Tributes to Cheddi Jagan - Remembering CJ
By Eddi Rodney
(This address was presented to mark the 10th anniversary of Dr Cheddi Jagan’s death. The function was sponsored by the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre and was the first of the lecture series for 2007.)
Grenadian Senator, Chester Humphrey, who is also President of the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), delivered what he preferred to describe as “a talk” examining the ideas, the political activism and leadership, as well as enduring Marxist ideological beliefs that characterized the founding leader and life-long General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Dr Cheddi Jagan.
Humphrey, an early member of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) in Grenada, recalled memories of Comrade Cheddi, particularly on those occasions when the Guyanese leader spoke with the ordinary people in the West Indies during the years of anti-colonial mobilization. Jagan always displayed a certain “greatness” set within the historical context of West Indian political appeal. People in the Eastern Caribbean attended these public events in which Comrade Cheddi participated and where he often “captured the imagination of our people.”
Comparing Dr Jagan to Jamaican reggae super star, the late Bob Marley, and American heavyweight pugilist, Mohamed Ali, Humphrey observed that it was this type of “greatness,” this kind of adulation that Cheddi Jagan espoused and shared with the working people.
Dr Jagan was associated with high acclaim and respect, Humphrey said, because he knew from his own real experience as a youngster and a student in the United States, what the conditions of working people were.
Cheddi never hid his Marxist outlook. His political struggle remained always guided and influenced by a deep class position on all issues. In this process, the contribution of his widow, former First Lady and President, Janet Jagan, was an integral figure.
Several other aspects of Cheddi Jagan’s life and legacy – his relevance – were recalled as relatively new information to the audience. These included his representative role in the colonial legislature when he was a young politician. His ability as an anti-colonial personality was reflected in his own country, within the English-speaking Caribbean and even in the world.
Colonial administrations in the region banned and imposed restrictions on him, but this served to create a more profound interest in what he had to say, and also what he wrote and sought to implement during the years he was prime minister and later as executive president.
At a time when many former and still colonial, political movements adopted the course of armed struggle in Latin America and Africa, Cheddi Jagan remained steadfast in following a strategy based on the political non-violence of Gandhi. The collapse of the world socialist system and the end of the Cold war witnessed the emergence of Cheddi Jagan as a major Third World figure, who placed the issue of global poverty and human development at the very core of his policies and initiatives.
PPP General Secretary, Donald Ramotar, who chaired the function, referred to the varied and mixed response of regional leaders to the independence cause Cheddi Jagan espoused. After 1964, he “became a bit disillusioned with these positions, but he continued to struggle to inform political forces within the region…”
Eventually, Cheddi Jagan was successful in leading the struggle to restore democracy in Guyana. By persisting with the political struggle and striving for broad unity, the Guyanese leader and Father of the nation demonstrated unique qualities that remain intact as legacies to Guyanese the world over.
by Eddi Rodney
The eighth of the annual Cheddi Jagan lectures was held last week at the Kingston-based Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC). The event was sponsored by the CJRC in collaboration with the Cheddi Jagan Commemoration Committee and the main feature was a lecture by Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, who dealt with the topic, “Dr Jagan, His Life/Work in the 1947 Legislative Council.”
This programme and discourse was one of several public activities organized specifically to mark what has become known locally, as well as elsewhere in the Guyanese diaspora, as the Remembrance Month for Dr Cheddi Jagan, where selected areas of the Guyanese leader’s life and contribution are discussed, analyzed and observed.
Chairman of the programme, GO-INVEST Chief Executive Officer, Mr Geoff Da Silva, recalled that there was a considerable interest in this particular occasion (i.e the CJL). He expressed the view that “it was certainly the most important in the country.” Amongst those who have in previous years delivered the CJL are Dr Rudy Insanally (then United Nations Ambassador representing Guyana), Mr Ashton Chase, S.C, Ms Gail Teixeira MP (then Minister of Culture, Youth and sport), Mr Brindley Benn (then High Commissioner to Canada), Mr David Dabydeen of Warwick University Caribbean Studies Department, Dr Odeen Ishmael (then Guyana’s Representative of the United Nations and Head of Diplomatic Mission, Washington), and Komal Chand, President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU).
Dr Jagan challenged the status quo
Minister Rohee, having carried out extensive research into the subject, did not participate in the Parliamentary debate honouring Dr Jagan during the course of last year. And as he expressed it, the lecture presented an opportunity to avoid that research being wasted.
A considerable segment of the lecture was based on Hansard recollections and Parliamentary institutional data, especially the focus on the Legislative Council (or as it was described the Legco) of the late 1940s. Dr Jagan, it was recalled, entered the Legco, the highest decision-making organ in the colony of British Guiana, aware that the law-making assembly represented the historically defined and determined class interests – the hierarchy of colonial power and the local elites, who were allied to colonial interests. Cheddi Jagan’s contribution as an Assemblyman was outstanding in that he was the only political leader who spoke on behalf of the working people. Other members of the Legco were drawn from the capitalist merchantile class, the Chamber of Commerce and the leading civil servant groups. Cheddi Jagan set out as he himself was quoted as saying, “to inform himself” of issues pertaining to the colony and also to the business of administration, of how the country was governed.
His legacy, his most enduring historical contribution specific to the 1947-1952 Legco, was his absolute commitment, his zeal and focus on what had to be dealt with. His concern for the oppressed, the working poor and exploited was another trait that emerged from the quotations made by the lecturer.
One episode that was recounted involved a certain Mr Fernandes, who as a businessman, said that he was against the Legco debating and holding sessions late into the evening and at night. This was so because he worked during the day and felt that he should he also be engaged in the debate at night, he might fall asleep, something he did not wish to happen, as he was reputable with wide interests including racing horses.
To this Dr Jagan responded, saying he too worked during the day, but he had no problem with involving his efforts during the Legco sessions at night. These sessions were not overmuch for the representative of colonial-type government, Dr Jagan believed.
Minister Rohee also addressed the concerns, or the consequences arising out of Dr Jagan’s 1940s activities as an Assemblyman, and analyzed aspects of what detractors of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) are saying nowadays, compared to what these elements perceived the PPP to be in the past. Another aspect touched upon was the genuine concern Dr Jagan always had for the contributions and role of women in the society. Indeed, he invariably struggled to have provisions made for budgetary support for women who were from the oppressed and the working poor of the country.
Towards the end of the programme, the winners of the Cheddi Jagan essay competition were announced. These were as follows:
First Prize – Mohamed Yassin
Second Prize – Nadia Ganesh
Third Prize – Raymond Yussuf
Honourable Mention – Anastasia Ally
The vote of thanks was done by Hydar Ally, Education Secretary and Executive/Central Committee member of the PPP. Amongst the audience were several senior members of the government, including ministers and Members of Parliament. The High Commissioner of India, Mr Subit Kumar Mangal as well as the Ambassador of China, Mr Zhang Jungao were also among those in attendance.
(Text of a Lecture by Minister Gail Teixeira at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, Georgetown, Guyana on March 20th, 2003)
It is always difficult to speak publicly about the person who actually suddenly decided one’s course in life and in doing so, reveal some very personal aspects of one’s life.
For me, Cheddi always was and still is a fundamental and an integral part of my life: there can be no separation of Cheddi from my life, of who I am, and the choices I have made, and in many ways continue to make. When I look back on how all this begin, l have had to recognize that at no time in my life was l not aware of Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s existence and presence.
His presence threaded itself through mine from early childhood. It was a household name and although my father was a United Force man, as an ordinary working man, he had great respect for Cheddi the leader.
I was born one year before the first landslide victory of the People’s Progressive Party at the polls in the first universal adult suffrage elections held in the then British Guiana. Throughout my childhood and the course my life would take, had much to do with developments which unfolded at the international level and right here in Guyana. The decision of my family to immigrate in 1966 was not based on a fear of communism ---which in all the newspapers made the PPP the bogeyman of communism--- rather it was based on the fear of the future and on my father’s belief that he knew where Jagan was going to take him, but he did not trust nor know where Burnham was going to take this country!
It is those days of the anti-colonial struggle in Guyana which were formally embedded in my consciousness from a young age. I remember in my common entrance year at St. Margaret’s Primary School writing a number of essays in my school diary on the violence l experienced around me in Guyana and the war in Viet Nam.
And so at the age of 19, I moved from being a person with rather strong political views to become active in politics in Canada in the struggles against the Vietnam War and that country’s right to self-determination and a return to peace; the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, and for the liberation of the Portuguese African colonies, mostly on campus and in various non-governmental support bodies. I was one of the founding members of Canadians Concerned about Southern Africa, a broad based group of non-governmental organizations which lobbied the Canadian government to take positions against apartheid in Southern Africa.
The year 1973 was a wake up call for me, it was another rigged election in Guyana and this one actually made it on to the headlines of the Toronto daily newspapers! It was then that this decision was made by me to join Cheddi Jagan and the PPP in the struggle to restore democracy and develop Guyana. I could no longer be a stander-by !
In fact in July this year (2003) I will celebrate my thirtieth anniversary of being involved in formal politics as a politician. So I’m not that young any longer!
In 1973 I joined the Association of Concerned Guyanese, and by 1975 some of the younger members such as Sash Sawh (who is now Minister in this Government), and Geoffrey Da Silva (who was a Minister and now heads GO-Invest) had also joined. We were the young Turks in the Association of Concerned Guyanese. We had lots of energy and a love of Guyana and we greatly missed our country. And so we decided to organize Cheddi’s tour of Toronto in March 1976.
