Tributes to Cheddi Jagan - Remembering CJ
by Hydar Ally (Dec 24, 2007)
December 18 2007 marks sixty years since the entry of Dr. Cheddi Jagan to Parliament. Dr. Jagan, at age 29, took the Oath as a Member of Parliament on December 18, 1947 after successfully winning the Central Demerara constituency. He remained active in the political arena until his death in March 1997 which in effect meant that he served the people of Guyana for some five decades at a leadership level.
No other Guyanese can boast of such a record of service. The People’s Progressive Party which he founded in January 1, 1950 and led until his death has been marking his death and birth anniversaries in a variety of ways including an annual commemoration service at Babu John, Port Mourant where his body was cremated.
This year, in honour of the 60th anniversary since his entry into Parliament, the Party submitted a Motion to have the National Assembly give due recognition to the work of the former President and longest serving Member of Parliament. The motion was unanimously passed with glowing tributes from speakers from both sides of the House.
The Motion allows for a special collection of Dr. Jagan’s speeches to be displayed in the Library of Parliament. The Motion also allowed for speeches of the former President to be published as a collection for reference to the younger and future generations. This can only redound to the good of parliament and the parliamentary process given Dr. Jagan’s vast experience as a parliamentarian. Dr. Jagan was also a prolific writer which would be an asset to young people who aspire for a political career.
Dr. Jagan’s entry into the Legislative Council began a long and illustrious career as a dedicated Parliamentarian extending for forty-five years until 1992 when he became ineligible to remain seated on being elected the Executive President of Guyana.
As pointed out in the Motion, “Dr. Jagan brought a new dimension and style of parliamentarism to the Legislature and in doing so created his trade mark as a political leader, trade unionist, a Premier, a Leader of the Opposition and subsequently as President of the Nation.
The motion added: “His career as a Parliamentarian spanning over four and a half decades was marked by his persistent and unrelenting struggle for the working people of the then British Guiana, for universal adult suffrage, for independence from British colonial rule, for fair and equitable trade relations for the end to colonial and imperialist rule globally and in the post independence period, for the return of democracy and free and fair elections.”
His life-long desire for a just and equitable society found expression in his call for a New Global Human Order which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly shortly after his passing.
As pointed out by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds in a recent letter to the press, the motion was passed unanimously with tributes from both the ruling party and the opposition parties. This historic moment unfortunately did not get the prominence of the media as it ought to, but its significance cannot be overemphasized. It speaks to the maturity of our politicians when it comes to recognition of contribution made by a great Guyanese leader.
The whole of Guyana owe Dr. Jagan a debt of gratitude for the years of solid and dedicated service to the people of Guyana. Indeed, Dr. Jagan has left an indelible imprint on the political landscape of this country. In tribute to his struggle for a free and democratic Guyana, Dr. Jagan was conferred with the “Order of Liberation”, a fitting tribute to a great son of the soil. At a simple ceremony at State House last Tuesday, the widow of Dr.Jagan, Mrs. Janet Jagan, herself a political icon in Guyana’s politics, received the posthumous award from President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Both President Jagdeo and Mrs. Jagan recalled the enormous contribution made by Dr.Jagan in the liberation of Guyana first against colonial bondage and subsequent to Guyana’s attainment of political independence for democracy which was subverted by the PNC after it was catapulted into power by Anglo-American vested interests. Dr. Jagan ideas continue to inspire people here and abroad who yearn for a better life free from bondage and want. His ideas are as relevant today as it ever were, a testimony of his visionary mind and intellectual prowess.
by Odeen Ishmael
(The writer was Guyana's Ambassador to the United States and Permanent Representative to the OAS) May 6, 1997
Dr. Cheddi Jagan firmly established himself as a statesman of no mean calibre long before other politicians in the Caribbean region ever thought of venturing out from their insular arenas to hesitantly grapple with international issues impacting on the social and economic development of the world at large. While it is true that Dr. Jagan, from his first entry into politics, was deeply interested in winning political independence for Guyana, at the same time, he was very vocal in championing the independence movements of Africa and the Caribbean. To do so showed immensed political and moral courage since many politicians of the period of the 1950s were not prepared to step out of their creases to challenge the might of the imperial powers. It is, therefore, from his early years as a politician that Dr. Jagan displayed the signs of a statesman in the making. Even after his removal from power in 1964 through the covert and overt actions of local and international forces, his tenacity as a political fighter for the working people, and for the poor and downtrodden in all parts of the world, made him into a figure of international renown, while his writings on international political, economic and social issues placed him among the highest ranks of the great thinkers of the developing world.
