about his/her own business. Africans were finding their way in the public service, steadily replacing persons from England and looking to replace the English entirely, come independence. Other Africans were venturing into the interior, searching for gold and diamonds, and making the first Coastlander–Amerindian contact in this era.
You may recall Dr. Dale Bisnauth’s book, entitled “The Settlement of Indians in Guyana – 1890 to 1930”, during which time he perceives a change in view amongst Indians, from seeing themselves as migrant workers to seeing themselves as immigrants in Guyana. Many of our older citizens in the 1950s, like my grandparents, would have seen Indian immigrants arrive in Guyana, and many Indian families would have had older members who had been born in India.
As Independence came in the air in the 1940s and 1950s, as I understand Ravi Dev to argue, there was still much to be sorted out in us becoming a nation.
Knitting together all these pieces into a Quilt of a Nation, was going to be no easy task.
National Unity and National Development are Ten Times more Challenging than we Imagine.
Before I am misunderstood, let me say that I have elaborated, in some detail, the contacts between different races from which Guyana is being made, not to over-emphasize race but to acknowledge the obvious differences in race amongst our fore-parents in order to illuminate the complications and complexities in the challenges of National Unity and National Development, so that we realize that though not impossible, it is not easy, maybe ten times more challenging than we might be thinking. Indeed, from my youth, my feelings have been that much of our frustrations, disappointments, and even feelings of treachery against each other, flowed from our thinking that the achieving of National Unity would be quick and easy.
Political parties in a society overlap with pre-existing groupings. Indeed, one may argue that political parties emerge from pre-existing groupings. Large overlaps of political parties with race, religion, language, class and the city-country and other geographical divides, can be seen amongst the political parties in all countries - including the most well-developed. That there would be such tendencies in Guyana, with its people still in the earliest stages of getting to know each other, would have been most natural. In our Guyana’s case, with respect to broad differences between the PPP and PNC, there is an overlap with not one but three potential differences - race, religion and urban-rural sentiment: rather than being bewildered by our history, one may well wonder why our society did not completely polarize and rush to partition. I would submit that Cheddi, in life and work, was our nation’s main bulwark against polarization and partition, and the reason why, today, we still have a chance at National Unity.
With respect to National Development, I had the good fortune to pursue the G.C.E., “O” Level, history course, “Modern Britian”, under Bobby Moore, who brought it alive. That course covered, admittedly with a broad brush, the period from about 1700 to the end of World War II, a period when Britain transformed itself from a feudal agricultural society based on manual and animal labour, with the first harnessing of steam, and through the agricultural and industrial revolutions, to Modern Britain. Very much a part of that period and transformation were the social and political revolutions - the American, the French - the movement from the countryside to the cities, the founding and growth of unions, the differing views of Adam Smith in 1776 and Karl Marx in 1867, the Soviet Communist revolution of 1917, and the World Wars themselves. I came out of that course sensing that our own Guyanese development would require transiting, albeit much more rapidly, the 250-year transformation which took England from a manual- and animal-powered agricultural world, which I had experienced in Mahaicony, to a modern, developed nation.
Cheddi, in the classes in Civics, Economics, Political Science, Philosophy and Sociology in which he enrolled himself at the YMCA College in Chicago, Illinois, would have learnt much more extensively about this recent fascinating history of humankind. Dentistry would have provided him with a living, but the Social Sciences would equip him for his calling.
But I am getting ahead of myself, so let us return to Cheddi’s return to Guyana in 1943!
Cheddi, not daunted, Plunges in, founding the PAC and PPP.
Cheddi, on his return in 1943 to Guyana, whilst facing up to the task of establishing himself as a dentist and earning enough to support his immediate family and assist his siblings, still found time to give free rein to his social and political yearnings. His range of social contacts was wide, venturing to touch every person and corner of Guyana, recognising no boundaries, not ever constrained to traditional ways and niches. He worked early for the cause of forestry- and sawmill-workers – a piece of our society quite distant and different from the sugar-estate society from which he had come. In his book, “The West on Trial”, in Chapter Four - “Getting into Stride” - we read of his perceptive analyses of the social forces then at play in Guyana, the many personalities, and the many groupings, and his ventures to find and make common cause with many, in Guyana and in other colonies in the Caribbean.
