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Articles by Janet Jagan 2006

PAC’s Sterling Contributions

(A revised version of an article published in Thunder in 1996 by Janet Jagan)

Sixty years ago this year, the Political Affairs Committee was founded. The Political Affairs Committee (PAC) was the forerunner of the People’s Progressive Party, setting out in its first declaration of aims, in the first publication of its Bulletin on November 6, 1946, that its purpose was “to assist the growth and development of the labour and progressive movements of British Guiana, to the end of establishing a strong, disciplined and enlightened Party, equipped with the theory of Socialism”.

Its other aims were to “provide information, and to present scientific political analyses on current affairs, both local and international and to foster and assist discussion groups, through the circulation of bulletins, booklets and other printed matter.”

In this year which celebrated the 40th anniversary of Guyana’s independence, it is fitting to refer to the PAC, which 60 years ago, set in stream all the factors which were to lead to the formation of the PPP, and thus the beginning of the struggle for independence in the then crown colony of British Guiana.

Without the foresight of the four who considered the need for the PAC and a political party equipped with the theory of socialism, the independence struggle might have been delayed for some years. Instead, it began in 1950, when the newly formed People’s Progressive Party made the first-ever declaration that its intention was to win a “free and independent Guiana.”

Three important aspects of the formation of the PAC need to be examined. These are the time frame in which it emerged, the background and qualities of the four founders and lastly, the emphasis on socialism made by the founders at a time when socialism was barely known locally.

The year 1946 when the PAC was founded was the year after the end of World War II and the defeat of Hitlerite fascism and one year before India’s independence was achieved. These were important influences, for the heroism of the millions of people opposing the march of Hitler’s forces through Europe, the Anti-Hitler Coalition on a large scale which led to Hitler’s defeat, the remarkable endurance and spirit of all those who fought fascism,  greatly influenced the thinking of people all over the world.

Further, the ferment of India’s independence struggle was felt by subjected colonial peoples the world over and was inspiration for many movements which developed in the post-Indian Independence period. These influences were felt in British Guiana, inspiring the four founders of PAC.

The four persons who founded the Political Affairs Committee were grounded in the struggles of the masses. The late HJM Hubbard was at the time General Secretary of the Trades Union Council; Ashton Chase was Assistant Secretary of the British Guiana Labour Union, working under the founder of the Guyanese trade union movement, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow; Cheddi Jagan was already, at this time, very active in the sugar workers’ struggle and later led the Sawmill and Forest Workers’ Union and GAWU; Janet Jagan had earlier that year been engaged in the formation of the Women’s Political and Economic Organization, the first women’s political movement in the then British Guiana. She was later to be active in the Clerk’s Union and in the women’s section of the British Guiana Labour Union.

Thirdly, the clear definition of the ideology of PAC and its intention to assist in the formation of a party equipped with socialist principles is a most important aspect, moreso when we consider that at that time the four founders were probably the only persons in British Guiana who had studied the subject and were convinced advocates of socialism. Without this important factor, the emergence of a party which stated openly its belief and adherence to socialist philosophy would have been delayed by many, many years.

During its three years of existence, the PAC grew slowly and steadily, bringing in such stalwarts as the late  Ram Karran, Sydney King (now Eusi Kwayana). Charlie Cassato and George Robertson (deceased) and many others who helped in the foundation of the PPP and were active in the independence struggle and the building of an advanced political party.

As Ashton Chase recorded in his excellent study “A History of Trade Unionism in Guyana 1900 to 1961” the PAC and its members played an important role in some of the key workers’ struggles of that period. The strike of bauxite workers in December 1946 grew into a stern struggle by these mine workers for union recognition, against unfair practices by the company and a stiff system of racial discrimination and segregation. Chase wrote on the subject: “The TUC with Mr Hubbard as its General Secretary played a leading role in getting local people to assist the strikers as well as aiding in the presentation of the workers’ case to the Committee (under the Labour Ordinance). A less conspicuous but not unimportant role in assisting the strikers and in directional and propaganda work was played by the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) which included Dr Cheddi Jagan, Mrs Jagan and the author (Ashton Chase).”