Immediately after his election, Dr. Jagan wrote to world leaders expressing his ideas for the establishment of a New Global Human Order. The ideas were developed over a period of time during which the Guyanese leader carefully examined previous international proposals aimed at alleviating social and economic ills worldwide, and combining some of these ideas with fresh ones of his own. new. He then explained very clearly how the ideas could actually be implemented, and how funding could be obtained to put the necessary action programs on stream. He 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.
This strategy, which has been endorsed by other Caribbean leaders, and which continues to be proagated, envisages a program targeted at the most burning issues of unemployment, poverty and hunger and calls for a radical reform North/South program which must include, inter alia, a works-program for physical, social and cultural infrastructures; tax and other incentives for the use of technology which will create jobs instead of destroying them; a new EU/ACP Lome Convention with enhanced assistance for the developed countries; and debt relief for the developing countries.
The proposals set out by President Jagan certainly were expressed in various forms before. But where he differed in his approach was that he saw the establishment of a New Global Human Order as an incremental process — a process which would indeed take some time to materialize should the appropriate reforms and programs put in place within certain periods.
At first, there were some commentators who felt that that Dr. Jagan's ideas were utopian, that they would not catch on, and that they would not engender discussions. Some even went so far as to say that no political body would seriously try to implement any of the ideas for a long, long time. But as President Jagan himself said, many ideas which seemed utopian eventually became accepted as realistic and practicable. As such, the Government of Guyana consistently since 1993 propagated the proposition at all local, regional and international forums. At first, it took some time to bite, but gradually — most likely because of the consistency of Guyana — a number of Governments began to develop an interest in it.
At the Commonwealth Conference in Auckland early in 1996, President Jagan spoke on the importance of a New Global Human Order for the entire world, and after he met with Commonwealth leaders in bilaterals, a new interest in the idea sprang up, particularly among the African leaders who are now themselves making their own suggestions on how it should be implemented.
The biggest breakthrough so far is the adoption of the proposal for the establishment of the New Global Human Order by the governments of CARICOM. The regional body, under the guidance of Guyana, has agreed to push the proposal at all forums. In October 1996, at the UN General Assembly, Guyana and Grenada, took the opportunity to call for its implementation at regional and international levels.
Miami Summit Proposals
Let us deal with some specific areas. In 1994 at the Summit of the Americas in Miami, Guyana made three vibrant proposals aimed at assisting in the establishment of at least a part of the New Global Human Order. Guyana called for a team of experts from outside the multilateral financial institutions to formulate new ideas on how to solve the debt crisis affecting many poor developing countries in this hemisphere. Guyana also urged the establishment of a development corps of volunteers to supplement the work of the proposed White Helmets organization. And anticipating economic fallout in the poorer countries with the eventual establishment of free trade in the Americas, Dr. Jagan proposed the establishment of a regional development fund, fashioned more or less like that of the European development fund which assists the weaker economies in the European Union.
What were the results of all of these demands? After much debate, the Guyana delegation got the Summit to agree that a specially appointed committee would be set up to review a number of financial issues, and that the problems of debt should be examined with the assistance of ideas drawn from a broad range of expertise. This is written in the Action Plan of the Summit of the Americas. Out of this we are now seeing the spin-off. More and more countries are spotlighting the issue of debt relief, and recently Guyana obtained some relief from the Paris Club and from Trinidad and Tobago. In November, Germany also agreed to write off 67 percent of the debt Guyana owes to that country. And recently, the United States pitched in to write off a total of US$10 million of Guyana's debts.
In early October 1996, the World Bank and the IMF agreed to granting debt relief for a number of poor countries including Guyana. It will be recalled that when President Jagan had first touted the idea that the multilateral financial institutions (MFIs) should look at the possibility of debt relief and debt forgiveness, there were many "doubting Thomases" in the international arena, and even specialists working in these MFIs who said that the idea was not feasible. It was utopian and not practicable to them. Now we are seeing a turn around from these very multilateral institutions, albeit slowly, but we have moved them and they need to be pushed forward to do more.
