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Articles by Janet Jagan 2002-2003

The Dialogue Should Continue

by Janet Jagan (May 2002)

The crime situation in Guyana has been commented upon by representatives of two embassies in Guyana, the United States Ambassador Mr Ronald Godard and the Canadian High Commissioner Mr Serge Marcoux. Both have decried the crime wave and the fact that it has not been condemned by all sectors of our society. Mr Godard remarked that this has been treated almost like a "legitimate subject for debate."

Both envoys pointed to the obvious fact that Guyana is a democratic society that depends on the rule of law for its existence. And both promised assistance if requested.

All of what they had to say is true and a lot depends on restoring balance and good sense to the awful happenings at the crime level. Can there be any justification for the horrendous escape by the five prisoners and the subsequent deaths that have taken place? The politicisation of all these happenings since the Mashramani breakout from the Georgetown Prison has poisoned the atmosphere and prevented some thinking and reasonable attitudes. Surely the whole of Guyanese society should be backing the Police in their efforts to apprehend the criminals. These are no "Robin Hood" bandits, but those hardened in the criminal world of guns, drugs and robbery.

Maybe the US Ambassador and the Canadian High Commissioner should urge their governments to stop sending highly-trained and hardened criminals back to Guyana because they were born here. Maybe there should be a limit to the time they have lived in North America and learned their trade so well. Most went abroad as children or adolescents, innocent when they left, but something else when deported to Guyana. That might ease our problems.

But I agree with the US Ambassador that the dialogue should continue. When we examine the reasons used by Mr Hoyte and his party for refusing to continue the dialogue, it is really difficult to find a rational excuse. Everyone knows that this "pause in the dialogue" and the boycott of Parliament, as well as all the other distasteful things going on are part of a political game that hasn't changed very much in the last 40 years.

It happens whenever the PPP is in office. There was a dialogue initiated by Dr Jagan when he was Premier in the 1961-64 period, but it was not continued. Instead, violence was used as the best means of ousting the PPP and hoisting the PNC into office. That game of violence resurged after the PPP won office legitimately in 1992, 1997 and 2001. For those who like to say "plague on both houses," historical records tell the truth.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


A Guyanese Success Story

by Janet Jagan

Agriculture forms the base of our economy. This is a truism and very important for our future. Unless we discover offshore oil when finally the issue is settled between Guyana and Suriname, we will, no doubt, settle mainly to develop the agricultural sector. With oil of course, we could go easier into manufacturing, as Trinidad has done with rich supplies of oil and gas. We can also look forward in the future to cheap energy when we harness, as we will, one of our waterfalls.

Agriculture has been the mainstay of our economy with sugar and rice forming the vital sector of our economy. Diversification has been a principle of the PPP/Civic government and this has begun to produce results. We are now self sufficient in chickens and eggs and we should be entering the export market for both, soon. We have been successfully exporting pineapples, mainly from the Canals Polder. Recently we exported a large amount of sweet potatoes to the UK. We are shipping bora, pawpaw, limes, melons, plantains, cassava and pineapples to the Caribbean, presently to Trinidad and Barbados. This should soon expand to other Caribbean countries. Exports of fruits and vegetables have doubled this year alone.

Fish is being exported to North America and our markets there are expanding. Beef is a product that has great possibilities. We used to have a good export market for beef. I remember when I was in the Cabinet of the 1951-61 PPP government, we had a healthy beef export business then.

Unfortunately, the boost given to agriculture, livestock and fisheries when the PPP was in office in the 50s and 60s had a crooked landing when the PNC took over. At that time the copra and coffee industries were growing. I remember that we had a robust programme of encouraging farming. We gave out thousands of coconut plants; we gave crop bonuses to farmers who diversified; we had a heifer plan where a farmer was given a cow and the first calf produced was given back to the government to have a revolving scheme. Many cattle farmers began small in this manner and gradually built herds, although the basic idea was to have fresh and available milk for the children of the household.

We were later saddled with foot-and-mouth disease which prevented Guyana from exporting beef. Only recently did we leap over that hurdle and now we are free of that impediment. With mad cow disease present in Europe, this is a good time to get back into the beef export market.

I can remember, too, the tremendous success of the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) which purchased farmers' produce, paid promptly and sold them to low-income urban working people at a low price, eliminating the middle men. But the PNC ruined all that. Farmers would have to wait for long periods of payment for goods supplied and eventually gave up selling to the GMC, reverting to the middlemen with both farmers and consumers losing. But that was how the PNC operated. And soon, agriculture was in the decline.

It was revived after 1992 by the PPP/Civic which placed greater emphasis on agriculture, livestock and fisheries. More agriculture land has been distributed in the period after 1992. The Guyana Marketing Corporation has been revived to a New Guyana Marketing Corporation which is again purchasing farmers' produce and helping diversify, as well as assisting in the marketing of processed agri-goods. It encourages Guyanese to "buy local" and to appreciate our local products in the face of a barrage of imported foods that are mainly luxuries and increase the cost of living.

Of course, we have much to learn and have to strive for quality and consistent production if we want to maintain a thriving export market. New methods, new techniques have to be learnt - packaging, preservation, presentation, uniformity are all necessary for success.