The well known struggle of the sugar workers on the East Coast of Demerara, leading to the shooting of the five workers, known as the Enmore Martyrs, in 1948, was also a struggle in which PAC members participated fully, “in the day to day organization of the strike … raising funds for the strikers, in organizing `soup kitchens’ and in general propaganda work. The PAC agitational bulletins were widely circulated at the GIWU meetings” (History of Trade Unionism).

In early 1948, the Transport Workers Union called a strike brought about by the appointment of Col. Teare, whose despotism enraged transport workers. In this struggle, too, PAC was active and supportive, particularly through one of its new members who had joined in 1947, Ram Karran, a transport worker and militant union member.

Also at the international level, PAC gave labour solidarity when, in 1949, the Canadian Seamen’s Union called a worldwide strike of its members on ships. Two bauxite ships manned by striking members of that union were held up in Port Georgetown, the Sun Whit and the Sun Avis. PAC members gave active solidarity, taking care of stranded seamen, arranging legal representation and carrying food to the striking seamen on their ships in the dead of night, slipping by the police boat patrols.

The Political Affairs Committee expanded its membership, formed discussion groups, distributed its bulletin, a mimeographed four-page publication, widely imported large quantities of socialist literature from abroad, sold on a wide scale, and thus laid the foundations for the formation of the People’s Progressive Party, thus fulfilling its objective.

One of its members, Cheddi Jagan, won a seat in the Legislative Council in the 1947 elections, thus giving a broader forum for the PAC to propound its ideas. It was now becoming an organization recognized as a fighter for the working masses, for the first time in that period, giving voice to their demands and aspirations. His struggle and fighting spirit give tremendous impetus to the growth and popularity of the PAC.

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the formation of PAC, it is well to remember the vital role this small group played in the development of the political and trade union movement, its sterling contribution to the cause of independence and political enlightenment in Guyana.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Backward or Forward

by Janet Jagan (January 2006)

It’s hard to know if one should laugh or cry at the ridiculous, numbing, callous and much too extreme rumblings coming out of an editorial in the Stabroek News of January 3, 2006, headlined: "The Old Politics Won’t do." In it, the newspaper continues its unjust attacks on the PPP/Civic, refusing to recognize the positive changes that have taken place since the 1992 elections which ended the subversive, dictatorial regime of the PNC.

Using the oldest and still unfair method of attack - plague on both houses, the Stabroek News (SN) is obliged to admit that by the time the PNC lost power, Guyana was "reduced to poverty, the educational system was in tatters and despair stalked the land." Referring to the 13 years the PPP/C has been in office, SN declares: "the PPP remains in an IMF programme which largely dictates its macroeconomic plans, and with few exceptions has shown a marked reluctance to use the experience and skills that exist outside the narrow confines of the party." The editorial goes on to say that young people are fed up and "resent the continuing obsession with the beggar-my-neighbour backbiting..."

Only last week I wrote in this column about the amazing recovery made in our education system - a result of consistent work to mend all the wreckage committed by the previous government. We have almost recovered from the destruction done to education.

And in an article written in the previous week, I dealt with the PPP/C’s achievements in reducing poverty from about 76% in 1992 to below 35%. We are also below the 42% poverty attributed to Latin America and the Caribbean, resulting from a recent survey. These are only two matters arising out of a multitude of improvements since the PPP/C took office in 1992.

The editorial fails to refer to the major achievements of the PPP/C, which include the restoration of democracy and all that it means - free and fair elections, no more gagging of the media, freedom of speech and movement, etc. The Stabroek News editorial conveniently fails to mention the reduction in the foreign debt left by the PNC, the opening up of a real housing programme, the other so obvious improvements in health services, water and so on.

