Articles by Janet Jagan 2005
by Janet Jagan (May 2005)
When I read some of the print media or look at some of the TV stations, I see two Guyanas, one pure myth and fiction, and the other reality.
When I read Stabroek News, for example, read the sharply slanted stories and the three or more pages of outrageously biased letters, I just have to wonder. When I look at the markedly one-sided, distorted information coming out of at least three of the TV stations, it gives cause to wonder wherein lies the truth, or more specific, is anyone interested in the truth?
When I meet people or go from place to place, I see another Guyana - so different from the pictures the media promotes so assiduously, with almost frightening hatred and malevolence. I often wonder if it is like this all over the world, or is Guyana unique in the bitterness, offensive and frequently disgusting words and attitude one sees, mainly propagated by the distortions of the media.
I move along the railway embankment, built by the PPP/C, and can see, even if I take off my eye glasses, going up on both sides of the road, mostly lower income houses that start small, but grow as the owners save money for improvements or extensions. I’ve lose count as I go by, there are so many. I go into one of the new development areas and see many, many new houses going up or just completed - both middle and upper income houses. But I read that all the people were moving out, no future in Guyana, nothing to stay for. So why are all these people building new houses? I think everyone would be surprised at the total number of houses built in government housing schemes and outside.
I look out of the window at Freedom House on Robb Street, Georgetown and see five, yes five, huge buildings going up -- 3 and 4 storey structures. But I hear that business is bad, no investments!
I go by the country and city markets. Business is brisk, hundreds buying and selling. But what are they selling? It looks like most of the sales are of locally produced items - beef, pork, chicken, mutton, many varieties of fish, pumpkin, bananas, rice, sugar, peanuts, pasta, great varieties of fruits, any amount of provisions. Carts are selling locally produced snacks - channa, shave ice, candy, phularie, patties, pine tarts and so on.
But Guyana is falling apart - a lost country - no future according to the letter writers and the news broadcasters. But isn’t it true that fish and shrimps are being exported, that pineapples and other fruits go to Trinidad and Barbados and our rice and sugar, furniture and timber, etc. have good markets overseas?
I go to the Public Hospital. What a change has taken place! My friend is in the open ward. It used to be a calamity of uncleanliness, broken beds, broken windows, unpainted for years etc. But now, the open ward - free for patients - looks pretty good. Even the beds look comfortable. The sheets are clean, the walls are painted.
Having read so much about migration of Guyanese, I would have thought that Water Street and Regent Street would be short of customers - but no way - it’s busy, busy, busy. Someone is spending money and it’s not a few but many and some are certainly making good money.
Reading incessantly about migration, it dawns on me to look at who of my friends and associates have migrated. I start by looking at my friends and close acquaintances. Am I alone, an unusual person? All of a sudden, as I list my friends, I note that eight with whom I am close happen to be returnees. I never regarded them as returnees, just friends. All have returned at some time or another over the years, from living in North America.
Then I start thinking about acquaintances, people I see off and on, and without going deeply into the matter, I find seven names, all but one a returnee from North America, one from UK. Am I the only one who knows so many returnees? I doubt it. The miserable letter writers, mostly from USA, (how many use their real names?) write endlessly in Stabroek News about how awful it is in Guyana, and press this migration issue.
But isn’t it a fact that there has been greater movement of people all over the world - from country to country? Doctors from UK go to Canada; Canadian doctors go to USA, and Indian doctors go to Guyana. Guyanese go mainly to North America, for many reasons: better jobs, higher standard of living (if they’re lucky) joining families, looking for a different life style, adventure, slipping out of a broken marriage, fear of crime (and they bump into much crime on the streets of New York), and so on. Migration isn’t limited to Guyana, by any means!
There are two Guyanas - the one we live in which is growing better every day, but obviously, with faults. So what is perfect in this world? There is another Guyana, the fictitious one created by the politically ambitious, the politically bitter opponents who “wanabe,” the perennial grumblers, those with chipped shoulders and the plain enemies of change, the clones of the CIA intriguers of the 60’s.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan (June 4, 2005)
An interesting letter appeared in Stabroek News of May 23, 2005 written by Llewellyn John, correcting a S/N report that Mr Corbin, leader of the PNC, was reported to have made. Mr Corbin apparently noted that Mr John had exercised the right to leave the PNC, as Mr Trotman was then in the process of doing. Mr John refuted that remark of Corbin’s and wrote: “After the PNC won power in 1968 there were jealous elements in the party that could not stand the acclamation. I received from the masses who knew that I had laboured incessantly in the promotion of such issues as proportional representation, the overseas vote, double citizenship and the ambit of proxy and postal voting.