As I said before that I had heard of Cheddi all my life but I had never actually met him--- I’ll give you a wonderful story that will always remains with me!! We had done all the preparatory work for the visit and in the Association of Concerned Guyanese, I was probably the only one who had never met Cheddi. I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me, except maybe through letters that I was then writing as the secretary of the ACG to Janet Jagan. And so, when we got to the airport to greet him, l remember it was freezing cold. There were a large group of Guyanese around us ( only a few us were women) and most of these could say what Cheddi was like and how they met him last and I could say none of those things. So this crowd surged forward to meet Cheddi, to hug him and every thing else and I got stuck at the back because I was also nervous to meet this gentleman. And the crowd parted and he came straight up to me and embraced me, in one of the warmest embrace that I could remember, and he said "you’re Gail!" with that wonderful smile of his. It was that overwhelming embrace of warmth and welcome that told me as a young woman, that I was welcome on board, that there was space for me in the struggle, that there was space for me in the PPP.
During that tour we went to interviews on television and traveled with him early in the morning and I got to know some of his little habits. Some of these intrigued me. In a jam-packed programme, we would find space for him to have a rest and to have something to eat, and he would disappear from us and say "give me ten minutes I will be back". And I thought maybe he would go to freshen up and stuff like that. But he was having a nap. He had an amazing ability to withdraw, have a nap and return refreshed. He was absolutely clear on the time, he never overslept, and many times he did not use a watch. It was his own mental discipline and, he would turn up within the exact time he told you, refreshed, and ready for the road again.
We had organized a public meeting which was extremely well supported with about a thousand people; we had wonderful support from the Guyanese community, from the left movement, Canadians, South Africans, Nicaraguans, Chileans. One should remember that 1973 was also the year when Allende was overthrown and assassinated.
The city of Toronto in those days was very strong in the Peace movement, and the movement of solidarity among the various groups to prevent the removal of democratic governments was very powerful there in those days. So we were going to the meeting and he turned and said to me "you’re speaking." Now I had never spoken on a platform before in my life and I was absolutely petrified and I said so, and he just smiled. He had a way, and I don’t know if he knew I was scared because I always was ---and am scared to speak on a public platform--up to now and right in front of you, I do not like speaking in front of a mike and anybody in the media who deals with me knows this is one of my phobias--- but he had a habit whenever I was with him, and it started in Toronto, that he would give me a little push almost, it was almost between a pat and a push, something that communicated between him and I that would let me know that it was okay to go to it. So that is how and when I began speaking on public platforms.
On the way to the airport, after this mammoth meeting in Toronto, he asked me what were my plans for the future, and I told him that I had started my PhD in political science but that I wanted to come home but I did not want to work with the government of the day.
On my twenty-fourth birthday in July 1976, I got a personal letter from Cheddi Jagan inviting me to return to Guyana as his personal secretary. It was one and still is, one of the most exciting and memorable days of my life! When I look back now, l realize that when I got the letter there was no second thought, there was no thought in my mind that I should consult, that I should talk to some one, talk to my family, friends and that maybe I give it more thought. Of course for my family this was not good news and it was a decision which my parents never forgave me or accepted. This was called a bizarre decision on my part to return alone.
And so began what was my association with Dr. Jagan as his personal secretary from January 1st, 1977 until 1992 October, and then, of course, my own experience not only as his secretary but as an employee at Freedom House, as a party member, as a Central Committee and Executive member of the Party later on, and as a member of his Cabinet in 1992-1997.
When I look back at those days and I look at myself honestly I was not a good personal secretary. I had no training in being a secretary. I had just come out of University and I was always being caught up with anything else going on in the Party, from writing plays, to selling newspapers, to speaking on platforms, and maybe, in many ways I was quite wayward. He also was encouraging you to do more, learn more, experience more. But when I look back l know that he was probably one of the most patient bosses one can ever have wanted as a personal secretary. And so my relationship with him was not just his personal secretary, but as my leader, leader of my party, a person who was my mentor and so many other things wrapped up into one.
It would be remiss of me to not mention Cheddi’s attitude to women in the party and in the broader society. He was the one man l have known who never tried to dissuade any woman from venturing into areas that were seen as male domains. In fact, he kept trying to get women in the party to be more visible and active at the leadership level. A few examples of this was my assignment as the PPP’s commissioner on the Elections Commission in 1979-1980, a consistent member of the PPP’s team in many discussions with other forces from 1978, including being the sole woman on the PCD. He many times challenged male attitudes. I never heard him make a sexist or disrespectful comment about women or to a woman.
And I want to say this; that it was an honour and privilege to serve him and to serve the PPP in the time when he was its leader. The lessons I learnt, and, I think many of us learnt in PPP in those days, no one else could have taught us, no one else could have showed us, no one else could have given us that confidence to try to do many things and to develop many areas of our personalities and knowledge.
He was a leader of the times and a leader for all times. It is the combination of his personality, his beliefs, and the historical period within which he operated that created the context for his greatest contribution to Guyana and to humanity at the global level.
One of the things he never recognized nor fully appreciated that he had and that was something called charisma. Cheddi could walk into a room and smile and disarm people. In fact, I remember orchestrating with my colleagues in the ACG on one of Cheddi’s return visits to Toronto to ensure that my parents were invited to the reception in order to try to help them appreciate, if not understand, what the devil I was involved in. My colleague Sash and others who were still there helped to engineer this. My parents turned up and Cheddi didn’t know anything about this plot that we had hatched and he charmed my mother so much so that she wrote me afterwards to say that "well I don’t understand your politics; I don’t agree with your politics, but I do understand why you want to work with a man like Cheddi Jagan, I can understand that!" His charisma was not just the charm, it was not the body language, it was an aura--- if you want to say something special that people responded to--- people almost sensually trusted and responded to.
I have seen him walking in crowds and the effect he would have on them. For example, his outings during the afternoons to educate the working people at street corners. Remember there was no television and the radio and newspapers were controlled by the PNC government. The two independent newspapers were the MIRROR and the CATHOLIC STANDARD. So the PPP and its leaders had to go out and have more one on one with the people. After having his little afternoon nap, and he would pick up his chart on the IMF, on the Economy showing how much money was being spent on the military, how much had been spent on Health and Education, the debt problem and the need to have Debt relief in Guyana and we would head out, he would grab people like Rohee and myself or any one visiting Freedom House to come on out and follow him, to Regent Street, or further a field to Tiger Bay and so on. He would set up his chart and would start explaining to people about the economy, complex issues which many people believe that ordinary people cannot understand. He broke down some of the most complex political and economic theories and concepts into ways in which every body could understand. So it was the combination of all those factors, he could go into a crowd in a market and people would respond to him they would smile or spar with him--- even if before you had just heard them when you were trying to sell then a Mirror newspaper, curse the PPP or curse Jagan--- and he would turn up and some thing would happen. Whether one wants to call it some magical thing or whether he was one of those blessed people who was given that special quality----one which he used for positive purposes and not for his own personal aggrandizement as many other leaders have done who may have also been given that gift.
He had an amazing recall for figures, statistics and names of people. He could remember names of people in areas that he had not met for years and years, an amazing mental alacrity, mental ability and mental and physical discipline. I am not talking about the eight to four person, I’m not talking about the person who is robotic, I’m talking about the person who was mentally disciplined, emotionally disciplined, psychologically disciplined, physically disciplined and so you have heard comrade Janet talk about his diet and his exercise, all these things were absolutely true. But he was also extremely disciplined in so many other many ways; he knew how to balance stress and to keep an inner equilibrium that never let him become defeated after each rigged election, as each year crept on and there was no change. He doggedly knew that one day Guyana would be able to return to democracy and he was doing everything possible to make that happen.
He had an extraordinary mental recall and memory; he was an avid reader and an avid writer -even when he got older. I sit some times and remember how he could tell me which article he had read, or which writer to go look for a source that he wanted to include in whichever was the latest article or speech he was writing or book he was trying to write.
He encouraged you to think and not to be dogmatic and not to be a robot, not to be someone who just "parotted" what is a going thing. He encouraged polemical debates and discussions and encouraged his thoughts and arguments being challenged as these only helped to fructify his own ideas. All his work reflects his attempt to analyze the world as it is and to look at the world in the future.
In his writings where he developed the concept of a New Global Human Order, this is his creation and the culmination of his thoughts over a long period of analysis. His vision of the world in which there are equitable trade relations, where there is harmony between the South and the North, between East and West, between South and South; it is his belief that human development cannot take place without democracy as a vital component; that human rights, political, economic, social and cultural rights are all integral components of sustainable human development. He pre-occupies over the struggle against poverty and to improve the conditions of lives of the ordinary people in Guyana and all over the world. Through the collection of speeches, he talks about the coalition of forces left, democratic, progressive private sector and government to bring change in the world. The fact that his proposal for the New Global Human Order became a resolution passed at the United Nations General Assembly and adopted in the year 2000 is to his credit.
On rereading his book entitled "The New Global Human Order", and comparing it with the 2002 comments made by Mr. McKinnon, Head of the Commonwealth, where the latter calls for globalization with a human face in order to reduce some of its harsh impact on people’s lives, especially poor people in the developing world, and for more equitable trade relations, one recognizes that Cheddi’s analyses written over decades were ahead of his time. Ironically for some, it was his very political ideology that allowed him to have a profound understanding of global developments.
Maybe after last night and the invasion of Iraq, we may be need to look back at Cheddi’s writings. We are in a world now where unilateralism not multilateralism has taken a dominant position, a world in which the United Nations will have to rethink its role; a world in which visionary political leaders would have to emerge to mend many bridges so that multilateralism, international solidarity and the universality of issues and struggle will once again have its rightful space on the world agenda.
