Articles by Janet Jagan 2004
by Janet Jagan (Feb. 14, 2004)
Sometimes hindsight seems to provide better answers or decisions than those made at the time a matter arose. This is always a difficult matter to resolve. Was the decision at the time of making, correct, or has knowledge afterwards proved that the decision was wrong?
This came to mind when looking back at all the damage and hurt to the nation which has taken place by the wrong-doings, perversity, violence and sheer unadulterated hate perpetuated through the last eleven years by the People’s National Congress.
The question I ask is: Would Guyana have been better off if, instead of being kind and forgiving, the PPP/Civic led by Cheddi Jagan in 1992 had taken a different decision?
It could have gone the way of South Africa with the setting up a truth commission and bringing before the commission all those who had killed, raped, stolen, lied and swindled, taken massive bribes and wrecked the country. The commission would have had the right to cause charges to be laid against those guilty of crimes against the State and who would have to face the courts for their crimes.
Instead, and guided by our late President Cheddi Jagan, forgiveness was the decision, forgiveness in the hopes that those guilty of dastardly crimes would never repeat them and mainly as an effort to heal the nation. I stand by Dr Jagan’s hopes of healing and reconciliation as a means of bringing unity to Guyana.
However, when one considers the behaviour of the PNC in all these years, one can only wonder if the forgiveness was merely converted into a feeling that children as well as criminals sometimes get - that it is licence to behave even worse.
That is our experience so far. The lackey media - sections of the print media and TV, have conveniently forgotten everything, even what the PPP/Civic has done to rectify the evils perpetrated by the PNC, and do their damndest to vilify the PPP and provide comfort and solidarity to the wickedness of the PNC.
Is it possible to forget the violence of the 1997 and 2001 post election period, the specifics of violence against a racial group and the projection by Mr Hoyte that he would make it impossible to govern and, as well, the glorification of Mr Hoyte by the media?
Is there anyone in Guyana or the diaspora who can forget the politics of the wave of terrible crimes following the infamous jail break? Find me one person who can say, without tongue in cheek, that the PNC was not responsible for this wave of criminal violence which also had its racial context.
And now, boldly, like the thief, who is being chased by the police, points a finger and says "He’s gone that way." The thief becomes the accuser and the lackey press becomes his defender.
In my article last week about the world furor on the issue of weapons of mass destruction being a myth for ill-usage by the US and UK, I mentioned that just as President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair are now accusing faulty information as the reason for going to war in Iraq, it’s quite possible that the same will happen and the faulty or false information about phantom gangs in Guyana will turn out the same. At least the CIA and M15 made reports but in Guyana, no such reports are made, only hearsay and flimsy excuses by criminals and others within and without the PNC that they won’t make reports to the police. Only a fool could accept such a stupid excuse, and yet one sees the Stabroek News holding on to its story, telling the public that now there’s someone else who knows about the so-called phantom gang but won’t go to the police.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan (April 2004)
The escalation of conflict in Iraq also brings to closer examination quite a number of matters, all relating in one way or another to the policies of the Bush administration in the USA. There is the hearing in Washington about the 9/11 attacks on the New York Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Evidence being heard by the bipartisan panel is raising new perceptions about the ability of the Bush Cabinet and its advisers to deal with the vital information that reached the White House before the catastrophic events of 9/11/2001.
Evidence is piling up that had Bush and his advisers paid attention to the intelligence reports, something might have been done to forestall the terrorists or at least to warn the public of an impending horrific assault. Some countries are distancing themselves from the Iraq occupation.
Known as a friend of the USA, King Abdullah of Jordan said recently that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has created widespread animosity against the USA among ordinary citizens across the Middle East. He has now postponed a visit to President Bush.
Spain’s newly sworn in Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapateu branded the Iraq occupation a fiasco and will be removing Spanish troops in the near future. Honduras is also withdrawing its troops.
The whole Arab world is in anger over the Bush endorsement of the Ariel Sharon plan to leave Gaza, but not the West Bank - both areas belonging to the Palestinian people. The Plan by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon gives nothing to the Palestinian people and Bush’s support eliminates the USA as a "broker" in the matter.