I was ousted as a result of the machinations of a clique...”
Now, let me say as a prelude to my remarks, and this is common knowledge, that I have been the object all through my political life of constant attacks, vicious slander, unbelievable rumours and gossip, physical abuses including blows, stones and rotten eggs, and so on. To survive throughout the decades, I have mostly forgotten the specifics of these, and like the document I am accused of throwing over my shoulder, these too have gone in the same direction.
However, one or two were more difficult to forget, and my memory is sharply clear on the dreadful verbal abuse and scorn dumped on me at the meeting that was held at the then, Home Affairs Minister Llewellyn John’s office sometime before the 1968 elections. General elections were the responsibility, at that time, of the Minister of Home Affairs.
I was appointed to represent the PPP on the Elections Commission in preparation for the 1968 elections. Also on the Commission were Mr Desmond Hoyte for the PNC, I forget the name of the UF representative and the Chairman was Sir Donald Jackson, handpicked for the occasion.
I was the lone objector to all the machinations going on to rig the 1968 elections. I was constantly protesting to the deaf - no one listened to me, but I was exposing all the fraud in its early stages - not that I was so bright - anyone who could see, could see, if they wanted what was going on.
I talked, objected, tried in every way to convince the other three that they were assisting in a terrible wrong. After a while, Sir Donald got fed up listening to me and finally agreed to a proposal I made to discuss the election irregularities (my word) with the Minister of Home Affairs. That is how we visited his office.
That was quite an event! I cannot really describe the harshness and rudeness of the treatment which Minister John heaped on my head - only to say that it was so intense that I carry it in my psyche decades later.
But read his letter more closely - there is no regret in his pride of promoting the overseas vote, proxy and postal voting - all key elements in the electoral fraud that pervaded Guyana through four elections and a referendum. He forgot to mention another of his successes, the padding of the voters’ list which also included the disenfranchisement of thousands of potential PPP voters. The PNC were and still remain masters of that technique.
I don’t know if it is necessary for me to go into details of the overseas, postal and proxy votes, so well known are these. But a recent formerly secret document released by the USA shows that the PNC received substantial sums of money for the 1968 elections and that US authorities were fully aware that the overseas vote would be used to build up a PNC majority and that the electoral lists would be padded.
I will give you one more experience I had on the Elections Commission. When I examined the overseas list of voters, I was certain as I perused it, that it was filled with false names. I raised the issue over and over at meetings of the Elections Commission, finally irritating Sir Donald so much that he agreed to my proposal that we visit the Registration office on High Street (next to the old railway line) to see some files. The place was apparently taboo - no one except employees were allowed inside, but I was accompanied by Sir Donald, so I was allowed that one time to enter the portals of fraud.
I had the overseas voters’ list in my hand and had ticked off a number of names that looked particularly suspicious. I was allowed to give some of these names to a clerk who then, one by one, showed me the registration card for the person. I was allowed to scrutinize each for a very brief period before the card was snatched away. I very quickly wrote down the person’s date of birth, place of birth and names of parents. I also noted what was so obvious, the signatures looked phony - most with an obvious slanted way of writing. I was allowed to see about 12 such cards and then hastily hustled out of the highly protected area.
I put my findings together, including the names, addresses, dates and places of birth and names of parents of some 12 overseas voters and asked the Elections Commission to send these to the office of Births and Deaths Registry, requesting birth certificates of those named. Over and over I asked if a reply had been received, and finally, the answer. The Registry was unable to locate any of those so named because I did not provide sufficient information! Not one Commissioner or the Chairman batted an eyelid and the matter was dropped. No one would listen to me. They were all part and parcel of the colossal electoral fraud and should be remembered for what they did or did not do!
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan (2005)
Land in every country is a vital issue. Despite all the successes in the industrialization that began about two centuries ago, and brought about an almost entire change in the lives of most of the world’s population, agriculture including fisheries and animal husbandry, remains the basis of life-giving food. So, despite all the major advances made by science and technology, land remains one of the basic units of living worldwide. And farming, of course, has gained from all the technological and scientific advances.