So, whose skills brought about all these changes? Has not the PPP/C used the "experience and skills that exist outside the narrow confines of the party"? Did party members alone bring about all the improvements in the lives of the majority of Guyanese? Come now - let’s be realistic and stop the "backbiting" that is encouraged by Stabroek News and the refusal to recognize the positive changes. These are part and parcel of the hostile media that would have been gagged by the former regime for so doing!

Of course, we have gone through difficult times and still are going through difficult times. We were a wrecked nation when we finally ended the 28 years of neglect and destruction. Would Stabroek News expect total recovery in a decade for what took 28 years to destroy? That would be unrealistic. Destruction is much easier and takes less time than rebuilding and recovery! The great exodus of people and their skills began during the Burnham/Hoyte days. It will not end so soon, especially with the harmful and negative, anti-national rantings which emanate from an unreasonable and hostile media.

Great efforts have been made to bring Guyanese closer together. We must not make light of these. In Guyana, we have not only religious freedom, but greater understanding between the religions than in many nations. Our so-called ethnic differences have been mostly man-made, as the several riots so well demonstrate. But Guyanese of all races live comfortably together, house by house, with no segregation in housing or in schools. We need to look at the positive instead of encouraging the negative.

Guyana moves resolutely forward despite such prophets of gloom and doom who, for whatever reason, are determined to blacken the image of the PPP/C and use the powers of the pen to alter the course of elections.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Why the Growing Violence?

by Janet Jagan (Feb. 1, 2006)

 Violence comes in all shapes and sizes and has been growing here and all over the world at a rapid pace. One has only to look at the crime rates in Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana and then move on to the USA, Brazil, Mexico and the killings in Iraq in the name of fighting terrorism. One might say the world has gone berserk while more and more lethal weapons go into the wrong hands, including the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who should be handling computers and tractors instead of deadly weapons.

Our own history is rife with violence. While Guyanese were living through the horrors of the violence of the sixties, paid for and encouraged by the unholy alliance of the UK/USA, its minions were bombing, raping, shooting, killing and terrifying hundreds of Guyanese. And this led to the infamous 28 years of misrule and more violence - the killing of Rodney, Darke and others and the perpetuation of a dictatorial regime. But we’ve all heard and/or experienced this.

What we might not be aware of is that we were not alone. Read this: “The first and last democratically chosen leader of his country (Patrice) Lumumba became prime minister after the Congo won its independence in 1960. After a few months in office, he was deposed, imprisoned, beaten and killed by his political rivals, who were encouraged at every step by both the United States and Belgium. De Wittle’s book provoked a Belgium Parliamentary enquiry and an official apology from the government. The United States, however, has never apologized, even though President Eisenhower gave his approval to the aim of assassinating Lumumba” (the New York Review, October 6, 2005, article entitled “In the Heart of Darkness” by Adam Hochschild.)

Does it sound familiar as we review our own grim history of the violent sixties? Luckily enough, Jagan wasn’t assassinated, but according to the records it was pretty close to happening.

Violence spreads throughout the world, spurred on by many factors, such as the reference above. It surges forward by many ways - one of them being the development of technology. The movies and television brought new levels of mass communication and exposed more and more people to visual encounters with violence. Just a daily run-through of TV programmes will show that there is even more violence on TV than pornography and sex.

A child today starts seeing TV at a very early age and no matter how the parents may try, he/she sees harsh killings daily. After a while, a man with a gun shooting another man dead is nothing new - as common as drinking a glass of water.

If we can understand this, then we can start to comprehend how a person can lift a weapon and coldly kill another person. It is happening by the minute all over the world.

Moral values are dropping. In a little country like ours, children are being violated daily by their fathers, stepfathers, uncles, teachers, etc.

I was shocked to read in the Guyana Chronicle last week, side by side, two court items. The headline of one was: “Teacher accused of molesting pupil on station bail;” the other, “Accused horse thieves refused bail, other defendant granted.” So, two men were remanded to prison for stealing two horses valued at $60,000 and a teacher, who is alleged to have molested a nine-year-old pupil was placed on $20,000 bail, later increased to $75,000.