I think he was a visionary, in so many ways. I will try to relate some of the areas of his thinking. First peace was an overall concern- global peace, peace within Guyana, peace for Guyana with its neighbours – Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname. One must remember the Cold War still existed. He was a true internationalist. In those days if you called yourself an internationalist you were interpreted to be a communist. I now listen to the BBC, CNN and I hear political leaders with no left-leaning being called internationalists.
Interestingly, the world’s political nomenclature of left thinking that was used then, in a sanitized version today has gained a certain level of acceptability. So words such as proletariat has been changed to workers’ representatives, issues of the coalition of left, right and Centre and so on are now referred to as civil society or inclusive governance and power-sharing --changes in words to make them more acceptable in political parlance but holding fundamentally the same meaning. This influence of left thinking and language into the global political language should not be underestimated as there was a time when the western powers had to accede to this influence even though subsequently this was--- as l said-- sanitized to remove the leftist content.
Peace was an overall concern and unity for Guyana. How could he bring that about? How could he bring a fragile society, fragile economically dependent on primary products and at the mercy of fluctuating world prices, a fragile society in terms of its cultural and ethnic diversity, a fragile environment and politically divided into a united whole?
It is to the credit of Cheddi and a reflection of the "largesse" of his person that in the midst of repeated rigged elections, he is thinking about building bridges and partnerships and getting people involved. He wants to find an answer, a solution, a path to take Guyana and its people forward.
After independence and after two rigged elections, one of his early proposals which he called Critical Support was one which many people did not like nor did they understand. How can one support a government on some issues such as its progressive foreign policy and lend it critical support while that government at the same time was stealing one’s votes? Yet today, the concept of critical support is now accepted and practiced at the international level as a very dynamic approach in terms of preventative diplomacy.
Another of his early proposals in the 1975 period, was that of a National Patriotic Front and National Patriotic Front Government. Again this was a radical and very progressive proposal but difficult to understand. Again it comes after an election is stolen where one’s seats in Parliament are further miniaturized and where there is no support at the regional or international levels, and ,even in Guyana itself the PPP is just beginning to scratch the surface in terms of winning support beyond the party’s mass base. The return of people like Dr. Walter Rodney and the emergence of the Movement Against Oppression and the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) offer opportunities for broadening the democratic forces.
These two concepts of Critical Support and the National Patriotic Front are extremely visionary especially in the political and historical context of those times and are a reflection of the magnanimous nature of Cheddi as a political leader and statesman. It may be on these concepts in the 1970-79 period that he built and developed his other approaches to alliance politics and partnerships later on. It is in the 1978-79 period, he tries to open relations with other forces beyond the PNC government; he develops a working relationship with the early WPA and makes overtures to the religious leaders, the Bishops of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and the Hindu and Muslim leaders. He attempted to approach a number of small fringe parties, many of those no longer existed by the 1980-2 period. The PPP becomes an integral and accepted partner in a number of broader based groupings that emerge in the later 1970s and early 1980’s for boycotting the referendum and exposing the excesses of the PNC regime.
He led by example and convinced his party leaders to learn to sit across the table with people who may have interfered with you, assaulted you just a few days before, and, to struggle to find a forum ---a political space for discussion and common approaches on issues of mutual interest. This approach then evolves into his concept of "winner does not take all" politics. The whole concept that "winner does not take all" is in itself radical, especially in the late 1970s. That concept gained greater international acceptability only in the late 1990s and the turn of this century as a means to find ways to bring some form of working resolution to strife-ridden countries.
The assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney in 1980 was a double-edged sword; it dealt a grievous blow to the newly emerging democratic forces but it also had a galvanizing effect on them. The funeral march from Buxton to Le Repentir cemetery was a mass outpouring of thousands of Afro- and Indo- Guyanese as never seen before.
By early 1986, after the December 1985 rigged elections (the first under President Hoyte who took over on the death of President Burnham and which is considered the worst rigged election recorded !), the forces for democracy were growing and one begins to now see the visible involvement of a larger group of civil society representatives, religious bodies and progressive individuals coming on board. It is in this period that the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy is born and it is in this period that there is the formalization of this Alliance made up originally of five opposition parties (the PPP, the WPA, Democratic Labour Movement, The People’s Democratic Movement and the National Democratic Front) increasing to 6 parties by 1990 (The United Force and the United Republican Party) to create a united basis for the restoration of democracy and free and fair elections.
It is through this grouping that Cheddi hoped that he may be able to foster an electoral alliance and that maybe this grouping can form a new government. He knew fully well that the PPP on its own could win the majority of votes and form the government at a free and fair elections but he was concerned about the sustainability of that government , and whether that government would be allowed to govern if it could not win the confidence of all citizens.
The attempts at achieving this, however, failed abysmally, not because of Cheddi or the PPP and l want to go on record for saying this for whatever its worth. I was the secretary and the spokesperson of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy in those days. I read many articles being written about the PCD and the cause of its dissolution and its failure to progress to an electoral alliance from an alliance to win free and fair elections. The history of the PCD is still to be written and in fact, the history of all the many attempts at building alliances and partnerships in Guyana over 50 years is still outstanding and waiting to be written!
But it is within the PCD where the story emanated of when Cheddi meets with members of civil society and political leaders in 1991--where Cheddi and the broader democratic forces were interested in examining many formulae of power sharing in what the new government would look like---Cheddi is told that "we know the PPP can win but the police and the army because they are predominantly black will never accept nor support you, Jagan. They will revolt and therefore you should not be President." In a flash of a second, Cheddi turned to the group and said, "If not me then maybe Dr. Roger Luncheon because he is a leader of our party. I don’t have to be the President" and that is when the famous rebuttal is made that Roger may be black but he is red ! And so the ideological issue was as much a concern for some people in those days as was the ethnic one. The talks collapsed amongst the 6 parties in the PCD in 1991 because the proposal made by the WPA that they would accept Cheddi as President in the new government but that the PPP should occupy only 13% of the seats regardless of what it had won at the polls and that all the other seats would be divided amongst the other parties in the then opposition.
Amazingly, shortly after the PCD failed to become an electoral alliance, a new grouping was created by civil society and some political parties called GUARD. One of the spokespersons GUARD was promoting as a new leader is a Mr. Samuel Hinds, a person who has no political allegiance, an unknown person in the political realm and unknown in Georgetown. He was a well respected engineer and technical director of LINMINE, the bauxite company.
Although Cheddi was not deterred by the collapse of the PCD, he still wanted to further his belief that a "winner does not take all" approach to the upcoming elections in 1991 (later postponed to October 1992) was the best option to build confidence and unity in a post-free and fair elections government and thereby allow for a more peaceful transition. He therefore attempts to bring in new forces into discussions with him in the hope of finding an alternative to the PCD. Thus he approaches Sam Hinds to meet him.
It must be remembered that this individual is not known to the party leadership. However, what is significant is that a very special relationship evolves between these two gentlemen based on mutual trust and admiration. They are both men of integrity. It is through the meeting of these two men with others and some new individuals that a new concept of an alliance of individuals lending support to the PPP’s leadership evolves. Hence the PPP/Civic is born made up of individuals, some former members of the PNC, some were officials in Burnham’s government, some were formerly members of other parties in the past. It is an alliance of individuals who decide to support Cheddi for President and the PPP in government. The PPP/C is born in 1991 and supported by the PPP Congress in Georgetown in that year. The Congress goes further and supports the combination of Cheddi Jagan for President and Sam Hinds as the Prime Ministerial candidate. Thus, a new political tradition is born at this point of naming the two top candidates which was never done before and which is now copied by other political parties in subsequent elections.
The significance of the Party Congress supporting this rather magnanimous inclusion of unknown forces should be underlined and is a reflection not only of Cheddi’s persuasive powers but also a reflection of the level of political maturity of its members.
It is this Alliance, devoid of any formality, memorandum of understanding or formulae that is Cheddi’s special creation. After what is now twelve years and 11 years in government, the PPP/C is still alive and kicking. It is still strong and it defies logic as it continues to have no formal structure. It is a unique and special form of alliance as it is based on unwritten values, ethics and a common understanding. This concept was not only implemented at the national level for central government but also at the regional level in the 1992 elections. The genesis and history of PPP/Civic as a government needs to written as there is no other such type of government in the world.
And so, in fact, in the PPP/C you have not only "winner does not take all" but you have representatives and persons who came from other parties who now form one unit, one government, in which they bring in their own views, their own ideological political interests and so on and their own constituencies and their own class interests. It is also one model of inclusive government and power-sharing. It is a very, very special arrangement which I don’t think many people understand; people think that it is something very formal. Ironically, its success lies in its very informality as it is a dynamic and flexible union of individuals with a very large mass party that can bring in the votes that has created something special in the history of our country and I believe in the annals of political history in the world. This was Cheddi Jagan’s creation which has gone unrecognized.
The PPP/Civic is further developed and expanded when at the first local government elections in 20 years the lists of candidates for the municipal and Neighbourhood Councils encompassed individuals that were not PPP members. In the appointment of state boards, this inclusion is expanded.
It is also important to illustrate Cheddi’s method and style of decision making. Did Cheddi just say he had an idea, a new proposal and come to his leadership and just say okay guys, tomorrow we’ll be going with a National Patriotic Front approach , or winner does not take all or PPP/C ? One of the most complex issues with Cheddi Jagan is not only his process of his thinking but also the process of decision making and the two were intertwined. He was guided by his political world view which was based on a number of universal values of humanitarianism and equality, of justice, and of sustainable human development. This meant that in the process of deduction in which he would analyze a given situation he always sought to find out why did this happen, what were the reasons for it, how could it be changed, what were the repercussions , what were possible solutions down the road. It was in this process of deduction and his thinking aloud that it was probably some of the most exciting periods to be around him because that’s when he wanted to talk, that’s when he wanted to bounce ideas and through polemical discussions test his opinions. This style of coming to conclusions continued when he was President.