In Guyana, we have been unusually lucky in our historical development. Because we were, in the final stages, colonized by the British, it proved advantageous in one respect. The British, unlike the Spanish and Portuguese colonizers in this hemisphere, never permanently settled here. British colonizers, at least 99%, always went home to Britain at the end of their stay in Guyana. Except for a very limited few, they did not put down their roots here. For this we can be thankful.
But in the rest of the continent the colonizers stayed and, in their powerful positions, provided themselves and their families with large land holdings. That is the basis of the alienation of most land throughout Latin America. Vast areas of land were given to those in power. To this day, this problem dominates the land issue in many countries of the hemisphere.
In our country, land, except for the large areas given to the sugar planters, absentee landowners and importers of sugar, most of Guyana’s lands remained in the hands of the state. In the PPP’s unique and innovative housing policies, many of these same lands have become house lots for the working people.
When the People’s Progressive Party emerged in 1950, one of its chief planks was land reform. Most of the small farmers at that time were eking out a living on small plots of land, 3, 4, 5 and up to 10 acres. Many of these farmers rented their lands from larger, feudal-like, landowners. This was particularly relevant on the Essequibo Coast which I represented as a Legislator in 1953 and from 1957-61. A few large landowners (one, Deroop Maraj, became a leading member of the PNC later on) squeezed the small farmers and kept them literally in bondage by loans, high rentals and shop credit which they could never pay off. I remember being taken by these tenant farmers to the backlands where they showed me another form of exploitation, the landowner took the best lands for himself and rented them the back lands with poor or no drainage and irrigation.
At that period, these unscrupulous landowners dominated life on the Essequibo Coast. But our party fought relentlessly against this feudal system which made life a misery for the poor. One of the many things we did was pass the Security of Tenure for Rice Farmers Act which protected tenant farmers.
In the first Programme of the PPP published in 1950, under the heading “Free the Tenants from debt, Guarantee the land to the Tillers!”, ways of protecting farmers from “improper” drainage and irrigation, distress and ruin were outlined. These included “to guarantee the farmers and tenants their inalienable right to possession of their lands, homes and their chattels “and included also means of preventing the accumulation of large land holdings in the hands of sugar companies, landlords and absentee owners. It stated that there should be guaranteed prices for farmers’ produce and a demand for world prices for our agricultural exports.
The PPP when it was in office in the 50’s and 60’s began opening more land for small farmers, providing drainage and irrigation which changed the face of agriculture in Guyana, provided farmers with the tools to make a living and help in controlling pests, selling of produce, etc. For example in the Pomeroon we gave farmers tens of thousands of coconut plants.
I remember that the PPP set up the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) in the 50’s and 60’s period. At Charity, then part of my constituency, I could observe farmers from the Pomeroon and elsewhere, coming to the GMC in their small boats with their produce, weighing and selling their goods, getting pay on the spot - I remember I had to fight the bureaucrats who said they could not pay on the spot, which would be very, very hard on the producers. But the farmers were poor and that on-the-spot pay was essential to buying up goods at Charity before the long haul in the river back to home.
I remember, too, when the GMC trucks would go through the working class areas of Georgetown selling fresh produce at lower prices, because the middle man was eliminated. Both producers and consumers benefited. But the PNC ended all that when they came into power. They smashed the GMC into nothingness.
The PPP in its 1979 Political Programme called for “1) comprehensive land reform aimed at ending rapacious landlordism 2) allotment of state lands on a fair and rational basis in accordance with the needs of farmers, giving preference to the landless and the land-poor 3) Encourage small and medium land holders to organize themselves into cooperatives.”
Today, the feudal landowning problem no longer exists. Agriculture is doing well. Farmers are going into new crops, more selective and quality oriented and our export trade is accelerating.
In the context of land reform, we can also claim successes in the complicated and difficult task of restoring lands to our Amerindian population.
The PPP’s most recent Manifesto, that of 2001, noted that the PPP/C had strengthened the mechanism for land distribution. It recorded that the conversion of leaseholds to freeholds has commenced with the average number of land leases issued per year giving farmers less than 200 in 1992-1993, to more than 2000 in 1993-2000.