Arab anger has also risen over the assassination of Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantisi and the US reaction - that Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorist acts. The Hamas leader was killed in Gaza when an Israeli military helicopter shot a missile at the car Abdel-Aziz was in.
Even the UK, which has been labeled Bush’s puppy, came out with a very strong condemnation of this act as "unlawful, unjustified and counter-productive." The European Union deemed the act "unlawful". A recent Reuters report states that Arab leaders who had predicted that a US invasion of Iraq would unleash chaos in multi-ethnic Iraq and the region now feel that their "ominous prophecy" is coming true.
The recent escalation of fighting by Shi’ite Muslims in the South and Sunni Muslims mainly in Fallujah can be termed "uprisings." However, listening to the American generals in Baghdad over TV, one would get the impression that the fighting is being carried out by terrorists and criminals. The US military have said unambiguously that they are out to kill Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who, they claim, leads a few malcontents and criminals. Despite the downplaying of the threat to stability, Reuters news reports that "tens of thousands of Shi’ites" supported Sadr in his "main power base, the Baghdad slum district of Sadr City." Sadr’s guerillas are in control of Najaf. No doubt there would be a greater upsurge of resistance to the US occupation if Sadr were captured or killed.
American military top brass, speaking to the media in Baghdad, profess that their attacks are only on the fighters, but evidence shows that the number of dead is high - some 600, of which many are civilians, children, the elderly and women. CNN showed a small child who lost a hand and a leg in Fallujah, while his grandfather who was carrying him, was killed. No matter how the generals try to downplay the upsurge in fighting, the fact remains that the USA is in serious trouble in Iraq. It has already lost more soldiers in two weeks of fighting than it did during the war on Iraq. The irony of it all - and remarked upon by the world media - is that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush, who went against the advice and rulings of the United Nations in order to rush into Iraq, now are calling on the UN to come in and save the sticky situation. This was made clear last week when the two key leaders of the "Coalition" that invaded Iraq met at the White House and called on the UN for help. Their faces should have been a bright red!
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan (May 2004)
There appears to be an on-going controversy about the matter of public holidays. The one that baffles me the most is that concerning Independence Day, May 26. The opposition PNC has never endorsed the day as a public holiday, or, for that matter, a day of any consequence.
A recent editorial in the Stabroek News also questions making Independence Day a public holiday. I would like to know what country in this world does not honour its day of independence? I doubt if there is one besides ours.
We have to dig deep into our history to find out why the PNC scorns that day and up to the year 2004, refuses to give it the recognition it deserves. The fight for Guyana’s independence began in 1950 when the PPP was formed. In its first manifesto, the party declared that its objective was the attainment of independence from Great Britain. As far as I know, that was the first time in Guyana’s history that a group of men and women came out openly with such a declaration. Among those involved in the preparation of the manifesto that declared the PPP’s objective of independence were Cheddi Jagan, Forbes Burnham, Ashton Chase, Ram Karran, Sydney King, Brindley Benn, others, including myself.
Many things happened between that time and the granting of independence in 1966. But all during those 16 years, the PPP never lowered the flag of its independence call. It used all means to strengthen the struggle against colonial rule. It held marches, vigils, demonstrations, distributed handbills, petitioned the United Nations, lobbied overseas, put motions in Parliament, held countless public meetings, members went to jail, books were written, lectures delivered and above all, the spirit of independence permeated the land.
All of this in spite of the fact that after the split in the PPP in 1955, which meant that Forbes Burnham left the PPP and later formed the PNC, he and his associates changed their position on independence. That is the core of the PNC’s present position of ignoring this important date - May 26.
I can only explain the reason for the shift in thinking of the PNC on the issue of independence this way:
1) The PNC was from Day One of its existence opposed to the idea of independence under Jagan and the PPP. That seemed ingrained in its ideology
2) The PNC has had far too long a childish way of thinking. Once the PPP advocates something, it is against it, whatever it may be. It may sound like a shallow assessment, but the reality is there, right now, to see and try to figure out.
During those 16 years of our independence struggle, the PNC was openly and at times violently opposed to independence. Their members openly attacked our picket lines and they carried banners "No Independence Under Jagan". I recall being in a picket line on the Carmichael Street side of the then Government House (now State House) when a car drove up and a big-wig PNC woman member got out with a big stick and ran towards our picket line. Fortunately one of our members, George David, fended off the stick and ushered the lady back to her car. But that was only one of many.