For example, before we got into Government in 1992, he created a number of committees on various areas of importance to help craft our positions/policies in anticipation that the PPP/C would win government. There were committees on the environment, on bauxite, on electricity and energy, on national resources and the economy and so on. The members of these small committees cum think tanks were comprised of a broad cross-section of technical people, both in and outside the PPP/C including overseas Guyanese who lent their expertise to Cheddi. He wanted that when the PPP/C got into government we would be able to move Guyana forward as quickly as possible. And so it is that interesting period of 1991 to 1992, in particular, you find a range of people who were very close to the former government or who were working with the government sharing their expertise in order to bring change to their country.
It is because of his insistence of always embracing and creating openings for outsiders that l referred to my experience when l met him in Toronto. What I realized in later years was that in fact he was always looking for a political opening, an opening for many people whether they believed in the PPP or not, that there was space for them once they were patriots and wanted to help Guyana move forward. And so, when he would have an idea or a different proposal he wanted to make he would go through this kind of sounding with different people including people within his party involving formal levels of the party. Let me tell you he did not always win all the battles but the wonderful thing is that once he was sure that he was right he would bring all his persuasive skills and intellectual knowledge to bear; he believed that the more information he gave the more people could understand the complexity of the situation. If his idea or proposal was defeated or failed to convince his leadership, he would do a tactical retreat and come back a few months later ready to answer the concerns of his comrades and try again to win them over and many of those times he did succeed. But he never won an argument by reminding people that he was the General Secretary and the Leader. I never witnessed that!
There are so many other issues to talk about but l have focused on this democratic approach to decision-making as it was an integral part of what was instilled in the PPP, it was also instilled in how the PPP/C took office.
I recall his speech at his inauguration as President on October 9th, 1992 where he committed himself and the government to a process to restore democracy in Guyana and the process of reconstructing our country and developing Guyana and making it a model for the region and the world.
In office he wanted to bring change as quickly as possible; and sometimes, I think that at a certain stage, it was if time was going too quickly for him. I will always think in hindsight that it was as if an inner clock was telling him that his time was coming to an end. He was healthier than many physically and mentally, but, it was almost as if some clock was warning him that time was going. In the last year before he died he became impatient with getting the machinery of government to move faster and to bring changes quicker.
Probably one of the most wonderful things for him was the public apology by Arthur Schlesinger, junior (former advisor to President J. F. Kennedy) for what was done to Cheddi in the 1960s by the American Government. This vindication of Cheddi was long in coming; in fact all of us were delighted that it finally had been said. He was so pleased and I remembered him having a delightfully mischievous smile on his face that day.
In government he had to confront many issues of a country which was near collapse, a treasury that was empty, an economy near collapse, a dilapidated infrastructure and broken-down health and education sectors. He was expected to find answers. And he had to find funds to finance the reconstruction of the economy, society and political life of the country. He had to come to terms with his own political world view in relation to the IMF and privatization of state entities; this posed challenges to his own world view. But he was no ideologue as some would wish to portray him; he confronted the reality of the country and choices he had to make and negotiated for the best that he could obtain from the international financial institutions without selling out his country or people as other leaders were compelled to do. In doing so, he coined the phrase which became part of the parlance of the PPP/C in government of "walking between the raindrops", always hoping that raindrops were well spaced to allow for as much maneuverability as possible.
He was convinced that the PPP/C would lead in making Parliament a truly deliberative forum and address constitutional reform, particularly what was known as the "Burnham’s presidential imperial powers". The latter he started in 1995-1996 after many delays as the PNC opposition was not interested at that time in amending the constitution. They only became champions for constitutional reform after he died and after the December 1997 elections which they lost.
In conclusion, Cheddi educated the entire nation and raised their political consciousness so that even today Guyanese are considered the most politically conscious population in the region. He influenced an entire generation of young leaders in the Caribbean; he cultivated and encouraged young Caribbean leaders such as Tim Hector, Maurice Bishop, Rosie Douglas, Dr. R. Gonsalves, and many others. Unfortunately Rosie, Tim and Maurice are no longer with us.
He loved to have political debates with young people; he was invigorated by the energy and passion of young people within his party and outside who challenged him. He was not afraid to be challenged; in fact he loved a challenge as this gave him an opportunity to present his views and arguments.
On the softer side, Cheddi loved being with children. I remember always a certain period when Cheddi and I had some major disagreements and we had some ding dong differences and he knew that I was upset and angry. But later that day as it was his day off and it was during the July-August holidays, he stopped and picked up my children and other comrades’ children and took them all swimming. Of course when I came home my children were sun-burnt and happy and delighted to be with Cheddi and Cheddi the President! After that how could l be angry with him? This was the way between him and I that we had our own forgiveness.
My children up to day remember the fun they had on these swimming days with Cheddi, and l am glad they and other children got the opportunity to know him, the person.
Over these years the fundamental qualities of his personality remained steadfast.
When I look back over the six years since his death there have been retrogressive shifts in global politics and the global economy and yet so much is still valid about what he spoke about. We have to fight to strengthen multilateralism at the global level and to continue to struggle for equitable trade relations and less onerous conditions for developing countries. The world has changed and yet in some ways it has not changed.
Last night I was looking at the television and stunned by the horror of war where people can from their living rooms watch a war unfolding with each bomb that is dropped. War has become sanitized like a video game or war movie. I listened to the journalists and wonder about what kind of world we are living in which has become so insensitive or desensitized to the horrors of war, and I can hear as I was writing and watching this in my mind, what Cheddi would have to say about this.
Cheddi Jagan was of the ilk of a generation of leaders such as Mandela in South Africa, Lumumba in Congo, Allende in Chile, Fidel Castro in Cuba and Njumo in Namibia and many others at a period in history which produced some of the most outstanding leaders in the developing world. For Cheddi after 28 years in opposition to return and win at its first free and fair elections was historic and rarely accomplished. This was a testimony to the leader and statesman he was; his relevance and universality to the Guyanese people.
Many have tried and still try to fit him into a category-- Communist, Marxist-Leninist etc. But in life as in death, his political thinking and writings and style of leadership defies categorization. He was a visionary who was compelled to offer solutions to end injustice and exploitation globally, to restore democratic rule and reconstruct a nation that had been battered at all levels – economically, politically, ethnically and culturally. No other leader in Guyana’s history thus far struggled so consistently to find mechanisms to unite the nation both when he was outside and inside government. His political thinking, writing and actions record these efforts over 5 decades. His entire life was dedicated unequivocally and unstintingly to driving these processes for change and unity.
The overwhelming love and respect by Guyanese throughout this nation for this dignified and charismatic leader unfolded beyond anyone’s imagination at his passing and at his funeral.
The nation was better for having had this born leader in its presence for over 5 decades. This is Cheddi Jagan’s life testimony that will be there forever as an example to the next generation of leaders.
BY HON. CLEMENT J. ROHEE, M.P.MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS
Comrades and Friends,
The year 2007 marked the 60th Anniversary of Dr. Jagan’s entry into the National Assembly of this country.
I chose to speak on the topic Dr. Jagan – His Life and Work in the 1947 Legislative Council” on this occasion for two reasons.
Firstly, because I did not contribute to the debate in the National Assembly when a Motion on this matter was debated there (in December 2007).
Secondly, having done some extensive research on the 1948 period of Dr. Jagan’s life and work in the Legislative Council as it was known at that time, I did not want that research to go wasted.
Comrades and Friends,
The Legislative Council that Dr. Jagan entered at that time was an institution dominated by the representatives of the Colonial power and the local elite; it was an institution of a class power combination with one sole purpose for its existence and that was; to perpetuate colonial rule and to make it more sophisticated and acceptable to the working people, the poor and the powerless in the Colony.
However, long before Dr. Jagan entered the hallowed Chambers of the foreign and local elite he knew very well what the situation was at that time in those Chambers.
In fact, it was because he chose to challenge the status quo and the powers that obtained at the time that he won the support of his constituents to represent them in belly of the monster.
I am convinced more than ever that were it not for men like Dr Jagan supported by ordinary working men and women, as well as the farmers the history of Guyana’s struggle for independence would have been quite different.
History is replete with examples across the world that demonstrate where men and in some cases, women, who chose to “storm the Bastille” as it were, rocked the foundations of the status quo and caused political tsunamis to wash away an already decaying colonial and imperialist rule thus opening up the way to the political independence of their countries.
Dr. Cheddi Jagan was one of such men.
It is important that we speak over and over again about the life and work of outstanding Leaders such as Dr. Jagan. If we, who are better acquainted with the facts, do not do so, the modern day revisionists of history together with those who, by way of their daily letters and columns, seek to create doubts in the minds of new generations about these worthy men’s contributions to the independence and post independence struggles for their country’s political, social and economic development, will eventually dominate contemporary philosophical and political thought in our country.
Even in his time, Dr. Jagan had cause to wage battle against such reactionary philosophical and political thinking though of different hues and shades. One such reactionary belief and practice at that time was that women should “know their place” and not seek to “step out of line” so to speak.’
Here is what Dr. Jagan had to say in the Legislative Council about the role and place of women in society way back in 1948.
“I think it is certainly a denial of rights to women in British Guiana, in not permitting them to take their place as jurors in the Colony. In most progressive countries in the world today women have been given the right to sit as jurors and I do not see why we should not give them the same right in British Guiana”.
