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Articles by Janet Jagan 2000-2001

The Birth of the PPP 50 years ago

by Janet Jagan

January 1, 1950 was the birth of the People's Progressive Party. Thus, on January 1, 2000, the PPP celebrates its 50th anniversary.

This was the day of the transfer from the Political Affairs Committee, (PAC) born in 1946 with the aim of forming a political party, to the PPP. The PAC Bulletin, published monthly from 1946 then became Thunder, official organ of the new party.

During 1949, talks began within the PAC and friends/members of the PAC to achieve its goal of forming a political party whose objectives would be the attainment of independence for the Colony of British Guiana and establishment of socialist ideals as the path of liberation from imperialism and colonial rule.

There gathered, during the months of 1949, a number of persons who formulated the policy, structure and forms for the new party. These included Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan, Sydney King (now Eusi Kwayana), Ram Karran, Martin Carter, Ashton Chase, Rudy Luck, Ivo Cendrecourt, F. O. Van Sertima, Fred Bowman, Pandit S. Misir, and later, Forbes Burnham.

Dr. Cheddi Jagan, speaking on the Party’s 25th anniversary stated the principles and aims of the PPP - " The PPP was born in struggle and rooted in the working class. The bullets which snuffed out the lives of the Enmore Martyrs acted as a catalyst agent. And the betrayal of the workers by the opportunists and band waggoners of the Labour Party set the seal for the birth of the PPP in 1950.. We fought for freedom, democracy, human rights and socialism. We strove untiringly of national independence. At the very beginning we declared that our people would never be able to exercise their humanity unless our country was free from colonial rule and foreign domination.. But ours was not just a struggle in abstraction. We combined the long term with the immediate. If we were to realise our goals of independence and socialism, we must have democracy," he declared.

He also said, 25 years ago, and so true today – "It is time to say that in Guyana today there is no important facet of life which the PPP did not pioneer : education, health, banking, etc."

When the PPP was being organised and formulated in 1949, the Party’s name was chosen, the name of the official organ of the Party, Thunder, was selected from a famous poem by the English poet William Morris – "Hark, the rolling of the Thunder." The colour of the Party flag were agreed upon - black, red and gold – black for the difficult period of hardships and pain; red for struggle against tyranny and injustice and gold for the new day following the struggles. The Party’s song, written by Sydney King was chosen and the Party’s symbol, two hands breaking the chains of colonialism and imperialism was agreed to.

After Mr. Burnham’s return to Guiana from studies in England, he joined the group formulating a new party in the latter part of 1949. Due to the existing ethnic division and tension, it was agreed that the Party would have two leaders, from each of the two major ethnic groups. Thus it was that Forbes Burnham was chosen to be the Chairman of the PPP and Cheddi Jagan the Leader. This decision was given the official stamp when the first Congress was held in 1951.

Shortly after the formation of the PPP on January 1, 1950 the Party printed its aims and programme in the April 1950 edition of the Thunder. In essence it stated:
"After scores of years of British rule and misrule, of trials and errors, of Constitutional experimentation British Guiana is in great peril. Our people continue to exist on the borderline of starvation. …there has been no organised group speaking with the voice of Guianese of all races and classes championing the cause of the oppressed and exploited and presenting a constructive policy and programme as a hope to guide us out of our present abyss of poverty, despair and frustration…

The Party pledges itself to the task of winning a free and independent Guiana.
The statement also declared:

"The Party will strive for the unity of workers, farmers, progressive businessmen, professionals, civil servants and the cooperation of all social groups."

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


PPP/Civic kept it's promise to the Guyana's Children

by Janet Jagan 2000

"'Children First' is the motto of the PPP/Civic government. In all our decisions and actions, the PPP/Civic takes the position that the welfare and future of Guyana's children is foremost in all considerations. That is so because of the realisation that without healthy, well-educated and happy children, the nation cannot enter the 21st century with hope that we will progress and have real development."

When we examine the meaning of "children first" and the PPP/Civic's strong and real commitment to this motto, we can understand better why it is that the PPP/Civic stands high in its determination to wipe out all racial and religious divisions in our society. When we concentrate on the betterment of the nation's children, it is clear and certain that there is no favouritism or discrimination, because children are children of all races, religion, of both genders and from all walks of life. There may be two sets of children who require special attention; these are special children with particular difficulties, with disabilities, both physical and mental, and those children whose parents are suffering from poverty.