The PNC, in collaboration with the CIA, fomented strikes and mayhem, blood and fire, to prevent the British from proceeding with its promise of granting independence in the 60’s. The PNC manufactured the excuse for the Colonial Office.
When I was Minister of Home Affairs, from my office, I could see Forbes Burnham’s Chambers where lines of civil servants went once a week to receive the pay they lost during the strike. That’s how the strike went on so long in the 60’s.
The PNC did everything it could to prevent Guyana from becoming independent in the mid-sixties. It demanded proportional representation in order to defeat us (now, they don’t like it and are demanding that PR encompasses the constituency system - again thinking it will defeat us!) and collaborated with the British to achieve it.
Two years after manipulating the PPP out of office by PR and its short-lived coalition with the United Force, independence was granted.
Our indomitable leader Cheddi Jagan, the man with the biggest heart and greatest dignity, attended the lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the Guyana flag, despite all that had gone before to deny him that position.
I suppose all of this has left a bad taste in the mouths of the PNC, who, in office, unlike other nations, down-played, to the extreme, the day of independence and highlighted Republic Day.
I think India is a good example of how to do it. India honours both days, but no country is ashamed of its independence, except Guyana when under the PNC. And why has Stabroek News joined the PNC chorus against May 26 as a public holiday? I think your guess is the same as mine!
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
Occupation is always ugly
by Janet Jagan (May 2004)
"Occupation is always ugly," commented the Arab Director of the Al-Ahram Centre, Abdel-Moneim Said. He was speaking about President George Bush’s interview with two Arabic-language television stations on the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. The impression given by President Bush was that he did "too little too late" and neglected to apologize for the abuses. He did this later, under pressure by the poor response in the Arab world to his interview, again "too late."
I watched President Bush on Television as he gave this interview and observed his face. It was clear that he had been carefully coached on his demeanour and the usual smirk, I call it, on his face, for once was absent.
But it seems, even that and his carefully prepared cautious remarks on the prisoner abuse scandal didn’t work. The damage had been done and was unrepairable, as Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld discovered in his evidence before the joint congressional hearing on Capital Hill last week. Despite his remarkably clever defence and willingness to shoulder all the blame, obviously trying to shield his boss President Bush, he still was unable to explain how he had overlooked the significances of the reports on his desk which set out the whole story of the degrading and willful abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
In seeing the almost pornographic pictures of the abused detainees, one thing becomes clear and is probably at the root of what took place. That is the attitude of the American soldiers who committed the atrocities - that the Iraqis are not equal to their oppressors - they are of a lower level of humanity. Certainly, the awful sexual humiliations the victims were forced to suffer, the unbelievable degradation, tells its own story - almost as bad as the "Master Race" of the Nazis.
What stands out in relief in this whole horrible episode is the International Red Cross (IRC), an organization which has to be quiet, diplomatic and inoffensive in order to gain entry in any country, to places kept hidden from public scrutiny. If the IRC comes out with exposes, releases potent information publicly, it loses its opportunities to investigate and help the abused of this world.
In the case of the Iraqi prisoners, both in Iraq and others of many nationalities held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the IRC has been quietly warning the US military that prison abuses are taking place. The IRC has now quietly announced that it warned US officials of this abuse in Iraq prisons A YEAR AGO, and significantly, noted that it was not an isolated incident but a "PATTERN," a "systematic pattern of treatment to prisoners," condoned by those in charge of the prisons who supported the abuses.
We know too, and I reported in this column over a year ago, the IRC condemned the treatment of prisoners in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Messrs Bush and Rumsfeld have spoken glibly about observing the Geneva Conventions on the holding of prisoners, but have knowingly and deliberately held the 600 plus prisoners at Guantanamo Bay for over two years without recourse to lawyers or to family visits. No charges have been laid and the prisoners have no way of knowing if they will ever be released.
Reports that I quoted long ago, said that these prisoners, all Muslims, are "softened" up for lengthy periods by denial of better food, conditions, recreation, kept in solitary, etc. for interrogation. It is now believed that the dirty, abusive, sexual humiliation and even murder of prisoners in Iraq was in preparation for interrogation.