Comrades and Friends,
About a month ago we approved the estimates and expenditure for the financial expenditures for financial year 2008 as presented in the 2008 Budget. Sixty years ago during consideration of the estimates for the financial year 1948 Dr. Jagan had cause to demonstrate his principled but flexible stand on certain issues;
Here’s what he said;
“I am a new Member of this Council and a lot of things might slip by now because, as the Hon, The First Nominated Member said, I am not properly informed, but I am going to make it my duty to get myself properly informed and if I find that these officers are not pulling their weight, I shall object very strongly to their appointment. Many of them are only pushing pens and the time has come when they must stop doing that. They are drawing tremendous salaries, compared with people working on roads and other places for an average of about $1 dollar per day. Only a few days ago some gangs working on the East Coast roads were reduced because there was not sufficient money to pay them. I will permit the estimates to be passed as they are now, but I want to see results in future.”
In a rather interesting exchange of views concerning the hours of work of the Legislative Council during the debate on the estimates, the various class interests of the Members were revealed. Here is a sampling of the said discussion;
MR FERNANDES: " I am sorry, I am going to oppose the holding of evening sessions, since I would like to get a certain amount of sleep. I work hard during the day and I would not like to come here and fall asleep. I would not like to hear that I was asleep when a particular thing was being discussed. I am quite willing to find the time to come during the day although I am always very busy. I am a racing man -- I have an interest in a horse which is running to-day – but yet I am here."
DR JAGAN: "All of us are not businessmen; some of us are professional men and work by appointment. I have already made my appointments for tomorrow and some for other days. Some of us have to make a living and we are quite willing to devote our time to the work of this Council if it would be also convenient for us to serve ourselves and the people outside. I therefore support the suggestion that we should meet in the evening in view of the fact that we have cricket and horse-racing on.”
Comrades and Friends,
Dr. Jagan had no doubt in his mind about the need to prioritize developmental issues within a National Budget.
He insisted in medical and educational matters being given priority and when the Colonial authorities through the Colonial Treasurer sought to remove a large sum of money that was allocated for Adult Education Dr. Jagan opposed the move stating:
DR JAGAN: "In referring to the question of Magistrates a few minutes ago, Your Excellency stressed the fact that we did not have sufficient money to appoint another at present, as we have to look into the question of additional expenditure. It is for that reason, I take exception to the establishment of a Volunteer Corps at a cost of $28,488 as proposed here. I am of the opinion that we in British Guiana do not need such a Corps because the British West Indian Colonies are outposts of the American Empire and there is no need for Great Britain to police the world, especially if the United States has the atom bomb and things of that kind”
When pressed by the local bourgeoisie in the House to explain his statement that the British West Indian Colonies are “outposts of the American Empire” .Dr. Jagan maintained his view stating;
“I say we should do first things first, but if we have a lot of money to waste by all means waste it, but we have other necessary things to do. I feel that I must support the Hon. Member for Essequibo River (Mr. Lee) in his suggestion that technical training of our young people is more important than mere physical exercises and discipline. Members are aware of the fact that children leaving school to-day cannot find employment. It is not discipline they want but jobs – something to do with their hands. It is the responsibility of Government to provide the wherewithal. I am not objecting just for the sake of objecting; I am objecting to this sum being spent because I feel it is unnecessary.”
Comrades, Dr. Jagan’s life work as a member of the Legislative Council was always under scrutiny by the suspicious elite and ruling classes in the Colony who came prepared to “shoot down” any suggestion they perceived as radical and contrary to their bourgeois class interest and philosophical outlook.
Listen to the words of the Colonial Treasurer:
The COLONIAL TREASURER: “ Sir, the Hon. Member has his own peculiar philosophy of life, which I now begin to appreciate and which prevents him from seeing or hearing or knowing any good about any of the things which are accepted by us in this Colony as the basis of our life.”
Now let me read to you an excerpt of Dr. Jagan’s response to this classical colonial approach to life and the livelihood of its subjects;
“My philosophy was questioned a few moments ago. The question is whether our philosophy of the present day is any better than that of the Indians. It is true that the Indians live in a primitive set-up in the sense that they do not produce as much, but I want to say that they have nothing to learn from our present day philosophy. What we need to do is to accept the philosophy of the Indians, the philosophy of Communism and living together and co-operating to the “extent of increased production”. What are we doing? We are taking our cut-throat philosophy to the Indians (laughter). Some of us may pat ourselves on the shoulder and say that we are doing marvelous work. Others may question my philosophy of life, but I want to know whether our philosophy of life is any better than the primitive philosophy of the Indians. I have grave doubts about it”.
That Dr. Jagan was concerned about the welfare and well-being of the small man and sought to use the Parliament as a forum to advance their interests was reflected in a debate on the subject of Pensions and Gratuities in 1947 in the Legislative Council.
Dr. Jagan opposed the use of public funds as contributions to certain upper class institutions which he felt made no contribution whatsoever to National Development and proposed that the said funds be used to increase the wages for lower paid workers. This is how he put it;
“I desire to draw attention to item 50 – Grant in aid to Local Forces Rifle Club, $480; item 52 –Grant to West India Committee, $51; and item 54 – Contribution towards British Society, Haiti, $24. I agree that these items are small, but from the point of view of principle, I would like to object to them because I am taking up the cause of persons who are receiving very small salaries in this Colony. In going through the Estimates I notice that persons like messengers, janitors and others are only receiving between $24 to $28 per month. Yesterday I had to take up the case of the Collecting Officers under the heading of Magistrates”
Comrades and Friends,
On the subject of Education, the Hansard of the Legislative Council reflect very lively and fierce debates between Dr. Jagan and the upholders of the Colonial status quo as the latter fought on the one hand to maintain and consolidate a system that was aimed at preserving certain values and beliefs imported from the Colonial metropolis whereas the former sought to challenge the status quo and open up new vistas in education for the younger generation. This is how Dr. Jagan put it;
“We find, however, hundreds of students always taking the Junior or Senior Cambridge examination which in the end does not mean anything to them except giving them certificates, which they could hang on the walls of their homes. I attended Queen’s College as a boy and I can say that when I left there I hardly knew anything which would have enabled me to earn a decent livelihood. In fact, I can go so far as to say that when I left there all I wanted was to get a clerical job. That is the orientation in British Guiana – to get a clerical job, or something of the kind, but we all know that clerical jobs are limited in number – and Government should see to it that this state of affairs be not allowed to continue – permitting students to take examinations only to find at the end of their studies that there are no jobs to be obtained. These poor people are spending about $20,000 yearly to take these examinations and I think the time has come when we must stop this drain on the income of the Colony”.
Dr. Jagan went on;
“I am very skeptical of the curriculum of the secondary schools because I do not feel it is laying a foundation which would tend towards independence of mind of the individual acquiring that education. I repeat, Government should take steps to see that more emphasis is laid in future on the technical and the practical sides of education. There should be more emphasis on agriculture as the Hon. Member for Georgetown North has said, and it should have preference over things that are purely cultural”.
On lighter note, during a debate on the Bill proposing increases in taxes, the debate had to do with the merits and demerits of taxation on rum.
This is what Dr. Jagan had to say;
“ I am in general agreement with what the Hon. Member has just said. My fear about these tax proposals is that they will be borne primarily by the small man.
My argument is that Government has chosen to impose further taxation on the small man while the big man who can afford to pay more at this time has been left out.
When I referred to rum as being the poor man’s drink, I was referring to the question of what he can afford to buy. The Hon. Member who has just taken his seat can afford to buy whisky and gin and other things”.
Now, between March 12 and 17, 1947 a marathon debate took place in the Legislative Council on the subject of closer association of the British West Indian Colonies, what was popularly referred to in those days as Federation. In winding up his lengthy contribution to the debate, this is how Dr. Jagan concluded;
“But nevertheless as a British Guianese and one interested in the welfare of the masses in British Guiana, I must speak first in the interest of the people here even if it may affect in some way the interest of the people of Great Britain, I may also state that I am not in agreement with the proposed federation – closer union or closer association – as enunciated by the vested interests. That would merely mean the pooling of a few services and leaving the Colonies to be the swimming pool of outside capital. My view of federation is that we should have a strong federal body which would have certain powers delegated to it by the several units – a strong federal body having that power with Dominion status, and with each of the units having internal self-government. That is the federation with which I am in agreement”.
Among other issues debated in the Legislative Council at that time were, developing Hydro-electric power in British Guiana, conducting Hydro-electricity surveys, land settlement and land settlement allowances for converting cane lands into rice lands as well as the Cooperative Societies Bill.
In all these debates, Dr. Jagan made lucid and sterling contributions.
Last but not least I refer to an exciting and exhaustive debate on the question of Adult Suffrage.
Here are Dr. Jagan’s views in summary;
“The situation remains the same today even though we find that in England and other progressive countries, because of the advance of democracy and democratic principles, the people have been given universal adult suffrage. The situation remains the same in British Guiana so far as income and property qualifications are concerned, but the time has arrived when, if we are to carry out the tenets of Democracy, I feel the people of this Colony should be given the right to vote when they reach the responsible age which is said to be 21 years. In certain countries I know that period of 21 years is highly contested. In the Soviet Union the age of voting is 18 years. I also have information that our neighbours in Venezuela have also fixed the age of 18 years for the exercise of the franchise. I remember when I was in the Untied States during the war there was a hue and cry for voting at the age of 18 years. The slogan was “If you can fight at 18 you can vote at 18” I certainly feel that in British Guiana we can do no less than to give the people the right to vote when they have reached the age of 21 years”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At this point of my presentation, I am sure you will agree with me that from all I have said so far about Dr. Jagan’s life and work in the 1947 Legislative Council it is now necessary that I draw certain conclusions and seek to establish the relevance of those conclusions in the context of present day social, economic and political realities obtaining in our country today.