Recently, the IMF/World Bank agreed to forgive the debts of a number of poor countries in Africa. The institution have also announced that the forgiveness of some of the debts of Guyana and Bolivia is being actively considered.
Then there is the idea of the development corps of volunteers. A little explanation is needed here. A few years ago, the President of Argentina, Carlos Menem, proposed the establishment of a volunteer group known as the White Helmets to be deployed to assist in emergency situations in various countries. This group would be under the control of the United Nations. At the Summit, Dr. Jagan proposed that the White Helmets program should be expanded to also assist in special social and economic programs in the Americas. It was from the Guyanese leader that the idea of a "development corps of volunteers" emanated. He envisaged a hemispheric corps of volunteers, more or less like the US Peace Corps, but drawn from specialist volunteers from all the countries of the hemisphere to be deployed to assist on special social and economic development projects in various countries. This amendment was agreed to, but even though the White Helmets has now been organized and assisting in emergency situations in a number of countries in and out of this hemisphere, the development corps aspect of it is still not yet off the ground, ostensibly from a lack of funding. However, at various levels, Guyana and other countries in the hemisphere are pressing for its establishment as soon as possible.
In the proposal for the New Global Human Order, President Jagan saw the need for an international fund to be managed by the UN and shows how the money can be obtained. The general idea of this proposal is that the fund would be made available to all countries — developed and underdeveloped. The developing countries would use it to upgrade their infrastructure and industrial base, thus creating more jobs and ultimately improving the standard of living for their peoples. They in turn would demand more goods which generally come from the developed countries. This will spur more job opportunities in these countries as well. Surely, this will help a far way in fighting poverty in both developed and developing countries.
The regional development fund is seen an extension of this international fund and it is proposed with a specific purpose in mind. With the advent of free trade on the establishment the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) by 2005, it is expected that the countries with weaker economies — like those in CARICOM — will be faced with distinct disadvantages in trying to compete with the larger and stronger economies in the region. The proposed regional development fund would be made available to the weaker economies to help cushion the economic fallout, while at the same time used to develop their infrastructure and industrial base to place them on a somewhat leveler playing field to compete with the stronger economies.
When Guyana first made this proposal, all other countries sidestepped away from it. Some wondered where the funds would come from; the powerful countries somehow felt that they would be called upon to provide some of the funds; so the idea was not very popular. Even some of our own associates in CARICOM felt that while it would help solve many of the economic problems in the region, it was asking too much at the present time. Maybe, they though this, too, was utopian.
But here again persistence on the part of Guyana has paid off. First of all, at the meeting in preparation for the Denver Trade Ministerial in 1995 to discuss the mechanics of the proposed FTAA, Guyana was one of the few countries that called for the establishment of a Working Group on Smaller Economies to examine the effects that free trade would have on poorer countries in the hemisphere. There was strong resistance to this, but with support from CARICOM and Central America, that battle was won. Guyana thought that this was strategic since within this Working Group the poorer countries could make demands for programs beneficial to them. It is in this group that Guyana continues to wage the fight for the regional development fund. By explaining the workings of this proposed fund, new converts are being won. Bolivia has recently suggested that such a fund must be established to assist smaller economies, and CARICOM has since adopted the idea as a Caribbean initiative. A recent meeting of heads of CARICOM governments in Jamaica agreed to restyle the initiative as the Regional Integration Fund, an idea which is now gaining support from Central America. Significantly, at the joint meeting of CARICOM and Central American Foreign Ministers in Costa Rica in early December 1996, the Central Americans gave total support to the proposal for the establishment of the Fund.
On March 13, Dr. Jagan in a feature address to the sixth meeting of the Working Group on the Smaller Economies in Georgetown challenged all the hemispheric nations to adopt the RIF proposal. The meeting later unanimously agreed to do a technical study of the RIF and to make recommendations as to how the objectives of the proposed fund could be achieved. This decision surely was a forward step in the materialization of the idea of the great Guyanese visionary.
These are just some of the main aspects of the international legacy of Dr. Cheddi Jagan. It is a legacy which portrays the humane quality of this renowned intellectual, thinker and statesman. There he was in the final years of his life devoting all of it for the economic and social upliftment of the lives of not only the Guyanese people, but especially also of those of the poorer countries of the world. He was an internationalist in the truest sense. He was a statesman who lived for this time and beyond.