Cheddi, from the beginning, was always working to bring the pieces of our society together in a common cause. The make-up of the founding four of the Political Affairs Committee, the PAC, which was formed in 1946, just three years after his return to the then British Guiana, is worthy of note – Cheddi, Janet, Jocelyn Hubbard, and Ashton Chase, the venerable Senior Counsel, the last of that four, still alive and well and working, and with us today. (Applause)
It is an indication of how much our society has changed since, that many people, today, would not grasp the significance of the person, Jocelyn Hubbard, a mulatto, and a member of an important piece of our society at that time.
In a similar and more extended way, the founding members of the PPP, in early 1950, were constituted of persons from as many corners of British Guiana as could be persuaded by Cheddi – notable amongst whom was Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, roped in a few months earlier and provided with the post of Chairman.
The SWEET BUT Short-Lived Success of 1953
It is difficult enough to proclaim a principled position which is new, untried, unproven, and which flies in the face of the conventional wisdom, as was done by Cheddi: many would wonder whether we are not stupid: we pray that we would not, like Job, be tested.
We know that Cheddi’s commitment to the National Unity of all the people of Guyana, would be severely tested, particularly after the sweet success of the 1953 elections. The happiness of that early success was not to be long-lived, was threatened even at its birth, starting with the small differences about the attire in which to appear at the opening of that Parliament, to more substantial differences on the naming of Ministers, and ending in the split of the party in 1955. Cheddi offered compromises all the way to keep and later recover that Guyanese National Unity in the PPP, always maintaining his most desired political goal to “return to the spirit of 1953”. History records Cheddi’s recurring attempts, unto the end of his days, to find ways for “old comrades to be comrades again.”
1953 was a great place to have gotten to, and so quickly, in our journey to National Unity: a great place from which to develop. I think in terms of chemical-reaction models, a transition state in which atoms come together establishing some of the chemical bonds but which, also, may break apart in the ever-present turbulence.
Our first Parliament, elected on the basis of adult suffrage, in 1953, was suspended after just 133 days – the Americans and the English were in great fear of Cheddi, to them him being a socialist/communist who would provide to the Soviet Union and Cuba a foothold on the continent of South America.
However, against all the manoeuverings of internal and external groupings, Cheddi and the PPP were in Government when elections were next held in 1957 and in 1961. During the 1963–64 periods of disturbances and severe racial conflicts, Cheddi made several unsuccessful offers to Burnham for him to come into the PPP Government.
A SORELY TESTING TIME: 1964–1992
Cheddi, during the years in which he was kept out of office, from 1964 to 1992, had all cause to be filled with righteous indignation and bitterness: his rights trampled on by nearly everyone from the other races, and by some Indians also. His faith in national unity would have been so severely tested; it is amazing that he kept the faith. Not only had he to keep his own faith but he would have to head off amongst his supporters understandable impulses to partition and to engage in violent protest and revolt, which would have ended any chance for National Unity to be achieved.
I recall, in one of my Saturday morning gaffing sessions at Freedom House, with the then Dean of Socialism, and now our President, him relating that in his visits with Cheddi to the polling stations of that blatantly rigged 1973 elections, Cheddi remarked – you see many supporters of the PNC are not turning out to vote, choosing to stay at home; they are not comfortable with this solution of rigged elections, to our national questions. We must wait for the time when enough of them will become sufficiently disenchanted and be ready to welcome a change.
Those were sanguine words, coming nine years after Cheddi’s unfair removal from office in 1964. There would be 19 years more of the same, before the expected development would be realized in 1992. A number of you would recall the story in the Old Testament, when Solomon, the man of wisdom, was asked to determine the mother of a child from amongst two women. She was the true mother who was ready to give up her rights so that the child would remain whole. It is not far-fetched to see in that light, Cheddi’s constrained actions during those 28 years as the actions of the true parent of our Nation.