Talk about moral values degenerating! Just think about these two court items. There are two places a child should feel safe - in his/her home and at school. A teacher accused of molesting a child in his care is surely a more serious threat to society than the theft of two horses! Yet a stepfather can be sentenced to 10 years for raping a child in his custody while a car thief might get the same sentence. There’s something wrong out there, as are all the violence, executions, thieving, incest, domestic violence, kidnappings and all those aspects of crime, spreading, unfortunately.

In a rape case before the courts, two men are accused of raping a 15-year-old schoolgirl in 1997. The crime allegedly occurred nine years ago and the victim is now almost 24 years of age - maybe married, maybe having children. How must she feel going to the courts now? Can this be termed “justice”? Nonsense! Such gross delays are inexcusable and harmful to society.

While the police have greater tasks and more responsibility in solving and reducing crimes, civilian populations have more responsibilities in trying to curb crime. The home and the school are, perhaps, the most important areas of the formation of a child’s character. Children must and have to be guided by strong principles of right and wrong. Maybe greater attention to the child’s development could have some effect in the molding of better citizens and less violence and crime. And more attention must be given to curbing powerful governments from performing greater sins against humanity.

February 11, 2006

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Bring Back the "Trade Union Recognition" Bill!

by Janet Jagan (March 2006)

It might even get into the Guinness Book of Records for being the longest controversial piece of legislation anywhere.

In 1953 the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which won a landslide victory in the nation’s first elections under Universal Adult Suffrage, soon after taking office, introduced what would turn out to be controversial up to this period. It was the Labour Relations Bill which would empower workers to elect by ballot the union the workers in an industry wanted for representation.

That is really, the crux of the Bill which has created so much havoc and controversy since 1953 to today.

This description is worthy of reprint: "On the very day the British troops entered Guiana we passed in the House of Assembly our Labour Relations Bill. Employers were to be required by law to negotiate with the trade unions enjoying majority support; this support was to be determined by a procedure modeled upon that of the US National Labour Relations Act, and similar legislation in Canada. The bill was aimed at minimizing inter-union rivalry and preventing jurisdictional disputes. It included two other important provisions - one seeking to prohibit victimization of workers and the other seeking the right of trade union officials to visit the place at which their members were employed.

The Bill touched "King Sugar". The recognition of the Guyana Industrial Workers’ Union (GIWU), then the unrecognized sugar union would have meant better wages and proper working conditions for the sugar workers and reduced profits for the sugar planters.

The response of the enemies of the PPP was true to form: "another communist measure," they howled." (West on Trial by Cheddi Jagan).

Of course, the Bill was lost in the events that ensued, the PPP government removed and a handpicked Interim Government placed in office. In the course of these events, the militant Trades Union Congress (TUC) was emasculated, new handpicked leaders chosen and it apparently has not recovered to this day!

Ten years later, when the PPP was again in office, but facing a coalition of local forces (the PNC and the United Force) and funded by the USA/UK governments, the same Bill came before Parliament. The TUC, led by its President Richard Ishmael who was also, the head of the MPCA Union which was challenged by GIWU, vigorously opposed the Bill, and created havoc.

Mr Burnham was then the Leader of the Opposition and in the famous consultation between him and Premier Cheddi Jagan on the Bill, Mr Burnham who had supported the very same Bill when he was a Cabinet Minister of the PPP in 1953 "admitted that it was not the causa belli, but the casus belli, not the cause of, but the occasion for, the war" (The West on Trial). He thus confirmed that the strike by the TUC, in opposition to the Bill, was politically motivated.

It was not until the PPP was again in office, in 1997, that the Bill was again introduced in Parliament. This time someone with a screw loose in his head apparently drafted legislation that would introduce the essence of that historic Bill, but screwed up some of the clauses.