Cheddi Jagan — Man Of The Century
by H.Z. Ally
We are living in truly exciting times. The end of one century and the beginning of another are part of a unique historical moment, which not many of the earth’s population is fortunate to experience.
For most people, the dawn of the new millennium of the 21st century is something they have been eagerly looking forward to. There is something inexplicably mystifying about the year 2000. There are even talks about some impending ‘catastrophe’ which could potentially destroy the whole of humanity.
Just in case you may be getting a bit scared, let me hasten to say that there is no ‘scientific’ basis for such pessimism. Such feelings of ‘foreboding’ exist purely in the imagination of men and women, many of whom are fed up with the rigours of daily existence and long for a better life — possibly in the hereafter.
Yet the 20th century is one of most momentous in the history of human society. Advances in science and technology have brought continents and people together in a way never heretofore imagined. The conquest of outer space and the almost preposterous advances in information and communications technology have reduced the entire world into what is commonly referred to as a ‘global village.’
No less significant has been the emergence and eventual collapse of an entirely new system of political and social organization — the world socialist system. The entire socialist bloc — Eastern Europe and the USSR came tumbling down, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
The century also saw two devastating World Wars in which tens of millions of lives were lost, not to mention destruction to property and human civilization. For the first time, modern science and technology were put in the service of human destruction as the ravages of Nagasaki and Hiroshima so painfully reminded us.
The closing years of the 20th century saw positive developments in the evolution of human society. Dictatorships especially in Africa and Latin America gave way to multi-party democracies.
Apartheid rule in South Africa was replaced by majority rule. Palestine became partially free after years of Zionist domination. Closer home, dictatorial rule in Haiti was forced to yield ground to the forces of democracy.
Here is Guyana, after some 28 years of authoritarian rule by the unpopular PNC, democracy was finally restored in October 1992. The absence of democracy in Guyana (as indeed in other parts of the world) saw a steady decline in living standards reaching a stage where Guyana was rated the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and among the poorest in the world, thanks to the People’s National Congress.
This is why it is important not to allow the dark forces of reaction to rear their ugly heads.
For us in Guyana, the 20th century has not been altogether unkind, the evils of colonialism and the PNC notwithstanding. The period saw the rise of militant leaders in the persons of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, Cheddi and Janet Jagan. The latter two have played a significant role in awakening and shaping the consciousness of the Guyanese people, in particular the working people.
Without doubt, the most influential and charismatic leader in Guyana and the entire Anglophone Caribbean has been Dr Cheddi Jagan, rightly regarded as Father of the Guyanese Nation. It is hardly surprising therefore that the People’s Progressive Party which he co-founded in January 1950 saw it fit to name him the ‘Man of the Century’.
A productive 2000 to all Guyanese!
LIKE Trinidad and Tobago, but unlike Jamaica and, more recently Barbados, Guyana has not shown any official interest in identifying and legalising national heroes.
As in other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states, it has its own system of National Awards, the highest being the Order of Excellence (OE). Among the OE recipients have been the late President Forbes Burnham, the assassinated historian Walter Rodney, and former President Janet Jagan, widow of the legendary Cheddi Jagan.
With the exception of Cuffy, the revolutionary leader of the Berbice Slave Rebellion of 1763, there are no official national heroes of Guyana, the CARICOM state that was foremost in the struggle for national and regional independence in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Cuffy, the house slave of that unsuccessful rebellion of the 18th century died by committing suicide. He was proclaimed a National Hero of the Republic of Guyana with the unanimous approval of a resolution in parliament supported by the then governing People's National Congress and the then opposition People's Progressive Party.
It was the first time that African slaves in the Caribbean had rebelled against their oppression, and it came some 28 years before the only successful revolution by slaves in this hemisphere - the Haitian revolution of Toussaint L'Ouverture in 1791.
The social scientist and political activist Eusi Kwayana, credited with writing the official songs of both the PPP and PNC - with which he was once prominently identified at varying periods - was to place, at the time of Guyana's independence in 1966, the 1763 revolt in the context of "the first blow struck for Guyanese independence".