Cheddi remained true to National Unity in all situations. When the economy of our country was in serious trouble by the mid 1970s, despite being kept out of office and being made to look foolish by the electoral rigging, he offered critical support to the PNC Government and proposed a National Patriotic Front Government. For all that the PNC had done to him and to the PPP, in the talks with the WPA, Cheddi maintained that a political solution had to include the PNC – the WPA, at that time, refused to consider involvement of the PNC.
It does appear that Cheddi, for the sake of National Unity, was ready to meet with Forbes again, when Forbes died suddenly in 1985.
FAILURE OF THE PCD: INNOVATION OF THE PPP/C
With conditions steadily worsening, and after another rigged elections in 1985, Cheddi worked seriously within the Patriotic Coalition For Democracy, the PCD, a Coalition of all parties willing to work for the restoration of democratic norms at our elections. For various reasons which could be explored, the other organized political parties in the PCD could not then come to terms with Cheddi returning as President, returning as the Head of Government and State, and to the PPP having a major role: a position that would now be considered by most as unrealistic and impractical.
Cheddi, maintaining his commitment to National Unity, and conscious of the need to demonstrate so, moreso being aware of the quarter of a century of estrangement between our peoples, was ready to advocate new, bold, courageous alternatives for our National and Regional Elections scheduled for 1990, but which were eventually held in 1992. Cheddi reached out to a range of individuals of some standing, who were ready to work with him and the PPP, many of whom were not ever together before and may not have ever met each other before.
How was this new grouping to be named for the elections? It was Cheddi who came up with the name and styling “Peoples Progessive Party/Civic”, or shortened to PPP/C. The Civic members covered a wide range of the racial, religious, social, political and regional spectrum of Guyana. There were a number of persons of high academic standing; some being even former leading members of the PNC; persons from various levels of all our religions; some from Trade Unions; Civil Servants; national business persons; doctors; and lawyers.
I recall how elated Cheddi was, when Jeffrey Fraser, son of the Honourable WOR Fraser of the post-1953 Interim Government, accepted to be put on our national slate of candidates. As Jeffrey Fraser proffered, there would have been a time when Cheddi and his father might not have seen a good bone in each other. One could see prodigal sons and daughters among the group of Civics, and also ‘outside pickney’ who had not declared their paternity. I use these analogies because they suggest readily the emotional challenges which Cheddi would have encountered and which he would have had to resolve and have reconciled, in putting together the PPP/C.
Landing at Parika early one Sunday morning, from a meeting the night before in Leguan, an Indian businessman, with Saturday night’s rum still in his blood, berated Cheddi in the foulest of language for “running after black man – he run after Burnham and was not satisfied – he run after Lawrence Mann, and now he running after another black man again”. Cheddi’s commitment to National Unity was exacting from him a great price, at many levels.
It was as the PPP/C, extended into our 6 Municipalities and 65 NDCs, that we faced the Local Government Elections of 1994, and with great success.
Early in 1997, on one of the last Saturdays in January, no doubt with the coming 1997 elections in mind, two or three weekends before Cheddi fell fatally ill, he reached out again, bringing together at Freedom House an even wider group of new persons to enrol themselves as CIVICS. One of the old PPP persons jokingly remarked on how pleased and happy Cheddi was, smilingly so, with so many old ‘crooks and vagabonds’ responding to his call.
Cheddi’s death was indeed untimely, with neither his work for National Unity nor his pursuit of National Development, done.
With the victory of the 1992 elections, in meetings of the Civic Members in Georgetown, there were some who called for the constitution of the Civics as a party, but this was not consistent with the fact that the Civics were invited individually by Cheddi and the PPP to work with them. Old George Fung-On (and I wondered whether on some things there was not a special rapport between him and Cheddi), however, advocated having the PPP open a second Civic register at each of its party groups.
One could wonder where Cheddi would have taken the PPP/C in his continuing drive for National Unity!