The newly improved, high-tech Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GLSC) just announced that last year it handed out 6,000 land titles and expects to do the same this year. For the first time in the nation’s history, its vast land resources are at last properly recorded with a modern database and making use of satellite technology.
In a statement, GLSC said that by 2010, when it is fully developed, it will be able to ensure that land is made accessible to everyone, thus contributing to poverty alleviation and national development.
Land reform stands out as one of the great achievements of the People’s Progressive Party which this year celebrates its 55th anniversary.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan (September 2005)
I read with utter amazement a report published in the Stabroek News of August 20, 2005 of the Guyana Fiduciary Oversight Project issued by the World Bank.
I could only come to the conclusion that someone who prepared the report needs counselling or the Stabroek News incorrectly reported on the matter.
Firstly, the report noted that “Members of Parliament were elected only if they could secure the support of the leadership as the leadership controls the party list and each candidate’s place on the list.” It also noted that “the influences of the Party leadership is extremely rigid.”
To begin with, we have to examine the historical aspects of proportional representation. Before 1964, Guyana had the constituency system, first past the post. But to remove the People’s Progressive Party from office, which it had won in free elections three times in 1953, 1957 and 1961, the British, pushed by the USA, after investing tons of money to destabilize the country, changed the electoral system to proportional representation, and then manipulated Messrs Burnham and D’Aguiar into a coalition, since the PPP won the majority of votes, but not over 50%.
Stabroek News has been publishing previously secret documents about Guyana. In its issue of September 18, 2005, it published documents of the Johnson era and noted this: “After Burnham was elected Premier in 1964, the US government again through the CIA, continued to provide substantial funds to both Burnham and D’Aguiar and their parties.”
Now that free and fair elections were re-established in 1992, those who still nurse antagonisms to the PPP, and, particularly, the PPP in office, will do and say almost anything to again change the system which was imposed on Guyana’s voters. In other words, the PPP has beat the system calculated to defeat it, and having won the elections of 1992, 1997 and 2001, those who hate the PPP are thinking of a new system to remove the PPP from office.
Next, to understand how the list system works, yes, the fairly and democratically elected leadership of the PPP selects the names for this list. The PPP just had its 28th Congress and at that function, duly elected delegates from the Party’s many Groups, at democratic elections, elected their leadership, the Central Committee, which is the highest authority in the party in between Congresses, which are held every three years.
So, who else would select the names of the members on the list, from which the Members of Parliament are chosen? Maybe those who can find every gripe and criticism of the PPP would prefer if the media makes the choice?
The report in the Stabroek News of the Guyana Fiduciary Oversight Report say this: “the impact of the party whip was therefore overwhelming, and any MP especially Government backbench MPs wishing to depart from the “Party line” - is in danger of losing their seat in Parliament.” This preposterous statement makes no sense in relation to reality. That is what prompted me to suggest that whosoever prepared the report needs counselling or has not done his homework.
Take the case of Khemraj Ramjattan who was on the PPP list and made an MP. Subsequently he broke with the PPP and was expelled, so he is no longer associated with the PPP which selected him for the National Assembly. He has or is forming another political party, but hangs on to his seat in Parliament. So the suggestion by the report that the party whip can oust him from Parliament is all nonsense. He refuses to give up his seat and there is no way of getting him out of Parliament unless he chooses to resign.
A similar situation occurred when Mr da Silva who was on the PPP’s 1992 list and became an MP, then changed his allegiance, but held on to his seat.
These two gentlemen have claimed that they won their seats and have their own constituency or electoral support. It will be interesting to see if either will be back in Parliament in 2006!
The report also, erroneously, paints the PPP and the PNC under the same tar brush of racism. There is a great distinction between the two major parties on the issue of race. Many, like those who reported, as above, do not have a clue about the reality of Guyana. All they have to do is examine the statistics of how the nation’s wealth is distributed in all aspects of government, from housing, health, education, infrastructure, etc., to see that an even hand has been used throughout. Job distribution, scholarships, educational opportunities up to University, etc., confirm the total lack of race preference by the present ruling party.
There are those who peep at us from outside, who know little about what goes on in Guyana, who may rely on a very hostile media that is given full range to say what it wants. They try not to arouse the hostility of the PNC by using the sorely tried practice of “plague on both houses.” It’s much easier, and more diplomatic, to charge both parties with the sins of one.
But then, what is new?
© Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009