Now that the PPP, the first national movement in the modern history of Guyana against imperialism and colonialism is marking its 50th birth anniversary this month, there are some in and out of government who think it is perhaps appropriate that the party shows some interest in influencing its own government to initiate moves for a National Heroes project.
Following President Jagan's death in March 1997, and amid some orchestrated political controversy against renaming the international airport at Timehri after him, I recall an initiative in parliament by the WPA's representative for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to come up with proposals on how best to commemorate the memory of the late President.
Therefore, in this year when the party of which he was founder-leader from its inception up to the time of his death, is celebrating its golden jubilee, the suggestion is that the PPP/Civic administration should consider establishment of a national committee to identify those who in the popular consciousness of the Guyanese masses are already National Heroes.
Once recommended, the choice or choices could then be forwarded to parliament for approval to give legal status to such hero or heroes. In April 1998, the Barbados parliament approved the country's first 10 National Heroes.
Guyana, of course, does not have to go that route in choosing that many at the beginning of such an effort in the process of re-education and building of national consciousness and pride.
Nor does Trinidad and Tobago, should Prime Minister Basdeo Panday's government decide to institute its own system of legally establishing National Heroes - Eric Williams being an unavoidable first choice. Jamaica has been introducing its National Heroes in batches over a period of years.
National Heroes should not be confused with personalities of national stature, outstanding leaders in various fields of endeavour, politics, culture or else.
To qualify as a National Hero, the individual's outstanding contributions must at least have some measure of national acceptance without any attempt to falsify history or expediently ignore serious wrongs committed against the society.
In any objective and serious assessment of the social and political history of Guyana, Cheddi Jagan, whose name is synonymous with the country's struggles for political freedom, democracy and social justice, can hardly be omitted from those whose credentials would readily recommend them as National Heroes of the country.
Likewise, in the field of trade unionism and culture Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, pioneer of trade unionism in the Caribbean, and the poet Martin Carter, clearly merit to be included in the first batch of National Heroes of Guyana.
The present generation of Guyanese seem to know little about Critchlow, even though more are acquainted with the poetry of Carter. Together, Jagan, Carter and Critchlow make an ideal trio of National Heroes.
Given the nature of divisive politics in Guyana, it is to be expected that there will be those who will also want to include Forbes Burnham, the founder-leader of the PNC and first Executive President as a National Hero.
It is reasonable to assume that while it would be most surprising to experience any controversy over the choice of Cheddi Jagan, Martin Carter and Hubert Critchlow as National Heroes, the same cannot be said with any seriousness in the case of Forbes Burnham.
Unless much of what went wrong, terribly wrong under his long years in power, a period involving unprecedented political repression, rape of electoral democracy and denial of press freedom, are to be conveniently ignored or rationalised. Much, of course, would depend on the criteria to be established for a National Heroes Project.
In a recent conversation with the lawyer Ashton Chase, author of `A History of Trade Unionism in Guyana', a protege of Critchlow and who, like Janet Jagan and Kwayana, is a surviving former leading figure of the early years of the PPP, remarked:
"Perhaps when we move out of our present internecine warfare we will begin to think of more liberal and appropriate ideas such as establishing our National Heroes..."
Critchlow, the poor dock worker who founded the first trade union in colonial British Guiana, the Guyana Labour Union, back 81 years ago this month, was elevated to the stature of a National Hero during the controversial third term of the PPP in the decade of the 60s with the creation of the first ever life-size statue to be erected to a Guyanese.
hough, unlike Cuffy, his National Hero status is not legal, Critchlow, whose statute stands in front of Parliament Building in Georgetown, is widely perceived as a hero of the working class, not only in Guyana, but throughout the Caribbean and beyond.
Of that fine human being, the poet Martin Carter, whose funeral took place amid post-1997 election disturbances in Georgetown, Sydney King (now Eusi Kwayana) in a foreword to Carter's first published volume of `Poems of Resistance' in 1954, the year after the British deposed the Jagan-led first PPP government, wrote:
"The imperialists know quite well the influence of artists. That is why Martin Carter was put in detention camp with a strange hedge of barbed wire and a gate of bayonets. That is why his `Poems of Resistance' were banned in Guiana..."