Of course, there is irony in the whole vile matter - that the US torture of prisoners took place in the very prison where Saddam Hussein tortured Iraqi prisoners.
The world’s greatest democracy faces a great challenge. To clear its name, the US has to do more than talk - it has to demonstrate in no uncertain terms that it really believes what it preaches about human rights. It has to release its prisoners in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay. It has to end its ugly occupation of Iraq that has led to the death of over 10,000 Iraqi citizens and the injuries to tens of thousands and the losses suffered by American soldiers for a lost cause, a cause that never existed.
Like Vietnam, the US has made a serious mistake in invading another country and hurting its people. The US cannot be the policeman of the world. It must care its own people, the millions living in poverty and slums and unemployment, because, however you slice it - occupation by a foreign power is always ugly, always wrong.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
Annual Exhibition "Struggle for Independence" May 24, 2004
The concept of independence for the then British Guiana burst forth in the early 1940’s in the writings of Cheddi Jagan. Before his entry to the political arena, the thought may have been enunciated in the early part of the last century, but not so clearly.
We have it in one of Dr. Jagan’s earliest writings, published in November 1945 under the title "Cooperative Way" when he wrote: " It therefore behoves the working class people to get control of government through their Constitutional ballots in our forthcoming election, with a view towards complete independence. A free and independent Guiana can easily cooperate and eventually federate with her Latin neighbours, especially Brazil." The thrust of his article then, 59 years ago, was to move to co-operatives in the transition period, and he was a strong advocate of the co-op movement. He remains unchallenged as the man who initiated the struggle for Guiana’s independence.
When the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) was formed one year later in 1946, it set out as its major goal the formation of a political party that would unite the workers to struggle for their inherent rights. The four persons who originated PAC, Ashton Chase, H.J.M. Hubbard, Cheddi Jagan and myself were all trade unionists. From our experiences and analysis, we had come, to the conclusion that the trade union movement could struggle for workers’ rights, but could not move to the larger area of struggle – against colonialism and imperialism, for constitutional changes, etc.
Thus, when the PAC fulfilled its mission and the People’s Progressive Party was formed in January 1950, its Manifesto stated:
"The People’s Progressive Party recognising that the final abolition of exploitation and oppression, of economic crises and unemployment and wars will only be achieved by the socialist reorganisation of society, pledges itself to the task of winning a free and independent Guiana …. a society in which security, plenty, peace and freedom shall be the heritage of all."
Thus began the struggle for independence. The PPP led Freedom Marches, vigils, picket lines, held demonstrations, distributed handbills, petitioned the United Nations three times, lobbied overseas, put motions in Parliament, held countless public meetings, members went to jail, books were written, lectures delivered, and above all, people learned and understood the meaning of independence and the spirit of independence permeated the land.
In the early 1950’s the PPP began a campaign for the first stage of independence – self government and carried out a country-wide signature campaign, making demands for a self-governing constitution. As a result of its agitation, the Colonial Office responded with the establishment of the Waddington Constitution Commission which came to British Guiana and held hearings. The PPP put forward specific demands for universal adult suffrage, a wholly elected legislature, a Cabinet of elected ministers and other changes.
The British then called elections under the new Constitution which introduced for the first time universal adult suffrage. At the April 1953 general elections, the PPP, despite a heated smear campaign, won an overwhelming number of seats and formed the government. For the first time in Guiana’s history, three women entered the House of Assembly – Jane Phillips Gay, Jessie Burnham and myself. For the first time, elected Guianese were ministers – Dr. Cheddi Jagan as the head of the Legislative group and Minister of Agriculture, L. F. S. Burnham as Minister of Education, Ashton Chase as Minister of Labour, Sydney King as Minister of Works, Jainaraine Singh as Minister of Local Government and Dr. Lachhmansingh as Minister of Health.
The PPP government lasted only 133 days, with the British suspending the Constitution in October 1953 and bringing British troops to occupy the country.