The first conclusion I would like to draw is that Dr. Jagan’s contribution to the Legislative Council in those days impacted significantly on awakening the political consciousness of the Guyanese working people across the country.
Secondly, it was the first time ever that the poor and oppressed had a voice in the hallowed chambers of the Legislative Council to represent them in such an articulate and authoritative manner.
Thirdly, even though the colonial powers controlled the majority of seats in the Legislative Council and at most sittings voted down Dr. Jagan’s motions and/or amendments to motions moved by others, what mattered most to the people was not so much how the majority of votes were cast, but the force of argument and the effective use of the Legislative Council as a people’s tribune for exposing the class nature of the colonial policies and its machinations to keep the people in colonial bondage.
Fourthly, from my research it is noteworthy to learn how Dr. Jagan won tremendous support for the many enlightened positions he took to the Legislative Council and how in turn he lent support to motions tabled by representatives from other Constituencies as a means of building alliances on an issue by issue basis.
Fifthly, it is clear from Dr. Jagan’s contributions that he was a fierce defender and champion of the working people. In fact, he was extremely biased in this respect so much so that he attracted equally biased criticism and hostility from those who defended the status quo and their colonial masters.
This brings us to the sixth conclusion which is that the Legislative Council in those days had become another forum from where the class struggle and the battle of ideas were to be fought.
The point however is that these features were not only characteristic of Dr. Jagan’s life and work in the 1947 Legislative Council, in fact they were characteristic of his life and work way beyond that period up to the time of his death.
This is a very important lesson for our young people to bear in mind. That is, to always be consistent in your beliefs and to ensure that they are well grounded in the people whom you look to for support.
As we reflect on the life and work of Dr. Jagan in the 1947 Legislative Council, it is important that we consider where we are today in light of the ideological philosophical and political foundations he laid down during the halcyon days of the struggle against colonial domination.
Nowadays, it is not unusual to read and hear comments about how our Party has moved away from what Dr Jagan stood for.
The “PPP watchers” and “Freedom Houseologists” pin various labels on the Party and its Leaders to make us appear to be what they would like us to be
And it is interesting to note that they are divided in their opinion. Some think that we are no longer what we used to be while Dr. Jagan was alive. Others claim that we haven’t changed at all and that we are still the same. What is the truth?
Sometime after assuming Office Dr. Jagan had pointed out that the Government and ruling PPP must walk carefully and skillfully between compromise and transformation. That is to say; to conform with the conditionalities of the donor community but at the sametime to transform the country taking into consideration what we inherited from the PNC when we took over.
The difficult task of transforming while conforming is reflected in the Minister of Finance’ Budget Speeches. For example in 2007 the Theme of the Budget Speech was “Transforming Guyana Through Modernization and Partnership”, while this year the Theme was; “Staying the Course - Advancing the Transformation Agenda”.
But let us return to the search for the truth; Have we changed or not?
The first truth is that the majority of Guyanese agree with our policies. This was reflected in the number of votes we received at General and Regional elections. In 1992 we won 54% of the votes. In 1997 we won 55.4% of the votes and in 2006, we won 56.9% of the votes. Further, these results show that contrary to what our detractors say the PPP is a truly national party and not an Indian Party.
Some years ago Dr. Jagan pointed out that Indians in Guyana did not support him because he was Indian, rather they supported him because he fought for those who were oppressed and exploited.
Following its formation in 1950, the PPP fought against the local landlords, money lenders, shopkeepers and rice millers most of whom were Indians. The Party also associated itself with the sugar workers and fought against their exploitation by the sugar barons which exploded from time to time and in a fundamental way in 1947 with the Enmore Martyrs.
Thus the question can very well be asked why didn’t the Indian population at the time support the Luckhoo’s, the Jainarine Singh’s, the Latchmansingh”s and Balram Singh Rai most of whom were already famous long before Dr. Jagan returned to Guyana in 1943. Nobody knew Dr. Jagan when he returned. These persons came from prestigious families but did not support the ordinary working people.
Thus to say that the PPP is an Indian Party is a total falsehood. In fact, the then British and the American Administrations did not remove the PPP and install the PNC because of race, it was never a question of race. What they did was to use race to conceal their ideological and cold war objectives.
In Epilogue III to the West on Trial Dr. Jagan pointed out:
“We do not share the view that politics in Guyana is cast in rigid racial/ethnic compartments and that allegiances would never change”
He went on to add;
" It is this false assumption that led to the prediction that we could not win a majority at the 1992 elections. Had race/ethnicity been the only factor, the PPP would not have polled 54 percent of the votes."
This view proved to be true in the 1997 elections when Janet Jagan won 55.4% of the votes and in 2001 when Bharrat Jagdeo won 56.9% of the votes
Why was this so?
Firstly, this is so because our policies and programmes have made a significant impact at improving the standard of living of the working people of Guyana.
Secondly, as a Party of the working people we continue to ensure that our ideology is translated into actionable projects to bring immense benefits to our people particularly in the social sector, such as in the health, education, housing and the water sectors.
These are the very objectives that Dr. Jagan fought for in his time but it is only now with his Party in power for the longest period ever in its history that his dreams are close to reality the tremendous odds notwithstanding.
Side by side with the successful realization of these programmes the PPP true to the beliefs of Dr. Jagan, continue to exert every effort to consolidate democracy in Guyana and to ensure that the major tenets of good governance are upheld as part and parcel of the democratic process.
One of the overriding factors that must be taken into account as we assess where we are now, and how we come to be at this juncture of our country’s history is the fact that as a Party we still maintain a mass style of work.
Such a style of work is indispensable because we are a mass Party with mass support.
Moreover, we are a Party with majority ideas – a true reflection of the type of Party Dr. Jagan always wanted.
The PPP has come a far way since Dr. Jagan’s time in 1947. Three years before he and his colleagues established the Party.
Since then to now the Party has been in office for four and a half months in 1953; then for a period of seven years from 1957 to 1964. And now for fourteen years - the longest period ever in its history.
While in the opposition, the Party has been subjected to witch-hunting, floor-crossings, betrayals, harassment, attempts at liquidation, etc both at the national and international levels.
But by April 1990, the intellectual author who master-minded the machinations and manoeuvres to oust Dr. Jagan from office was bold and mature enough to say he was sorry for what he did to Dr. Jagan in 1947 to keep him out of office.
To this day, the PNC, the principal beneficiary from these machinations and manoeuvres has not seen the wisdom as yet to apologize for all the wrong doings they did to keep the PPP out of office since 1964. But this should come as no surprise since it is not their nature to do so.
Today, we still have in our midst certain elements who, for self serving reasons talk about “discrimination” and “marginalization” of Afro-Guyanese – a myth which flies in the face of the Guyanese reality.
I recently dealt with this matter in a letter I wrote to the daily news papers.
Dr. Jagan and the PPP had their detractors, critics and cynics in his time.
Today, a new generation of critics and cynics have emerged they infest the print and electronic media and use it to belch their propaganda of hate, prejudice and race, principally against the PPP and its present crop of Leaders – followers of Dr. Jagan. One of those critics was bold enough to say that he will continue to fight the PPP from his dying bed.
From such hostile elements we in the PPP cannot and should not expect otherwise. In the circumstances, ours is the task to continue the struggle on all fronts in and out of Government, in and out of Parliament, from the highways and the byways, in every street, every neighbourhood, every village, every community in every Region throughout Guyana. The voice of the PPP must be heard. And not just heard, it must be heard loud and clear as Dr. Jagan’s was during his time in the 1947 Legislative Council.
In this regard, I believe the best tribute we can pay to the memory and the legacy of Dr. Jagan is to do the following.
First, to keep working hard to advance national cohesion, racial and working peoples’ unity. The objective is to create a National Democratic State for the purpose of preserving the interests of the Nation, to save it from marginalization as a consequence of increasing trade liberalization and globalization.
Second, we must continue the fight against the pernicious and hostile propaganda being peddled by certain anti-PPP elements, politicians, social activists, and newspaper columnists who continue to push the myth that Afro Guyanese are being “marginalized” and “discriminated” against, it is nothing but a blatant lie that is being repeated over and over again, and that is why we can never stop exposing it for what it is worth, a mere fallacy.
In this respect I close by quoting from a speech by Dr. Jagan at an activity in Toronto, Canada on October 30, 1996
“So I said, "You in the opposition now have rights we never had." The PNC Government did not sign the Optional Protocol to the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Without signing that Protocol we did not have the right, I say "we", meaning individuals or organizations in Guyana, whatever they may be, to go to the UN Commission on Human Rights to put any case of discrimination, or to invite them to Guyana to investigate it. But we signed it. If we had skeletons in the cupboard, why would we sign it? Or, if we want to practice discrimination, why would we sign it? We signed it and I said, "Don't make propaganda. Go to the UN;; invite them to come; put your case to them! The OAS too, has a Human Rights Committee; go to them and ask them to come and investigate!"
I say this because as we see it, we cannot go down the road of discrimination because all we will be doing is sowing seeds of discord. You cannot marginalize any section of a country. If you do it, it is going to explode some time or the other”.
Comrades and Friends,
We all know that it is against the PPP’s ideological and philosophical convictions to consciously discriminate and marginalize any section of the Guyanese society.
The PPP/C Administration has never and will never engage in such malpractices.
If this is not so then why and how come this lie has become a reality for some so much so that it has now been elevated to a “cause” for which some are said to be pursuing by force of arms,.