More recently, in the very valuable revised edition of `Martin Carter - Selected Poems', published by `Red Thread Women's Press' in 1997 and dedicated "to the memory of Dr Cheddi Jagan and the spirit of Guyana's Independence Movement", the West Indian writer, Ian McDonald, notes in the foreword:
"It is time - past time - for Caribbean people and a wider international audience to have easier access to the poems of a man whose stature as a great Caribbean, Third World, and indeed universal writer, becomes more firmly established as each year passes".
Lamming on Jagan
And of Cheddi Jagan, the other of my initial trio of choices as National Heroes, hopefully within the first decade of the 21st century, the noted Caribbean novelist, George Lamming, in a tribute on the death of the first freely elected President of Guyana, had this to say:
"The name Cheddi Jagan has acquired, for more than one generation, the feel of permanence and awe which time confers on certain historical monuments, and there was something monumental in the consistence of purpose and the unique kind of dedication which he brought to the public life of the people of Guyana."
Lamming, who had delivered the eulogy at the funeral of the murdered Walter Rodney in 1980 at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Georgetown, thinks that "there is no Caribbean leader who has been so frequently cheated of office, none who has been so grossly misrepresented and no one who, in spite of such adversity, was his equal in certainty of purpose and the capacity to go on and on until his time had come to take his leave from us..."
The question now is when will Guyana begin the process of officially identifying its National Heroes.
by Sadie Amin
(Printed in "Mirror" Newspaper February 2006)
Last Sunday I watched the Super Bowl on television. For those unfamiliar with American sports, it's probably the biggest annual sporting event in the United States. I have to admit I'm a closet fan of American football and look forward to the Super Bowl every year even if I don't watch many of the games during the season. An integral aspect of the Super Bowl is the singing of the national anthem at the beginning of the game. This year Aretha Franklin had the honour of singing the Star Spangled Banner.
While the anthem is sung, the television cameras usually pan over on the starting line-up of players and the massive crowd, and each year it never fails to amaze me at the show of patriotism by everyone in the stadium. Almost all of the footballers sang along with Ms. Franklin and many were caught on camera with tears in their eyes. This year there was also a minute of silence for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, who both died within the last year. The silence and show of respect demonstrated by those in the capacity-packed, Ford Field Stadium, was awesome. The commentators gave tidbits on the lives of both Parks and King and their contribution to the civil rights movement. Both women are considered national heroes.
Afterwards I commented to a friend that, as Guyanese, we seem to be selective when it comes to patriotism and our national heroes. Many of us feel it is a bother to stand up when our national anthem is played and very few take pride in singing it. The two of us then compiled a list of our national heroes and we both chose the late President Dr. Cheddi Jagan as No. 1. My friend pointed out that, in the last few years, it has been "open season" on Cheddi. Jagan bashing but concluded that no matter what anyone said it couldn't alter the fact that the man has made his undisputed mark on the chalkboard of Guyana's history. We recalled when one of the newspapers did a recent poll of persons whom Guyanese could acclaim as national heroes and the majority of interviewees included Dr. Jagan.
There are many, then and now, who constantly try to denigrate Dr. Jagan, his principles and all that he stood for throughout his life. But then again, we are a people who thrive on negativity and selectively view history from a skewered perspective. The questions that should be asked are: What are the criteria for the status of a national hero? Should it be one act or deed? Should consideration be given to a period of time only? Or should the overall public service record of a person and its impact on the general population be the prime factors in the making of a national hero? I think most of us would opt for the last criterion since it is a basis to judge whether one's contribution to the nation has been of significant importance.
By mere length of time spent, total dedication and overcoming enormous adversities and subversions, Dr. Jagan must qualify to be one of Guyana's national heroes since his goals were not personal but nationally inspired and their eventual achievements made Guyana and all Guyanese live up to their potential. Given all the frustrations, setbacks and disappointments, lesser persons would have "cut and run" (and many did) but not Cheddi Jagan. He stayed, persevered and saw his vision of a better Guyana become a reality. "Time and history" were definitely on his side.
Anyone who disputes or denigrates the late president's contribution to nation-building is trying to remake and rewrite history. Here was a man who was qualified in a profession which could have ensured an affluent life yet he chose to live a non-materialistic lifestyle, forego a dental career and entered public life to take on the struggle for Guyana's independence at a time when the "powers that be" were unwilling to let go of the colonial spoils. That was a real life David and Goliath, if there ever was! Every other battle in our nation's history since independence pales in comparison since they were concomitant on Guyana being an independent nation.