Cheddi Leading Development as Head of Government
Cheddi was ever satisfied, and rightly so, with the national developments which he set in train in his first period of Government in 1957 to 1964: initiating the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary Development Scheme (MMA), the banner for Agricultural Development. Cheddi would remark that after Independence, when the PNC promised every Guyanese a meal of milk and cassava before going to bed, it was milk and cassava from Cheddi’s agricultural programme. Cheddi initiated, as well, our first Industrial Park Estate, the Ruimveldt Industrial Estates Ltd.
Quite likely, hearkening back to his attendance at the YMCA College in Chicago, Illinois, Cheddi founded the University of Guyana, even as he endured taunts of ‘Jagan’s night-school’, with classes held at evenings in the buildings of Queens College, in the first years. He advocated the start of hydro-power development in Guyana, starting with Tiger Hill and, then, at Tiboku, and obtained experts from the Soviet block to report on the potential for searching and finding petroleum resources in Guyana.
Cheddi was always on the side of the regular workers, and played a large role in our Trade Union Movement. GAWU was his base, and whilst he lived he was GAWU’s rock. At the same time, whilst being on the side of the worker, he was aware that the enterprise needed to survive, to earn enough profits so that it can sustain itself, and that there would be jobs for the workers. That is how I see his oft call to let us examine the books to see where we could find money, and how much money could be available for workers. Cheddi was not ever going to accept the books without questions. In examining the books, Cheddi would question debt re-payments and all transfer payments which he often saw as self serving. He would question also the often huge disparity in pay and benefits between owners and managers and regular workers, pointing out that everyone had to go to the same shop counter to purchase goods.
At the same time, Cheddi recognized and accepted that workers needed to be disciplined and productive. Indeed, in the language of the time, independence and nationalizations were advocated to remove the alienation of workers and citizens, so they could identify with enterprise and country, not to ‘share up’ what had been previously accumulated but that workers and citizens should give of themselves, without any reservation, to the development of our country, striving to match the examples of Stakhanov, Iron Man Wang, and the people of Tachai.
Cheddi was known to be a disciplinarian, particularly in financial matters. Amongst us Civics, Dale Bisnauth opined that he saw much that was Puritan in Cheddi, and Cheddi’s PPP.
Cheddi accepted that we needed to make some savings ourselves to contribute in financing our development. In February 1962, citizens of Georgetown were worked up against his Kaldor budget. Some not unusual taxes, were being utilized to provide a development fund. This budget proposal was met with almost universal protests in Georgetown and urban areas, and there were fires set in the commercial area of Georgetown.
It was thus, in February 1962, while sitting at home in Hadfield Street, near the back of Lodge Village, at a time when there was not yet Sheriff Street, as a youth just over eighteen years old, anxious for, and excited by, prospects for development, and trying to prepare myself for my G.C.E., ‘A’ Level, exams, while looking up from time to time, my attention was drawn by some bantering, only to see someone riding by balancing some prized items, - stove, fridge, furniture - on his bicycle; all around me, people worked themselves up with a self- righteousness against Cheddi and seized the opportunity to take what they believed they ought to have had. On my part, I felt that Cheddi was proposing the right thing - It was probably my first attraction to Cheddi.
Life requires great changes of us, as we move from stage to stage – as we can readily see in each of us growing from childhood through adolescence to adults. Similarly, having won Independence and nationalized the commanding heights of our industry and commerce, we had to take up the concerns and responsibilities of erstwhile colonial masters, sugar planters and bauxite managers, whether we were in co-ops or in state-owned enterprises.
It is with such a sense that I perceived Cheddi, when back in Government after 1992, and being always pragmatic, he accepted the privatization of many previously-nationalized entities. As an example with which I was associated, our electricity utility was totally ‘run down’ and needed huge sums of money for re-capitalization but for which, amongst ourselves, we could not, or would not, provide the money to finance the improved electricity service that we needed, and for which we called. Cheddi eventually accepted a 50:50 privatisation (with a golden share for the private investor) and an agreement which projected both state and investor selling, over ten to twenty years, their shares to achieve widely dispersed, but even, ownership of GPL’s shares throughout our country. Cheddi wanted the Guyanese people to be in both positions as owners and consumers, to feel the pressures of each position, the contradictions between the two roles, and the resolving and reconciling of those contradictions.