During this Agriculture Month, Guyanese can be proud of our successes and achievements in the short span of time that progress began - from 1992 to the present. It is a Guyanese success story! 

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Notes from Canada

by Janet Jagan (August 2002)

I am writing from the home of my daughter Nadira. Looking at her library the other day, I came across a beautifully illustrated book "India – a Wealth of Diversity" edited by Arif Ali, published in 1997. In the selection on the Indian Diaspora (Indians living in other parts of the world), attention is given to what Indians have done in various parts of the world. It focused on South Africa where Indian immigrants including Mahatma Gandhi and many others led the struggle against apartheid. The text reads - "This is equally the story of Indians everywhere in the diaspora, invariably identifying themselves with the struggles of their nations for freedom and justice."

What follows is a statement that all Guyanese should cherish and feel pride in – "However, history and circumstances singled out Guyana to produce the diaspora’s greatest son. Dr. Cheddi Jagan, the President of Guyana, who died in 1997, was a statesman of world stature, a socialist, anti-racist and anti-colonial warrior of the noblest kind."

These few words place in perspective, in the global view, the relevance of Cheddi Jagan’s life. There are those who for whatever reason, would not want to accept this evaluation. However it is foolish to reject the hero stature of Cheddi Jagan and not feel the pride of having had in our midst a person of international recognition, a man who selflessly served his country and its people.

Most truly great leaders have had to live through endless persecution, vile attacks and hatred. Witness the travails of Nehru, Gandhi, Mandela, Bolivar, Allende, Nyerere and others, who were finally revered and respected by history and their people.

I have been following the media closely while in Canada and find that there are many similarities as well as differences, to that which exists in Guyana. Some of the newspapers are carrying out what I would term strident attacks on the Prime Minister Jean Chretian, demanding his resignation. Some of the comments and attacks are downright petty and unreasonable. The differences to what we experience in Guyana in the anti-PPP/Civic campaign are a matter of quality or decency. While the Canadian anti-government attacks are frequently vicious, they are not vile, degrading and vulgar as are those we hear and read in Guyana.

So the PPP/Civic is not alone in being the pivot of media attacks. It exists in many countries and is part of what is tolerated in democracies. What many seem to forget is that it was only in 1992 when the PNC lost office in free and fair elections that the right to speak out and voice opinions without fear of reprisals began to exist again. I wonder if those who accuse the PPP/Civic of denying human rights have lost their memories.

  Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Blessed are the peacemakers

by Janet Jagan (2003)

Lined against the most powerful military machine in the history of the world and proclaiming peace instead of war are some of the most influential people and important countries.

The man who has pushed the hardest for peace and who has withstood tremendous pressures is French President Jacque Chirac. Along with the Chancellor of Germany, the two have led Europe’s anti-war campaign. Both nations also hold important seats in the United Nations Security Council which is a key element in the struggle to prevent an armed attack on Iraq.

Certainly, Canada’s Jean Chretien deserves praise for his forthright stand against his powerful neighbour, the USA. He strongly criticised the US call for the removal of President Saddam Hussein and asked if the ending of Saddam’s rule was part of the UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which deals with disarmament.

Another neighbour of the USA, Mexico, is taking an anti-war stance. Anyone knowing US methods, must appreciate the courage of these two bordering states to go against the colossus that dominates the Western Hemisphere.

What will Turkey do? The people and their representatives in Parliament are against the presence of US troops on their soil. Yet their leaders, with eyes dazzled by US dollars are willing to take on the troops and make an invasion easier, since Turkey borders Iraq.

As the likelihood of war gets closer, more nations are expressing their abhorrence of war. Russia, China, Japan are three important countries which have taken strong positions against war on Iraq. Russia has expressed the view that the US and UK keep changing the rules and despite what they say, are already attacking Iraq in their flights over the ‘no fly zone’ in Southern Iraq.

It is of interest to note that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair took a beating in the House of Commons recently when 120 Labour MP’s voted against his motion on Iraq. Blair promised not to commit British military to any involvement without first getting consent of the House of Commons. How does Blair account for the fact that British aircraft are bombing Iraq along with US planes in the ‘no fly zone,’ killing civilians and attacking defence targets of Iraq? Irate MP’s have asked this same question.

The USA has considerably influenced the United Nations Weapons Inspectors who now seem to be taking orders from the USA. In the beginning, Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix had said he takes orders from the UN, not the USA. However, now, the pressures on him seem successful and he is in the process of clearing Iraq of any weapons of self-defence, in the wake of the constant promises by the USA that it will attack Iraq, whatever.

The USA has every weapon of mass destruction ever invented and will bomb Iraq and its people to oblivion. We saw the devastation in Afghanistan. What it will do in Iraq will be far greater.

One can only wonder why Iraq has been pinpointed for destruction. Apparently during the Clinton era, it was not considered a threat. Mr. Bush has not succeeded in persuading anyone that Saddam was linked to the September 11, 2001 attack on New York and Washington. No one loves the Iraq regime, yet why should it be the pivot of all the war plans of the USA?

We must be grateful for the presence of peacemakers throughout the world - the Jimmy Carters, the Nelson Mandelas, the Pope, Jacque Chirac and the millions of ordinary people everywhere who have marched in protest of war! Blessed are the peacemakers!

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009