There has no doubt been other Guyanese who made significant contributions in similar or different ways from Dr. Jagan and when our history is written they should be remembered also but not at the expense of a man whose entire life was dedicated to the betterment of a nation. Fifty years of sterling public service guarantees national hero status without any doubt. Maybe as a nation, we could learn a bit from the Americans when it comes to patriotism and respect for our heroes instead of denigrating them, especially posthumously.
by Premchand Dass (Comdade Dass worked at the CJRC for many years. He wrote the summaries for most of Dr. Jagan's articles found in the archives )
Dr. Cheddi Jagan will always be remembered among a range of other achievements, for his outstanding contributions as the architect of Guyana’s political independence, the vigilant guard of our freedom, the restoration of democratic rule and the ever energetic captain of the national reconstruction process.
These are some elements of the overall goal of genuine and complete national liberation of a people plagued by centuries of colonial rule.
The story of Cheddi Jagan’s life cannot be properly told if any of these elements are excluded. It will also be incomplete if we do not place his struggle for the liberation of Guyana within the context of his international efforts for world peace, democracy and social justice.
Very early in his parliamentary life (from 1947), Cheddi was involved in guiding a massive working class action when sugar workers in his parliamentary area went on strike. The solid, prolonged action irritated the planters who responded with the brutal murder of five workers at Enmore in June 1948.
That sacrifice of the Enmore Martyrs was the occasion for serious reflection by Dr. Jagan. He later pointed out in his autobiographical work – “The West On Trial”.
“The Enmore tragedy affected me greatly. I was personally acquainted with all the young men killed and injured. The funeral procession which was led by my wife, other leaders and myself to the city 16 miles away became a tremendous mass protest demonstration. At the graveside the emotional outburst of the widows and relatives of the deceased has been intensely distressing, and I could with difficulty restrain my tears. 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 Guianese people against bondage and exploitation.”
On March 22, 2006 we observed the 88th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Cheddi Jagan along with a month of other activities. Unfortunately, he cannot physically share theses moments with us because, nine (9) years ago, Guyana lost this Father of the Nation and the world lost a Champion of the fight for peace, democracy and social progress.
Dr. Jagan stands out in Guyana as:
- Founder of the first political movement organized for the people and leading it for 50 years.
- Pioneer of the movement to achieve political independence.
- Chief Minister in pre-independent Guyana and with a fabulous record achievement in areas of benefit for the people.
- Target of colonial and imperial powers resulting in his imprisonment and removal from government on two occasions.
- Champion of the struggle for the restoration of democracy against a dictatorship maintaining itself through electoral fraud and military force for twenty – eight (28) years.
- And after winning that struggle, the architect of the process of national reconstruction, until his untimely passing in 1997.
On the world stage, Dr. Jagan was an unwavering soldier for World Peace, disarmament and for a Just and equitable relations within and among nations.
Unlike many other leaders, Dr. Jagan understood the grim reality of the many aspects of colonialism evident in the ever widening gap between the developed and developing countries and in the dependence of impoverished millions and the largesse of the few. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Such prevailing economic and social disparity provide a breeding ground for hunger, disease and poverty and ultimately, a threat to international peace and security.
Dr. Jagan never gave up, he always felt a conscious effort must be made to turn the tide. Not to swim with it. He would always refer to it “like walking between the raindrops”.
Throughout his 50 years of political struggle, he displayed a tremendous capacity for reading, research, writing and public speaking at fora ranging from street corners to official levels such as the United Nations. He was effective in convincing others not only by his charisma and smooth delivery of his speeches, but also through his simple, logical style and deeply informed content of his message.
His message was always based on conviction.
While he was indeed a superb academic, he spoke from his heart. And his greatest weapons were his honesty, consistency and persistence. He wrote and spoke profusely and his mission was the desire for world peace and equality. And during his short, but very fruitful period as Executive President, Dr. Jagan developed those ideals in a more comprehensive form through his advocacy at the international level for a “New Global Human Order” – as well as his steering of the rebuilding process after the restoration of democracy on October 05, 1992, in the direction of building a National Democratic State; and commitment to National Unity in terms of classes and racial/ethnic groups - all through Good Governance.
In summarizing, let me say the following on Dr. Jagan:
- His genuine modesty would not have allowed him to permit anyone to laud him.