Thus the very concept of "children first" eliminates any prejudices, any form of discrimination, any form of favouritism or any religious or racial bias.

The PPP/Civic government can be proud of what it is doing to better the lives of Guyana's children. The greatest emphasis has been placed on education and health.

A special and very successful programme of vaccination has been carried our throughout the length and breadth of Guyana to ensure that children are protected from some very dangerous childhood diseases. Guyana has one of the best records of vaccination in this hemisphere and stands high in the international bodies that monitor this vaccination programme.

Guyana has been able to reduce by half the infant mortality rate (the number of infants per 100 births who die) since coming into office. It has reduced the death rate of pregnant women at the time of birth. It has reduced the rate of malnutrition and has provided health care for children in the urban and coastal areas of Guyana and riverain and interior areas, which were formerly grossly neglected by the previous regime.

In the sphere of education, the PPP/Civic government has tackled with vigour the serious task of restoring our educational system that once stood solid. It has rebuilt the dilapidated school buildings, so shockingly ignored by the Burnham-Hoyte regime which helped wreck our educational system during its disastrous 28 years in office.

The opponents of this government say that the state of school buildings is not of much significance in establishing a high educational level, but this is not true. Children have greater difficulties learning under poor physical conditions. Soon to reach the 200 mark, schools have been renewed and new schools built.

The other aspects of upgrading our education system, which, before the PNC took over rated the highest in the Caribbean, are the stepping-up training of teachers, so necessary for good education, the equipping of schools to enhance studies, particularly in sciences, the introduction of new school books, specially designed for Guyana, the introduction of a school feeding programme for those who are in need, and as well, the provision of free school uniforms to those whose parents cannot afford. The school curriculum, distance education (broadcast to schools) and other aspects of improving education have not been ignored.

Greater attention has been given to our children living in the interior, mainly Amerindians. President's College has enrolled a substantial number of Amerindian children who are housed at its dormitories while similar dormitory provision is made available at some interior locations.

The results of all these changes and improvements are now being seen with higher attendance at school (95%), better results at examinations and other qualitative results which indicate that the emphasis on good education is now paying off.

It is also rewarding to know that the Ministry of Education is seeking to meet expectations brought about by the rapid growth of technology. In schools, there is a gradual introduction of computers so that our children can keep up with the growing technology of this period.

Yes, our children come first and will always receive the highest consideration and attention from the PPP/Civic.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Remembering The Past & Living The Present

by Janet Jagan

Mr. Hoyte has a propensity for making all sorts of allegations - - that the PPP/Civic is illegal, that there is no elected President of Guyana, that the PPP/Civic should demit office, that the electoral lists are padded and in fact, he led his Party to riots in 1997 and 1998, claiming the elections were rigged. His mouth hasn't stopped uttering the most ridiculous and far-fetched accusations. Sad to say, but the most sordid elections in the history of our beloved nation took place after he was installed as President following the death of Mr. Burnham, when he spent 7 years in office in a 5-year term.

"Sordid" is not really my word, I was using one of the words in a statement issued after the 1985 elections in which Catholic Bishop Benedict Singh, Anglican Bishop Randolph George, together with representatives of the Bar Association and the Human Rights Association condemned the elections in these words: -

"... the familiar and sordid catalogue of widespread disenfranchisement, threats, intimidations, violence and collusion by police and army personnel." These factors, they said "characterised the poll."

For those who may have any doubts about the PNC and what it has done and what it stands for, these words have a clarity and truth that should never be ignored - or as it could be said -- to ignore this warning is to put oneself at great peril!

Following these elections, the first one under the presidency of Mr. Hoyte, in which he bears the full brunt of responsibility, there were many follow-up statements of persons involved in the electoral process who felt the full brunt of the electoral fraud.

For example, Navin Chandarpaul, Presidential advisor on environment was a candidate in the 1985 elections and had rights approved by the Chief Elections Officer to enter polling stations during the poll and counting centres for Region 5.

He and another candidate were prevented from entering the Counting Centre. He was blocked at gunpoint by armed soldiers and not a single opposition agent was permitted to be present at the counting of ballots.