Essentially, it gave the TUC too much power, which that body has abused and has made the Act ineffective by not attending meetings, thus preventing things from getting done, protecting its own weak affiliates from the "dangers" of a poll that might remove their recognition, etc, etc.

The new legislation to correct the errors of the one in operation, known as the Trade Union Recognition Bill, is supported by the major unions in Guyana - the GAWU, Guyana Labour Union, NAACIE and CCWU which have come together to get the legislation back in Parliament where it was postponed recently.

Let’s hope they succeed!

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

The National Unity Call

by Janet Jagan (March 2006)

The kind of shadowed, half-concealed racism that stems from the letter columns of the print media, particularly the Stabroek News and Kaieteur News is just one more way in which the media carries out its blighted propaganda. Forget the Kaieteur News which has lost all respectability and credibility, just look at Stabroek News which is more hypocritical. I use that word because it pretends to be a balanced, logical, above-board, respectable news medium free of prejudices, clean hands and all that goes with such claims. At least Kaieteur makes no pretences and is just down-right dirty and irresponsible.

Don’t try to sell me the nonsense that Stabroek News is not racial. It pushes its racial line cleverly and subtly, whereas other media hands are not so delicate.

I read this letter in Stabroek News recently under the headline "Indian Leaders Must Face the Reality of Indian-on Indian crime" by one G. Nurse. The writer discusses incidents of crimes by Indians against Indians, a reality of modern day crime, which as crime escalates can be any criminal of any race killing or robbing any innocent of any race. I don’t see anything unusual about it, as crime is crime and I think life teaches us that criminals are concerned with what they’re after - a life, jewellery, money, whatever and race rarely affects their aims. Aside from that, we cannot overlook that there are specific political crimes as well as specific drug crimes.

At any rate, the letter writer carries on with his theme to make his (if there is such a writer) major point: "... I sense that the Indian community has become comfortable to seek shelter in the make-believe world of the PPP that all violent crimes are committed by Africans and committed for political reasons." What is this comment but blatant racism, condoned by the Editor of Stabroek News who passed it for publication?

Because some half-baked letter-writer desires to paint the PPP with a racial brush, then he has full recourse to the pages of Stabroek News which, mainly through its letter column as well as other methods, is pushing the same line.

This has been the age-old practice of those who detest the policies of the PPP, way back from the old days when the British Guiana oligarchy (to use the Latino definition of the holders of wealth and social status) ruled. Why the never-ending measures of race and character assassination, through the decades, to destroy and smear the PPP?

The reasons aren’t so hard to find. The PPP led the attack on the exploitation by the sugar kings and their bosses, the British administrators who tied us down as a colony for centuries. It led the attack on the denial of civil liberties - the press for example, which had interlocking directorates; i.e, men (never women) who sat on the Board of the Argosy and sat on the Board of the Chronicle and also the Board of the radio station. All things were controlled by a group of the wealthy, the landowners, the big businessmen, the top Christian religious leaders, the media owners, etc.

Of course things have changed considerably since those days, but some of the prejudices and resentments remain, as for example, the feeling that the PPP threatens the positions that some have held, almost hereditarily.

The best form of attack is the racial one, although this has been augmented by other charges, corruption, favouritism, incompetence and so on. However, it is my view that the labelling of race on the PPP is the oldest of all and the charge concocted as long ago as sixty-odd years — Apan Jhaat - is still used as a charge, as preposterous as that may be.

One day, a historian will record and analyze these matters and I have no doubt at all that the persistent and virulent attacks as evidenced in the letter quoted above will prove to be part of a well organized, dirty campaign to destroy, belittle and stain the People’s Progressive Party, the Party which has consistently, clearly and honestly called for National Unity and the coming together of Guyana’s working people for the good of all.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Five Years to Register 400,000 voters is Surely Sufficient Time!

by Janet Jagan (April 2006)

Is it right for persons directly involved in electoral fraud, or the political progeny of those who carried out of the most vicious forms of electoral rigging for some 24 years, to have strong influence in the conduct of elections in Guyana? I say no!