The first point we need to note is that it was the PNC who started this campaign during the time of Desmond Hoyte. Thus it first begun as a political ploy used to leverage concessions from the Government.
The second point we need to note is that like every political ploy used by the PNC, this one had racial connotations; i.e. the Indian PPP/C Administration “discriminating” and “marginalizing” the Afro-Guyanese. It was an appeal to ethnic and racial insecurity as well as a call to ethnocentrism which is to view one’s own group as the center of everything. That ‘they the Indians are taking away and depriving “us” of the right to exist and therefore the frustration/ aggression syndrome which if skillfully and politically exploited could be a useful weapon in the hands of politicians who see no other means of achieving political power other than using such situations to their advantage.
Comrades and Friends,
This analysis can go on and on, but I wouldn’t. The most I can ask you to do is to stay tuned.
The political, ideological and philosophical convictions on which Dr Jagan started out in 1947 are still valid in today’s context. We can do him no greater service but to cherish his convictions and beliefs and to work hard to make them more and more relevant to our day to day activities.
Long live the Memory, the Life and Work of Cheddi Jagan.
I thank you!
Remembering Cheddi - National Unity Should be the
March 5, 2003 Guyana Chronicle
The world over, people campaign to change unjust systems or to support a cause that they feel strongly about. In Guyana, Cheddi Jagan was one such person. Throughout his life he fought to create a better world for each and every Guyanese and, in so doing, he made a very significant contribution to this nation’s history.
It is the supreme test of man’s character to overcome the trials of adversity and disaster. This, Dr. Jagan understood only too well, for his life was an exquisite statement of struggle, first as a child; then as a student; as a nationalist; a political leader and finally, as Guyana esteemed statesman.
In the hostile colonial environment in which the natural progression of his country was first frustrated and subsequently truncated by the Anglo-American Alliance, to the cruel travesty of twenty eight years in the political opposition, Dr. Jagan confronted unquestionable adversity yet he was forever optimistic, convinced that history and time were always on the side of the just.
Six years after his death there are undoubtedly many things on which we might choose to dwell. There was firstly the man himself- committed, honest, and compassionate. Then there was the contemplative scholar and reflective leader, forever thoughtful and analytical, discussing, advocating and, of course, writing. There was also the anti-colonial firebrand and nationalist political leader, ever championing the twin causes of the anti-colonial struggle and the national liberation process. There was, as well, the compassionate internationalist stridently advocating the cause of the dispossessed the world over.
Dr Jagan’s philosophical ideas and political actions constituted the foundation on which this nation was originally conceptualized. They were the well spring, the very seminal essence of the great man. Every Guyanese, great or small, understood where Dr Jagan stood. They knew that he felt their pain and their hunger. That he shared their hopes and aspirations and that he was committed to creating a better Guyana for them, their children and their children’s children. A society in which all were equal and were treated as equals. A society in which there was a place for the fullest development of their peculiar attributes. In Guyana, Dr Jagan was the most powerful voice for the poor, the dispossessed and ‘the wretched of the earth’.
Dr Jagan, has made a distinguished contribution, in theory and practice, to the transformation of the political culture, the termination of British imperial hegemony and the beginnings of the development of a modern independent state in Guyana. While there are other roles and contributions for which he will be revered, it is truly through his political leadership and for the formation of the Guyana state that he will be remembered by future generations in his own country and the world far beyond it.
It is apposite that we also remember his preoccupation with creating, facilitating and sustaining the process of national unity. It was his belief that unity was the primary means of attaining peace, progress and prosperity and he never stopped searching for ways and means of molding the classes and races into a strong and united Guyana. It is a sad but necessary commentary that with his passing this nation has been plunged into the abyss of ethic rancour and civil unrest.
The issue here must be the continuing quest for national unity. Certainly if we are truly convinced that Dr Jagan deserves the respect of this nation, and there will be few to deny that he does, then certainly Guyana owes it to his memory to redouble our efforts to ensure that national unity once again enjoys the type of priority he would have preferred.
by Hydar Ally
Guyana will be host to the Rio Summit in the latter part of this month which will bring together hemispheric leaders to the capital city of Georgetown. The Summit will take place immediately after the conclusion of the Mashramani celebrations, which has now become something of a national cultural institution.
And before the dust of Mashramani and the Rio Summit dust will have settled, there would be ‘the mother’ of all sporting activities- World Cup Cricket- which the country would be host to. Already the profile of the city and its environs are undergoing changes with the emergence of several new hotels and restaurants. Streets and avenues are being resurfaced and drains and canals are made free of vegetation and overgrowth.
Apart from World Cup Cricket which will obviously take centre stage especially as we come closer to the World Cup matches in the latter part of March and the first week of April, there will be yet another set of activities which are no less significant in the political calendar of Guyana and that is the commemoration of the life and death of the Father of the Guyanese nation, the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, undoubtedly the greatest of all political leaders that the country has ever seen.
The PPP has already set up a Committee headed by Mr. Navin Chanderpal to plan activities in observance of this historic occasion. March this year would mark the 10th anniversary since the passing of this great leader, one who has dedicated almost his entire life to the service of the Guyanese people and for that matter the wider international community.
This year will also mark the 60th anniversary since the entry of Dr. Jagan to the Legislative Assembly. Dr. Jagan, at age 29, became the youngest member of the Legislative Assembly and has consistently been a member of the Assembly for two brief periods when the PPP was removed from government during the 1953-1957 periods and again during the late 1973-1975 period when the PPP boycotted the National Assembly after the PNC regime massively rigged the elections of 1973.
It was the resilience and fortitude of Dr. Jagan to combat injustice and oppression that distinguished him from other politicians of his period. Immediately upon his entry into the legislature, Dr. Jagan took a class position on issues and was never afraid to lend his voice on their behalf. As he mentioned in his book “The West on Trial,” he brought a “new dimension to politics, one in which the streets were taken to the legislature, and the legislature to the streets.” For the first time the working people had a genuine voice and a true friend in the highest decision-making forum of the colony.
Because of the preponderance of pro-business interests in the Legislature he did not manage to get his way on many issues he represented on behalf of the working class. But he did not give up. He continued to oppose and expose the intrigues of the Colonial Office and the plutocracy to deny the working people a decent and dignified life.
Convinced that his efforts to win concessions for the working people could not be achieved without a strong political constituency, he was instrumental in forming the People’s Progressive Party which this year will observe its 57th year since its formation on January 1950.
The PPP has never departed from its class positions. It has consistently defended the working people during its years in the political opposition and promoting their class interests during its tenure in office. This is why the PPP has been so successful at the polls. It has demonstrated over the years that it has the capacity to deliver on its Manifesto promises.
The strength of the PPP is due in no small measure to the exemplary qualities of Dr. Jagan and his commitment and dedication to the cause of the ordinary people. Dr. Jagan was able to influence and win over men and women of character and resolve who were united in their desire to see a democratic and prosperous Guyana. Foremost among these was his wife Janet Jagan who was also a guiding light in the formation and development of the PPP.
There are other outstanding leaders as well. Among these are Ashton Chase, HJM Hubbard, Reepu Daman Persaud, Brindley Benn, Boysie Ramkarran among others. Janet Jagan, Ralph Ramkarran, Brindley Benn and Reepu Daman Persaud are still around today, having given decades of selfless and dedicated struggles to the cause of a better Guyana.
Interestingly, there are now second and third generation leaders who are today serving in leadership positions in the Party and government. Ralph Ramkarran, the current Speaker of the National Assembly is the son of Boysie Ramkarran and is a leading member of the PPP. He is a member of the Central and Executive member of the PPP. Robeson Benn, Minister of Public Works and Communications are the son of Brindley and Patricia Benn, both of whom were leading members of the Party especially during the 1960’s.
I would like to take the opportunity of this column to extend profound condolescences to the family, relatives and friends of Comrade Monica Benn who passed on a few days ago. Monica, like her father, mother, and brother was an ardent member and supporter of the PPP.
Guyanese are indeed fortunate to have had leaders of the caliber of Dr. Cheddi Jagan and Janet Jagan, people who have given of their entire lives in service to the cause of the country and its people.
Printed in Mirror Feb 24, 2007
By Eddi Rodney
Guyana Chronicle March 17, 2003
DR. ODEEN Ishmael’s feature tribute, “Cheddi Jagan’s ideas will live on” must certainly be considered as one of the most lucid and comprehensive accounts of the political contribution of this truly remarkable and great man.
Cheddi Jagan’s involvement in politics, it should be recalled, did not commence in a serious, profound way in the country of his birth. Whatever influence his parents, especially his father (Jagan) would have had in the political sensibility would have been one where ‘mati’ solidarity was contrasted with the principle to “work hard” and make the life different to “state”.
It was whilst he lived and worked as a student in the United States at Howard and thereafter the Northwestern University Dental School, that the Guyanese radical embarked on his political activities.
JAGAN & DIALECTICS
When Dr. Ishmael asserts, “It was Cheddi Jagan who started the fight for the political Independence of the colonial territories in the Caribbean”, he is in fact reminding us that the colonial project was a gigantic hemispheric experience. That the “colonial powers” reproduced imperialist systems that were carved out of monopoly capital, its financial cartelization, industrial revolutions as well as massive plunder and bloodshed.
That system was designed to keep the ‘natives’ in bondage. And Cheddi Jagan chose consciously to link his ideas with those of the most advanced thinkers and intellectuals who he could become associated with.
Throughout his political life even the phase after 1992 he would refer to dialectics. A term that he used to define and analyze phenomena and complex change processes.
At another level his studies of Darwinian concepts of biology coupled with the historical perspectives of the American historian Charles Beard, would have created a vast reservoir of scientific as well as quasi-scientific and petit bourgeois philosophy and functionalism.