Many ballot boxes were held for several hours completely out of the scrutiny or sight of any opposition polling agents.

Any wonder that one of the main demands for the 1992 elections was counting of ballots at place of poll immediately after the close of poll? Sometimes we forget these terrible things that have hurt people and harmed democracy -- set us backwards for years.

Thirty-six prominent Guyanese, members of civil society, put their names to an open letter calling for free and fair elections, one vote only for each voter (some used to vote many times) and an end to an atmosphere of intimidation at elections. This was a bold move, particularly in view of the range of intimidation that was taking place at all levels.

Some 40,000 Guyanese signed a petition calling for electoral reforms. They were part and parcel of the build-up which the PPP and PCD incorporated into their campaign to end fraudulent elections. Finally, former US President Jimmy Carter, on Cheddi Jagan's request, came to Guyana and helped negotiate an end to these vile electoral practices of the PNC. Do we wonder why it is that the PNC is not happy about Carter's return?

Of course, there were many factors not mentioned in this show-down that lasted from 1990-92. One aspect we cannot ignore is the factor of the Western Hemisphere returning to democratic practices after decades of corrupt dictatorships like those existing in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, El Salvador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, etc.

Guyana was one of the last states of this hemisphere to return to democratic practices and it was this factor which also led to Carter's interest in our plight. It is more than ironic that the accused has become the accuser, like the thief, being pursued by police, points in another direction and says "he's gone that away."

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Remembering H.N. Critchlow

by Janet Jagan

The first sentence in Aston Chase's memorable and absolutely valuable A History of Trade Unionism in Guyana: 1900 to 1961 reads:- "The first trade union formed in our country is the British Guiana Labour Union. It was established on 11th January, 1919, and the principal architect behind its formation was Mr Hubert Critchlow."

Chase goes on to say that the Union was registered in July, 1922. He observed that the first set of rules indicated that its founders had in mind the promotion of the class struggle by organised methods. "The language" he writes, "unequivocally points to a basic underlining of the struggle between oppressed and oppressors; between bourgeoisie and the proletariat."

On May Day in recent years, tributes are being paid to the Father of the Trade Unionism in Guyana, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow. Flowers are placed at the foot of his statue in the grounds of Public Buildings. Critchlow deserves this homage. But it wasn't always that way.

Let me relate three incidents or occasions that I recall as if yesterday. Firstly, I became involved in the British Guiana Labour Union in the 40s and used to meet with Mr Critchlow at the Union's Headquarters which were somewhere in the Hinck Street area, the area destroyed by the PNC burnings in the 60s. We were trying to organise domestic workers, but it was a difficult task and one in which we did not succeed. Because of the nature of their work and the fact that domestic workers could be easily victimised by their employers, they were hard to organise.

In the course of this activity, I got to know this remarkable labour leader and admire his views and his aims of strengthening and building the labour movement.

I also remember an incident that took place some years later, in the 50s I believe, when Dr Jagan and I were involved in a May Day March. As we progressed through the city, going through Albertown, we saw Mr Critchlow standing at his gate, watching the parade. My husband broke ranks and walked over to the gate and spoke to Critchlow using his fond nickname of 'Skipper'. It seems that the TUC had not invited him to the May Day parade and he was left out. Cheddi put his arm around Critchlow's shoulder and said, "Come along. You belong in this march."

Cheddi and Critchlow, went to the front of the march and thus Critchlow, maybe for the last time, took part in the traditional May Day parade. The labour movement either shunned him, or forgot him!

The last incident relating to Mr Critchlow was this. While Premier Cheddi Jagan in the government he headed from 1961- 64 met the kind of troubles and violence we are experiencing today, (and for the third time since 1992) he sought to prepare a fitting tribute to H.N Critchlow. He asked the artist E.R. Burrows to sculpt a statue dedicated to Mr Critchlow. This he did and it was placed in the grounds of Parliament Buildings, where it is now. But the trade unions not only shunned this tribute, but refused to recognise it and piled vile abuse on Premier Jagan as well as the artist, Mr Burrowes.

I still have a letter written to me by Mr Burrowes who was bruised and hurt by the harsh attacks on him. He was such a kind gentleman. He did not deserve the way he was treated, all because he worked along with Cheddi Jagan. Does the scenario sound familiar?