It’s nonsense and much more sinister than many may wish to admit. Delaying the holding of free and fair elections is an affront to democracy. Every nation’s constitution states the frequency of general elections - generally each four or five years. To delay elections, deliberately as some are trying to do is seeking to destroy not only the constitution but democracy itself.

In Guyana we have elections every five years. The Elections Commission is set up in a particular way to bring balance and the democratic process to the objective of free and fair elections. We are unique in that we had blatantly fraudulent elections in 1968, 1973, 1980, 1985 and in a referendum. Therefore the objective after all that ended was to see that it never ever happened again.

According to the agreed arrangements for the establishment of an Elections Commission whose task is to conduct registration and elections, the Chairman is chosen in a unique way, structured to satisfy a constant-complaining Opposition that failed to win at free and fair elections (but did quite well once they were rigged!). The Opposition Leader submits some names for the post of Chairman, out of which, the Party in office chooses one name. Apparently this system was created to bring closer harmony in the Elections Commission made up also of 3 members of the governing party and 3 members of the Opposition.

Surely any sane person would expect that with five- years to prepare for the next elections, time would not be a problem - especially in a country with only some 400,000 voters. Apparently registration of such a small number of voters over a five year period is no problem anywhere, except in Guyana where the Opposition is unsure of its possibilities of winning and will do anything to postpone the fatal day of elections.

The whole scenario is filled with nonsense - 5 years to prepare 400,000 voters for elections! And yet it cannot be done to satisfy an Opposition that has only enjoyed office in rigged elections? Come, now - let’s be more realistic!

I quote the following from Stabroek News of Sunday last: "Attorney-at-law CML John, a former Minister of Home Affairs under the PNC, disagrees with the conclusions by the donor countries on the state of readiness for the August 2006 poll.

"The diplomatic representatives from the United States, Britain, Canada and the European Union stationed in Georgetown said in a joint statement last week that elections could be held by August 4, 2006.

John, who is also President of the Guyana Association of Local Authorities, a city councilor and a one-time political leader, argues on the One on One TV interview programme tonight that the current arrangement for the registration of voters is flawed, thus paving the way for electoral fraud. "We do not have a pure list of voters," he said."

For those who may not know, Mr John was the minister in the PNC government responsible for the 1968 elections - the first rigged elections in Guyana. I was a member of the Elections Commission along with the hand-picked Chairman, Sir Donald Jackson and Mr D. Hoyte representing the PNC, plus a representative of the United Force. From my early experience in the Commission, I had unearthed the insidious methods being used to rig the elections. Not one member of the Commission paid the slightest attention to my exposures of the rigging, since they were all intent on fulfilling their obligations to their No. 1 Boss to see that the PNC came out with a lot more votes than it had in the 1964 elections.

I insisted that we visit the Minister of Home Affairs so I could point out the irregularities. This was finally done - but what a disaster it was! The fine gentleman, who is now talking about a "pure list of voters" and "electoral fraud" for the 2006 elections, was totally, completely unconcerned about the rigging techniques of the 1968 elections. In fact, he was so rude and hostile to me that I can honestly say, in my whole career in politics, I never met anyone of his calibre or determination to create an evil system of voting.

Well, what’s done is done - but are honest, democratic loving people to be subjected to the ideas and directives of those who put us through the agony of their 28 years of monstrous rule via rigged elections? Those demanding the postponement of elections this year are the hereditary proponents of the series of rigged elections in the 6os, 70s and 80s and want to create greater headaches and problems for Guyanese. They seem to think that the postponement of elections will create the necessity for an Interim Government, which will give them back the phony power they had through the rigging process.

All Guyanese must demand that the elections take place in accordance with our Constitution and that every effort be made to maintain the high standards of the 1992, 1997 and 2001 elections!