- He was, after all, the son of downtrodden sugar workers who earned his consciousness of rich versus the poor, of the economic and social disparity of classes and the need for political struggles and solutions in pursuit of social justice, even before he left to study in the USA at the age of 18.
- He never developed social pretension or an inferiority complex; he used his stay in the USA of the early forties to sharpen his understanding of human exploitation and its many manifestations. He created for himself his own “Faculties of Strategies for Representation of the Poor.” He became truly, both working class intellectual and agitator.
- His, was an awesome one-man crusade for the colony’s underprivileged workers during his initial Legislative tenure, 1947 – 1953, against both the colonial administration and big business in the then British Guiana. Anyone wishing to disparage Dr. Jagan or his memory, but still possess a conscience, should avail him or herself with a review of the vital battles waged or won by Cheddi Jagan.
- Cheddi wanted to “create a mechanism which will allow him to speak to all social forces in this country” and about how he wanted it fashioned and administered.
- Cheddi Jagan epitomized as his life’s work for a “New Global Human Order” – so all embracing as a kind of mantra to strive for Universal Equality and Peace for the World is one. This formulation is with the UN and will be deliberated on in November, this year.
- May his life- long struggles, dedication and commitment to make Guyana and the World a better place inspire current aspirants and the future New Jagans for Guyana, much needed leaders and patriots.
- Cheddi Jagan has left behind an unblemished political legacy. He earned a reputation as a man of honour and decency. He fought the imperialists with great vigour and sought to form global alliances that would make life better for all Guyanese. Because of his political dominance and fiery speeches, his spirit will continue to be with all Guyanese. No Guyanese can claim that they were not touched by this master political – this true son of Guyana. He will forever remain the Father of the Guyanese nation and a true friend of all peoples - indeed, all mankind.
GAWU Celebrates the Life and Work of Dr. Cheddi Jagan
Kawal Primary School,
Canal # 2 Polder, W.B.D
March 25, 2006
On Cheddi Jagan, the spirit of giving
March 22, 2014 -Editorial, Guyana Chronicle
THE month of March has rightly been celebrated with a significant number of calendar events as Guyanese observe the birth anniversary of the Liberator of Guyana, the Father of the nation, a man called the Mahatma of the Western Hemisphere – Dr. Cheddi Jagan; and the death anniversaries of the Patriarch and Matriarch of the Nation, Dr. Jagan and Mrs. Janet Jagan; two exceptional human beings whose love for and sacrifices for, and dedication to Guyana and the Guyanese people knew no boundaries.The greatest of human beings are known for their simplicity; and these two exceptional people served this nation their entire adult lives and, even though they reached the pinnacle of leadership in the country, they still served the Guyanese people with great passion and equal humility. Their greatest rewards for their tireless service to this nation were seeing the joy in the faces of the ordinary people when their lives had been uplifted in some way or another through their indefatigable efforts.
What impels a man or woman to give so much to their fellow human beings? What motivates some persons to a spectrum of generous acts that defy bullies, tyrants, colonizers, dictators, rascals of the meanest kind, murderers, the worst type of evildoers who have no qualms about oppressing their fellow humans to the point of subjectivity and servility that their lives become mere daily existence and a purgatory from birth to death?
The immense compassion, the absolute merciful souls, the all-encompassing hearts full of beneficence, and minds gifted with visions to build rather than destroy were exemplified by the iconic Jagans. The achievements of this couple, so disparate in backgrounds, so perfectly melded as a couple, is a saga in the nation’s landscape of events that can never again be replicated.
Today the cadre of leaders and supporters they have left to continue their work would be gathering at their last place of abode that they shared together – State House, to celebrate the lives of the mother and father of this nation. The legacy they left is an enduring ode to their many gifts to Guyana and its people – not least is all the freedoms that prevail in the nation.
The month of March is a poignant reminder that once on this slice of earth a great, good man took birth in extremely humble surroundings and carved a way, not with a sword and war drums, but with boundless love for humanity, immeasurable patriotism, and a commitment to national integration, peace, progress and prosperity, to take the Guyanese people on a journey that he dreamt would eventually lead this nation to a wealth of happiness and a fulfilling destiny that every man, woman and child – not only of Guyana, but the entire world would never again live in want or poverty.