Cheddi Jagan, it should be noted, did not study in British institutions. This fact may have had at least a certain influence in the way the British ruling class regarded Jagan’s Marxism.
The British government and the Colonial Office (Churchill/McMillan - Duncan Sandys and Peter Thorneycroft etal) may have had the authority of the Westminster system; a trait that clearly was the force majeure for most people. But not Cheddi Jagan.
He always understood that these political leaders represented the interests of imperialist conglomerates such as Unilever, British Steel, ICI, Tate & Lyle and British Petroleum (BP). He understood the role that the Bookers transnational played in support of the colonial elite - all of whom were bitterly opposed to any notion of political rights and power for the working class.
JAGAN AND AMERICAN LIBERALISM, CONSERVATISM AND DIXIECRAT ATTUTUDES
Dr. Odeen Ishmael as this country’s UN Ambassador would have been at the very centre of the efforts to restore and stabilize the functions of his heart and other vital human organs; two - three weeks after February 14, 1997. Other tributes and accounts of this final period of Cheddi Jagan’s life have referred to how the hospital staff - doctors and nurses at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre endeared themselves to Cheddi Jagan.
Dr. Ishmael describes aspects of that final phase in the Guyanese leader’s fight.
“As his physical strength waned (the attending physicians) could not help admiring the fighting qualities of our legendary leader - qualities that his political friends and foes alike can attest to.”
Again to learn how profound this experience would have been for these physicians many of whom would have accumulated professional attributes in similar traditional disciplines separated by the generations as those that sustained Cheddi Jagan at Howard and Northwestern University, we must probe how Cheddi Jagan viewed the “objective circumstances” that determined life in the United States.
In many ways the kind of life contributions of intellectuals and social activists such as Claude Mckay (Jamaican born poet, writer and civil rights personality), Paul Robeson, whose greatness demonstrated how it was possible to overcome official ostracism and persecution, as well as Langston Hughes and WEB Dubois, would have shaped the way Cheddi Jagan interpreted the realities that he himself experienced whilst living and working in different ethnic communities in America.
Whilst at Howard University, the leading black educational institution of that period, Cheddi Jagan never failed to become involved in what were actually ‘campus debates’. There were also off-campus activities that enriched his understanding of American society.
He had the opportunity to come under the influence of professor Sinha, an Indian exile (Nadira Jagan, 1998:33). From all accounts including that provided in The West On Trial, Dr. Sinha enabled the young Jagan to master the art of building and elaborating a political programme. It is not known whether Sinha was Marxist.
However it is very clear that in the final analysis Cheddi Jagan came to understand what it meant to make that historical option and chose the Marxist option - the scientifically socialist view of World civilizations.
At the theoretical level Cheddi Jagan studied the methods of recording factual data as practised by Prof. Herbert Aptheker, perhaps the most erudite of all America professors of Negro history. In fact when I read Cheddi Jagan’s “Straight Talk” as well as his “Forbidden Freedom” and “Bitter Sugar”, there is that ‘scholasticism’ and influence that Aptheker represented in his regular articles; many of which were published in journals such as Opportunity and the Journal of Negro History in the 1938 - 42 period prior to America’s entry into WW11.
Perhaps after the collapse of the 1950s West Indian Federation Cheddi Jagan realized that the very same perspective he had set out to his amigo Orrin Dummett in September 1942 had to be revisited if his people were to gain liberation.
This anti-colonial element of Cheddi Jagan and his understanding of the historical value of solidarity in the struggle against that oppressive social system is brought out by Dr. Ishmael when he writes:
“His epic struggle against the might of the British Empire is legendary and he was glorified by anti-colonialists and freedom fighters all over the world.”
This is certainly true. However as Cheddi Jagan himself has recorded it, the initial confrontation between the young (Hegelian) Jagan took place inside the United States during the Depression years of the 1930’s. This was the period of Roosevelt/Wallace years that led to the New Deal as a political and eco-social instrument for reform in American capitalism.
It was here that he experienced racial discrimination; learnt what it was like to be victimized by institutionalized racist legislation and had to evolve a “survival strategy adequate to meet the demands of the pre-Mc Carthyite period in the US.
POSSIBILITIES FOR GANDHISM
Nadira Jagan-Brancier in her researches of her father’s life work has observed his private expressions of solidarity in a correspondence written to his friend Orrin Dummett. It is dated September 4, 1942.
“At present I am brushing up on a book of pulmonary tuberculosis. I agree with you that the South and its prejudices will have to go. Now is the time for the Negro population to demand equality, and to see that the Atlantic Charter materializes and bear fruit at home. Now is the time for all suppressed and minority groups to demand not only theoretical but also practical equality, so that the common foe will be resisted by all on an equal footing. It is only in this light can the civil disobedience campaign of Gandhi be viewed. How can a country or people be asked to fight for something they do not possess? To ask the Indians or for that matter anyone else, to fight for the four freedoms, when those principles of the Atlantic Charter are denied them is morally invalid. Britain is fighting to liberate Poles, Czechs, Greeks and what not, but the liberation or countries under its own clothes are out of the question. Yes my friend, war is more murderous and bloody but at the same time, it initiates changes - changes that are necessary for us. History is in the making whether anyone likes it or not.
There has been an awakening - the status quo that was, is gone. Yes, now is the time for us to organize, to lobby, and to make propaganda and demands for new changes can be most rapid and to our benefit. To be poor is a crime, but to be ambitious is a sin. You have to do things which you otherwise do not care to do. Finance, social and economic status have influenced me so much that were I to write an autobiography, I would perhaps call it ‘The Struggle of Complaisances’.”
Nadira Jagan-Brancier, 1998:34
Was the young Cheddi Jagan so much impressed by the autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru “Towards Freedom” that he had already chosen an anti-British model that could be reference point for his own subjugated countrymen?
by Navin Chandarpal
Excerpts from speeches made to staff, and students at secondary schools on the Essequibo Coast on Dr. Jagan’s birthday, March 22, 2000.
Today we observe the 82nd Birth Anniversary of the Father of our Nation, the late President Dr. Cheddi Jagan.
Dr. Jagan spent more than fifty years of his very productive life serving the people of our country. He initiated the struggle for political independence, established the first mass based political party, won the first general elections under universal adult suffrage, headed the government prior to independence for seven years, sustained, in very difficult conditions the struggle against the PNC dictatorship and served for the last four years of his life as the first democratically elected Executive President of Guyana.
Through all of these times, he displayed a tremendous capacity for reading, research, writing and public speaking at forums ranging from the street corners to official forums 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 deep informed content of his message.
His message was always based on conviction. While he was indeed a superb academic, he spoke from the heart. And his greatest weapons were his honesty, consistency and persistence.
Dr. Jagan wrote and spoke profusely and profoundly on a wider range of issues. These will cover many volumes under several groupings. But in all that he said there were some common threads reflective of the principles for which he stood without wavering for more than half of a century.
His mission can be summarised as a desire on a global scale to have a world of peace in which the relations between states is based on justice and equality and at the national level to have a democratic state with an equitable system of distribution of the wealth generated from the efficient use of our resources.
During his short, but very fruitful period as Executive President, Dr. Jagan was able to further develop these ideals in a more comprehensive form through his advocacy at the international level of a New Global Human Order and his steering of the rebuilding process which began with the restoration of democracy on October 5, 1992 in the direction of building a National Democratic State.
Our celebration of Dr. Jagan’s birthday today is the last in this century and this millennium. The next March 22nd will be in the 21st century and the 3rd millennium. The change of century and millennium is indeed an occasion for stock taking and renewal of goals. It is most appropriate therefore for us to reflect today on some ideas which Dr. Jagan has left for our guidance as we seek to shape our future.
Half way in his Presidency - two years and two months after October l992 and two years and two months before he left for hospital in February 1997, the 25th Congress of the Peoples Progressive Party was held in December 1994. It was the only Party Congress which was held while he served as President. Dr. Jagan made two major speeches. He made the address at the opening session which was public and he delivered the report of the Central Committee. Congress is the highest level of decision making in the PPP. It sets out policy guidelines for the party. And the 25th Congress in l994 formally endorsed Dr. Jagan’s proposals for the Campaign for a New Global Human Order and the establishment of a National Democratic State.
There is no better way of understanding Dr. Jagan’s message than to consider his own words. The following are extracts from Comrade Cheddi’s opening address and the Central Committee Report to the l994 Congress of the PPP.
On the New Global Human Order:-
(1) "The world needs a new strategy, a new agenda for sustainable development. In doing so, we will not only have to analyse our concrete situation but also to take note of the world practice in this period of globalisation."
(2) "The trickle down process of modernised capitalism is not working. The gap between the rich .. ‘the haves’ and the poor ..’the have-nots’, the excluded’ .. is widening in both the North and the South. And the gap between the North and the South is ever widening. This is perverse, it must be stopped"
(3) "The PPP maintains that social justice must prevail in the relationship between states and also within the national state."
(4) Scientists tell us that it is possible to halve the incidence of global hunger by the year 2000.
It is necessary to shift from the treatment of the symptoms to the root causes and to demonstrate the political will to harness Science and Technology in the service of humanity.
(5) We need through the advancement and application of Science and Technology, not only to alleviate poverty worldwide, but also to guarantee a generally high material standard of living. But this would be possible only if an efficient and just system of allocation and distribution of wealth as well as resources was put in place both within and between nations.
(6) "I am assured that there exists the political goodwill to construct a new order where the privacy of human development is the guiding principle.
Preparing a peaceful and orderly transition to the twenty-first century is compelling."
(To be continued)