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Sash Sawh - A Hero of Our Times

by Janet Jagan (April 29, 2006)

I have known Sash Sawh most of his adult life - from his years in Canada to his last ten years in Guyana. I have always thought of him as a rock of stability and devotion to the ideals he held so close to his heart.

If there was ever a patriot, a man who truly loved his country that was Sash! I use the only name I know him by, not his birth name of Satyadeow, but the name we all used so fondly for this remarkable, unique man whose life was taken so cruelly Saturday night last.

Sash’s life was no bed of roses. He grew up in low-income circumstances; his parents had a large family to feed and clothe. He lived under the difficult circumstances of the PNC regime, which eventually led to the misfortunes many encountered at that time, the loss of home and the eventual migration to survive.

It was not easy for Sash and his family in Canada, but the Sash we knew on his return home from Canada in 1996 was a resourceful survivor, not bitter but always cheerful, and who managed through great difficulties, to get a sound university education in Canada.

I noted that he was always cheerful; I would go further to say this word, joyous. There was something in his character that was ‘joyous.’ He always saw the pleasant side of life and was never a negative or complaining person. It was a pleasure to be in his presence! He did not burden one with complaints or criticisms of others. His positiveness is what made him a people’s leader, and that is what he was in the Canadian days when he led the PPP support group - the Association of Concerned Guyanese (ACG). Along with his associates Geoffrey da Silva and Danny Doobay, the ACG became a strong support group in the Guyanese diaspora. Cheddi Jagan relied heavily on this group whose activities were fundamental in the struggle for the restoration of democracy.

It would be impossible to evaluate all the work done by Sash while he lived in Canada, but it was enormous. His self-sacrifice and devotion to duty were exceptional.

I can remember when Sash was named as the Guyana Ambassador to Venezuela. The PNC began a bitter and malicious campaign to discredit Sash, claiming that he gave false evidence in a minor court case. The pressure on President Cheddi Jagan to withdraw the appointment was intense, and, of course, the media jumped into the matter.

Cheddi Jagan stood firm and his faith in Sash Sawh was undiminished. The vilification of Sash was at its highest point, but both figures - Sash and Cheddi - carried on and with time, the vicious chorus of PNC and media slander failed. Sash proved to be a first- class ambassador, even earning a special award in Venezuela. He worked steadfastly among the Guyanese community in Venezuela, most being refugees from the Burnham regime.

I was with Dr Jagan on a visit to Venezuela in the 90s and we met with a large contingent of Guyanese. One could not fail to see the love and respect Sash enjoyed among them.

Dr Jagan brought Sash back to Guyana in 1996, only five months before his death (Dr Jagan), to become Minister of Fisheries and Crops. I think it was this appointment, which brought out the full potential of Sash’s qualities. He became one of the leading members of the Cabinet and the most outgoing of the ministers. He was a man who got things done. We worked closely together when I was President in the years 1997-99 and I found him to be totally devoted to the important task of making agriculture a really strong and viable sector of the economy.

It is my estimation that he literally loved his work and gave his all to making different aspects of agriculture successful. He had a way with people - he connected - he understood their problems and aspirations. He was happy in his work and those with whom he worked were happy because of his interest which was so genuine.

Every year for many years, Sash headed the committee which commemorated Cheddi Jagan in the month of March. These were always successful occasions.

Sash was a family man - from a big family. His devotion, as a good son, to his ailing mother impressed me greatly. I suppose he could have done what many have done, put his mother in a good, safe nursing home in Canada when she became incapacitated, but not Sash! He brought his mother into his home in Guyana for many years, cared for her until her death last year. He was a good and caring son - part of his overall character as a good and caring person.

In this terrible tragedy, the assassination of a good man, a serving minister of government, we can be thankful that his children and wife survived. That’s about all we can be thankful for, except that here, passing through life, was a man, a joyous, hardworking, caring, patriotic man - devoted to his country and his people. We can be thankful to have known such a man - a hero of our times!

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009