This is what he wrote to me in 1964:- "I do not for one minute regard the many cruel insults that were hurled and are still being hurled at me with regards the statue, as being important once the people who matter appreciate the work."

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


A Remarkable Family

by Janet Jagan

Out of Guyana's history, several remarkable families have emerged. One generally thinks of the Luckhoo family in this sense.

I am thinking of another family, which contributed three much excelled men to enrich our society. I am referring to the Ramkarran family of which "Boysie" Ramkarran led the way and produced two worthwhile and talented sons - Ralph and Baynie.

Ramkarran, who had only one name and was proud of it and resisted all efforts to have the standard 2 names (some tried to divide it into Ram Karran or Boysie Ramkarran, but it never worked) was a humble man from humble parentage. When I got to know him, he was a conductor on the Georgetown-Rosignol train and an ardent trade unionist, belonging to the then powerful Transport Workers' Union.

When Cheddi Jagan began campaigning for the 1947 elections as an independent candidate for the lower East Coast Demerara seat (Kitty to Buxton), he met and engaged two persons who were to be later involved in the formation of the PPP in 1950. Ramkarran and Sydney King (later to change his name to Eusi Kwayana and to leave the Party). Ramkarran remained a loyal member to his death, becoming many things - Treasurer of the PPP, Minister of Works (1957-61) and again a Minister in the PPP government of 1961-64. He was a Member of Parliament for many years, from the time of his first appointment as a Minister through the 80s. He also became General Secretary of GAWU.

In Parliament he was known and appreciated for his sharp wit and wry humour, which even the often-bitter opposition benches enjoyed and appeared to look forward to.

Ramkarran, who was so absolutely humble, never beat his own drums. He was excessively modest and seemed to want to be unnoticed, but it was hard not to notice him because of his utter honesty, integrity and loyalty.

How proud he would be today to see his eldest son sworn in as Speaker of the National Assembly and another son, Baynie, as the most excellent and highly respected Ambassador to Venezuela! Both of these sons have followed the high standards in life set by Ramkarran. He gave these sons a good education at great sacrifices, as he never had one himself, but as a good father, did his best.

These three men, have given to their country valuable service, and Ramkarran's sons continue to uphold his good name and make their own special contributions to their native land.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Poverty And Its Elimination

by Janet Jagan

Poverty is, of course, and unfortunately, a global problem. Practically all countries of this world we live in, suffer from the scourge of poverty, even the so-called developed countries.

In Guyana, the PPP/Civic government, despite violent and destructive opposition forces, has significantly reduced poverty since it took office some eight years ago.

The PPP/Civic government met horrific poverty, manifested in a high rate of infant and maternal deaths, serious malnutrition in children, horrendous housing conditions and, an inevitable expectation, widespread hopelessness. All this has changed; not to say that poverty has been abolished, but poverty has been substantially reduced.

The housing programme, for example, which no longer existed during the PNC years, began with the election of Cheddi Jagan as President.

This programme has helped alleviate poverty by providing the means for thousands to have a decent roof over their heads. The tens of thousands who squatted and lived in these slums without water or sanitation or roads now live in regularized housing areas.

The housing programme plus improved medical services, massive extension of pure water supplies and safe and clean schools have also contributed to improved conditions of life for the poor. The death rates for infants and mothers, as well as malnutrition, have been drastically reduced.

These improvements, along with a specific poverty amelioration programme by the government, have all contributed to the lowering of the level of poverty in Guyana. And all of this, despite the efforts of a ruthless opposition, was determined to stop the elected government from governing.

In his various writings on his concept of a New Global Human Order, the late President of Guyana, Cheddi Jagan, called for a reversal of the gap between the developed nations and the developing ones, between the richest and the poorest. He expressed alarm at the incidence of poverty across the globe. "Poverty", he said, "atrophies the sign and initiative of the individual and deprives the society of incalculable human resources at a critical time. Its elimination will enrich our community and release a harvest of energy and skills. If left unattended, the expansion of poverty with hunger, will undermine the fabric and security of the democratic state."

His aim was for a new global order to develop international co-operation in the humanitarian field. And his dreams are coming true as the United Nations recently adapted a resolution for the Promotion of a New Global Human Order to deal with the challenges of development and poverty eradication and to arrest the growing disparities among and within countries.