This was the period when the Cold War was in full swing. The removal of the PPP government came only six weeks after the British and US governments had collaborated to throw out of office Prime Minister Mossadeq of Iran who had nationalised the British owned oil refineries in Iran, and, as a consequence, lost massive sums of money that then went into the Iranian Treasury. And shortly afterwards, the Arbenz Government of Guatemala was also removed in the continued effort to rid the world of progressive governments.
There are now released secret documents from the British concerning the delegation from those opposed to the PPP in 1953, who went to England to applaud the suspension of the Constitution. The delegation included John Carter, Lionel Luckhoo, R. Kendall and businessmen Messers Fernandes and Dare, who obviously had helped to conspire to bring about the removal of the duly elected PPP government.
In the aftermath of the suspension of the Constitution, many went to jail, repressive measures were taken by the British to suppress the people, including curfews, orders restricting Party leaders, a ban on meetings, etc., and an Interim Government, hand picked by the British, despised by the population, was put in place. The British succeeded in splitting the PPP, with Mr. Burnham then forming the People’s National Congress.
When elections were eventually restored, in 1957, the PPP again won, as it did again in 1961, both times surmounting strong efforts by the British to alter constituency boundaries in order to defeat the PPP.
In December, 1961, Cheddi Jagan addressed the Fourth (Trusteeship) Committee of the United Nations, petitioning for Guiana’s independence. He said :
"We the peoples’ representative of the British Crown Colony of British Guiana would like to draw the attention of the honourable delegates to our unfortunate plight. The foundation Charter of this Honourable Assembly stands to uphold human rights and preserve and restore the dignity of man. In unmistakeable terms it advocates that political independence is the birthright of each and every country and also, that a nation ought to have the right and freedom to manage its own affairs in the light of agreed national ideals and aspirations. Unhappily, here in British Guiana colonialism has chosen a course which violates the principles set in the United Nations’ Charter, denies the Guianese masses the right to immediate political independence; and thus saps and undermines the dignity of human mind and soul, which the Honourable Assembly has been so nobly and assiduously trying to maintain."
He said further : "We want to run our national affairs, political, social and economic, according to the wishes and aspirations of our peoples and for a better Guiana." In the 18 page document, in the files of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, Dr. Jagan said he rejected the Colonial Offices’ proposals which fell short of promises given before and which would, he said, conspire to defraud the Guianese people of their birthright of being free and independent.
Dr. Jagan on July 23, 1962 addressed the Committee of 17 of the United Nations and I addressed the Special U.N. Committee of 24 on the ending of colonialism on May 8, 1964.
The Colonial Office under an agreement reached at Lancaster House in March 1960, in preparation for independence, promised full internal self government in August 1961. Under the agreement, which accepted the principle of independence, it would be necessary for the Constitution to be in force for two years prior to a request by the legislature for independence. That would mean that independence would be granted around 1963. But this was not to be.
Other forces were at work to prevent this. The notorious Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the USA and other forces were active in Guiana, funding and encouraging the political opposition and trade union groups to foment mayhem and riots in order to destabilise the legitimately elected government of the PPP led by Premier Cheddi Jagan. Their aim was to make impossible the date set for independence, and they succeeded. Hundreds of lives were lost in deliberately provoked ethnic clashes, fire and bombs were used to destroy houses and buildings putting the country into chaos. From my own experience as Minister of Home Affairs in 1963-64, I can attest to the fact that the British Commissioner of Police contributed to all of this.
A letter, recently declassified, a secret document from President John F. Kennedy dated March 6, 1962 illustrates conclusively the role of the USA in preventing independence from being achieved, as promised by the Colonial Office, for 1963.
"To: The Secretary of State
Subject: British Guiana
No final decision will be taken on our policy toward British Guiana and the Jagan government until (a) the Secretary of State has a chance to discuss the matter with Lord Munster in Geneva, and (b) Hugh Fraser completes his on-the-spot survey in British Guiana for the Colonial Office.
The questions which we must answer before we reach our decision include the following:
1. Can Great Britain be persuaded to delay independence for a year?
2. If Great Britain refuses to delay the date of independence would a new election before independence be possible? If so, would Jagan win or lose? If he lost, what was the alternative?