NATIONAL UNITY AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT INTERTWINED
For Cheddi, National Unity was an extremely desirable, if not essential, condition for National Development. They were interacting and mutually supporting – one hoped to get unto a virtuous spiral of increasing National Unity, hand in hand with increasing National Development. National Unity remains a requirement for National Development, and National Development is the reward which sweetens our sacrifices for National Unity. And so, although strife and disturbances were ever present, this is what Cheddi sought to attain in his 1957 and 1961 Governments - National Development coupled with National Unity.
What can we do today to continue our journey in Cheddi’s aspiration? We need increased free, voluntary socialization amongst our people. Free association is still too limited to people near to us and in our comfort zone: we are not reaching enough across the fences of our differences, as Cheddi reached out in the years following his return.
Recently, browsing through a Beijing Review magazine of February 20, 2014, I was attracted to the article, “Crossing Cultures, Crossing Languages” by a Valerie Sartor, on the expat page. I thought that I had found a kernel which we might find useful.
“The stories we tell about ourselves and others reflect the paradigmatic narratives we inhabit in our everyday lives. Most Western people either consciously or unconsciously think about their lives in terms of Biblical narratives. Western children also learn and create ideas about reality from narratives in the form of fairy tales and fables. Such stories offer people of all ages significance as well as a framework to live by”.
How can we all get to the place of singing the same new common song in this land, where our fore-parents were thrown together? How can we get to seeing each other as “jihaji bhai”, journey brothers - sharing our common experiences in this land, our misunderstandings, our wrongs, with our forgivings of each other becoming our bond.
At times, I sense beginnings in the Bartica area, where we realize how few and puny we are as we journey on the mighty Mazaruni River and amongst the overwhelmingly giant greenheart and mora trees; in Sophia, out of their common, intense struggle in desperate squatting venture, a quarter century ago; amongst batch-mates from the teachers’ training college; among nurses, policemen, soldiers; from our national service, but not so, as yet, from our University of Guyana.
Thinking again of that quote from the Beijing Review magazine, I am emboldened to raise again a thought of some years ago – that it would be good if we would develop reading books like the Victorian Royal Readers of our great grand-parents, for each grade from nursery school to the end of University, entitled “The Religions of our Fore-fathers”, with the stories that we now learn separately as Christians, Hindus and Muslims, being provided all in one common reading book, so that our new Guyanese generations would have a common framework in which they might find significance and by which they might live.
Continuing Cheddi’s Work
Persons ask how could Cheddi have stayed true to a commitment to Nation through all that was done to him. I think that it was based on the fact that Cheddi’s was not a narrow nationalism based on discrediting others but, rather, a nationalism based on his internationalism. Recall his quote from the United States Declaration of Independence – ‘All people are created equal’. He found joy in developing his ‘New Global Human Order’ (NGHO), which he completed in the last months of his life. Now a document adopted at the United Nations, it is instructive for us Guyanese that even whilst we continue to build National Unity and National Development, we must also be open to the world. We have to find our way amongst the two hundred independent nations of our world. Inter-dependence and partnerships between peoples and nations, characterise our world, today. Armed with Cheddi’s NGHO, we can go forward boldly into the world, expecting that we will find good and bad - no more, no less, than we do amongst ourselves.
Cheddi’s work was not done – the work that he had begun is a work for a number of life-times – we who want to claim to be his disciples, must carry on. We have a certain challenge: we must recall the life and works of Cheddi as we do, but, at the same time, we must keep it alive – thinking of not only what Cheddi did on returning to the then British Guiana, in 1943, but what a re-incarnated Cheddi would do now, returning today to Guyana, in 2014.
Without a doubt, a re-incarnated Cheddi would be a revolutionary!
Revolutionaries would be revolutionary whenever they appear, to challenge whatever is the prevailing orthodoxy.