While in Guyana, we are conscious of the problems of poverty and the need to reduce further the degree of poverty, we are not alone. Most nations face the same problems.

In Canada, for example, considered to be a prosperous and wealthy nation, the Mecca of many Guyanese desiring to live abroad, poverty is a grave problem. The Toronto Star, last month reported: "In more than 100 neighbourhoods in Toronto, the poverty rate is above 30% .... In some areas of Toronto the poverty rate climbs to more than 60%".

Those who are poor are getting poorer, the number of poor is growing and the depth of poverty is growing. These latter remarks are reported by the president of a group known as the `United Way.'

The article in the Toronto Star reports that Toronto's manufacturing sector dropped from 23.7% in 1987 and 1995, thus throwing large numbers out of work.

"Poverty has grown by 67% in Toronto since 1991," states the Toronto Star. "One in every four people and one in every three children live below the poverty line - more than twice the provincial average."

Other information in the lengthy newspaper report rates the severe housing shortages in Toronto and "the highest proportion of substandard housing".

From these quotations about a country most Guyanese consider to be a prosperous one, we can see that poverty hits a section of people everywhere.

That is why a global approach, as recommended by Cheddi Jagan is necessary to tackle this serious problem of poverty, which millions of people living miserable and unhappy lives.

In Guyana, we must strive to eliminate all obstacles to the reduction and final elimination of poverty.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


The Audit Commission - Burying The False Accusations

by Janet Jagan

Now that the results of the Audit Team that was commissioned to assess the results of the March 2001 elections is out, the PPP/Civic is again vindicated.

All the rubbish accusing the PPP/Civic of not being legally and fairly elected is again laid to rest.

This is the second time that accusations leading to extensive violence by the People's National Congress (PNC) have been proved to be false and malicious. The poor-loser party used the excuse of rigged elections in 1997 and 2001 to violate the people of Guyana. The trauma suffered by thousands of Guyanese on both occasions, the attacks on local businesses and the massive ruin of property match the same violence committed by the PNC in the 1960's.

In the '60s, Mr Burnham and his crew were not satisfied they got their wish of changing the whole electoral system from first-past-the-post to proportional representation. And having succeeded under the indomitable Cheddi Jagan of having free and fair election in 1992, the PPP/Civic won overwhelmingly under proportional representation.

The PPP/Civic did even better in the 1997 election - winning the highest percentage of votes in any election, including that of 1953. And for that convincing win the PNC, supported strongly by the WPA, sought to nullify those elections on the grounds of fraud. Of course, the Audit conducted by prominent Caribbean persons proved conclusively that the elections of 1997 were above board and free and fair.

The PNC which had rigged all elections during its 28 years ruthless rule, then proceeded to try to undo the proportional representation system of voting which that party had forcibly advocated in the 1960s. The PPP/Civic had won convincingly under that system in 1992 and 1997, so as far as the PNC was concerned, it needed change.

In the Constitution Commission set up following the Herdmanston Accord, strong efforts were made to bring back elements of first-past-the-post to undermine the proportional representation system that no longer could be used under conditions of fraud to ensure that the PNC was back in government. What a ludicrous scenario!

After the violent protests over the 2001 elections, which began with claims that the PNC lost due to electoral practices that hurt that party, it soon changed its tune since no one was buying that charge and then continued the violence on charges that Afro-Guyanese were "marginalized."

The PNC failed to remember what took place during its 28 years in office.

The slogan to "feed, clothe and house the nation" was a force with agricultural production declining - forget about "clothing the nation" and whatever housing the PNC engaged in, coming to a full stop! It was the PPP/Civic which revived agriculture and started a new and vibrant housing programme that is finally coming close to solving the horrific needs of people for housing.

And, by the way, what did the PNC government ever do to make Buxton better off? The PPP/Civic did far more, restoring its roads, water, schools. The Buxton violence is incomprehensible!

Again, Guyanese have had to face the unreasonable and uncalled-for wrath of the PNC - for what? - for nothing! The Audit Report just out shows as most everyone knew, that the March 2001 elections were free and fair, as were those of 1992 and 1997. The historic riggers lost at their own game!

August 12, 2001

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009