3. What are the possibilities and limitations of United States action in the situation?
While all these manipulations were taking place, and under what was extreme US pressure, the British changed its plans, cut one year off the PPP’s term of office, which went up to 1965, introduced proportional representation as yet another ploy to prevent the PPP from holding office, and called elections for 1964. The PNC campaigned under the slogan of "No Independence Under Jagan," both in 1961 and 1964, showing its limited interest in supporting independence unless on its terms.
Whilst the PPP won the largest number of votes of any single party, it did not receive an overall majority. This set in place the stage for the coalition of the PNC and the United Force, which then formed the government.
Seventeen months later, Independence was granted and at the flag lowering ceremony, which despite all that had gone before, Dr. Jagan, his son and his former Finance Minister Dr. Charles Jacob, Jr., attended. Guyana’s flag was raised on May 26, 1966 and we became an Independent nation.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
What a Record!
by Janet Jagan (June 5, 2004)
Montalembert, a 19th century scholar said in 1863, this: "To judge the past, and really know what one is talking about, it is necessary to have lived the past. To condemn the past, one needs only to feel that one owes nothing to it."
That quotation passed through my mind when I read the PNC/Reform statement on Independence. The contents struck me as being in conflict with the reality and truth of the past.
The first is the PNC’s claim that "it is proud of the central role it played in achieving political independence for Guyana in 1966." In one sense it is true - in that the PNC struggled very hard and played every trick in the deck to ensure that independence did not arrive when it was out of office. They joined all forces, including working with and taking funds for dirty work from the CIA in order to delay independence.
The delay in independence, scheduled for 1963 when the PPP was in office under Premier Cheddi Jagan, satisfied the PNC, the United Force, the US government and the British Colonial Office. The PNC election slogan tells how much it supported independence — "No Independence Under Jagan."
The delay in independence was achieved by destabilizing the PPP government, but resulted in many deaths, many injuries, loss of many properties by fire and bombs and played on race, intensifying racial conflicts. So, yes, the PNC did struggle to prevent independence until all its allies maneuvered it into office by many means, including altering the whole voting structure to bring into being proportional representation (PR) which neither the USA or Britain would NEVER, EVER, continence for itself, or, for that matter, any other British colony.
The joke of that is - that is if one has a sense of humour - that now that PR has enabled the PPP to win government three times at general elections and at local government elections, the PNC wants to change the system and is doing its best to move closer to the former first-past-the-post system under which the PPP won three elections previously.
The second astonishing aspect of the PNC statement on Independence is this: "Our record in office aptly demonstrates our deep understanding and relentless efforts towards realizing this aspiration; true, the road has not always been smooth: our efforts, though all well-meaning, were not always successful and better decisions could have been made in instances. But the commitment of the PNC to nation building is indisputable... For too long the rights of our citizens have been trampled upon, to the extent that today the governing party believes it has the right to kill our fellow citizens at will" and so on.
So, according to the PNC’s understanding of its 28 years in office, it did a good job. In their way of thinking - yes - they did a good job - a good job of maintaining itself in office by massive electoral fraud - even killing two young Berbicians in the process! Police raids were rampant; PPP members were jailed and in one notorious case I recall - a prisoner was put in an ant’s nest in a lock-up in West Demerara.
Our civil rights were violated; the press was not free. I remember the trouble Mirror had when I was Editor, to get newsprint and supplies and to get printing equipment. Both the Mirror and the Catholic Standard were gagged by Burnham’s ingenious method of not banning the newspapers, but banning the newsprint!
Our mail was no longer private; our telephones were tapped; some were denied freedom of movement and could not leave the country. Parliament was a farce; paramountcy of the party was vaunted so shamelessly that the PNC flag flew over the Court of Appeal building in High Street.
The PNC accuses the PPP falsely, saying that the PPP believes it has the "right to kill our fellow citizen." What rubbish! A Commission has been set up to deal with the accusation about a phantom gang which the PNC hasn’t the common sense to welcome, because it has no evidence to offer.
People have been asking for too long, with no answer, about the brutal deaths during the PNC regime of Dr Walter Rodney, Father Darke, Vincent Teekah, Michael Forde at the Freedom House bombing, and others. Who was it that nourished and protected the deadly House of Israel? The list of criminal acts by the PNC is long and frightening. There is still a strong view that the PPP/C erred, when it took office in 1992, in not doing what was done in South Africa, having a national enquiry or a truth Commission into all the wrong-doings during the 28 years the PNC held office, and to lay charges against those guilty of misconduct.
Yes, the PNC has a "record in office" that bears close examination, but it is not a record of service to the people. The PNC built up a massive foreign debt with nothing to show for it - a debt which the PPP has had to deal with and which harmed our economy and the welfare of its people. So poorly handled were the social services, that the PNC had to close down its Housing Ministry.
Another touch of humour is when we hear PNCites screaming that the Housing Minister isn’t doing his business to their satisfaction! - after he’s distributed over 60,000 house lots, caused thousands of new houses to be built and has regularized the squatting areas that grew during the PNC regime because it had no housing plans or policy!
So much for their "record in office." I don’t have space to go on, but everyone who has lived through the 28 years knows what it was all about, including the ban on bread, flour, peas and so on. It was a "record in office" so great that the PPP/C in the first free and fair elections since the 60’s, won more votes than it did in any previous elections - well over the 50% needed to form the government!
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan (August 28, 2004)
The arguments for “shared government” as the People’s National Congress and those, mainly in the media backing it, centre around the factor that one party, the one that wins a majority in the elections every five years, runs the show and the losers are out in the cold.
They claim that this impairs democracy, divides the nation and puts decision-making in the hands of only one group - the winners at elections. Their complaint is that the concept of “winner takes all” is wrong and leads to bad and unrepresentative government. Their argument then is that if Executive Power is shared, it will be more fair and democratic.
After all they say, the PNC gets a large percentage of the votes, usually in the vicinity of 41% now that elections are no longer rigged. The PNC used to argue that the constituency system was no good because the PPP would win with more seats, but not necessarily a large percentage of the votes. Thus, they argued in the 1960’s, the system was unfair as the PPP got disproportionately more seats than it earned percentage wise and therefore they opted for proportional representation, which they said, was much more fair.
And so the USA and the UK, neither of which embraced proportional representation at any level, backed the PNC’s claim and thus proportional representation was introduced.
However, since 1992 and the next two elections, the PPP won over 50% of the votes under PR and this now, is unfair and so they insisted at the time of constitutional reform that a modified system including the essence of the constituency system be introduced. And it was, for the 2001 elections. Despite these changes, the PPP won again, so there has to be something wrong with the system which allows the PPP to win consistently.
Now it’s something else - shared government. Both the PNC and the local media accept that the USA is the greatest democracy on earth and the PNC leaders frequently rush to Washington to influence lawmakers about the injustices of the local method of governance. So let’s take a look at what goes on there.
I read with interest an article by the well known Washington journalist Elizabeth Drew in her piece entitled “Hung Up in Washington” in the February 12, 2004 issue of the New York Review. She writes about the polarization in the House of Representatives of the two parties along party lines which has resulted in major legislation from airline safety to expansion of Medicine being held up and the difficulty in reaching compromises.
She writes: “The increasing unwillingness to compromise is not only blocking legislation but, it is not overdramatic to say, is subverting fundamental concepts or democracy. The people’s business is not getting done.” She then quotes from the Chicago Tribune that the very idea of democracy is being threatened “by acting .... to create districts in which a single party has an overwhelming majority .... Members of Congress protect their jobs and make voting in general elections an empty exercise.” The increasing number of safe seats, she writes, makes fewer and fewer members interested in compromise. She also notes that extreme partisanship has strongly affected major legislation in the 2003 session of Congress. The Medicare bill adopted by Congress, she writes, and signed into law by Bush was put across by the drugs and insurance industries both of which have contributed a great deal of money to elected politicians, in particular to Republicans and have strong influences in Washington, and so on.
Looks to me like they have more problems than we have and don’t forget, the two parties, the Republicans and Democrats ran neck and neck at the 2000 election with the Democrats getting the largest percentage of votes and the Republicans gaining office in what is still challenged as unfair. The same this year seem to be likely, as so far the two major parties are running close, and not the 41% - 53% here.
The $64 question is -- is there a move in the USA for shared government because of all the problems and even the possible subversion of democracy? No way!
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009