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Articles by Janet Jagan 2006

October 5, 1992 Ushered in the New Day

By Janet Jagan (October 5, 2006)

October 5, 1992 marked the beginning of a new era in Guyana. This was the day which practically all Guyanese had been waiting for -- the end of tyranny and hopelessness and the beginning of freedom and democracy.

It was not a fluke nor an accident that October 5, 1992 became the day of Guyana’s liberation. It was sought and fought for since the dark days of 1964 when the two countries – the USA and the UK – intervened in Guyana’s internal affairs and manipulated, in numerous ways, the eviction of the Peoples’ Progressive Party from office and literally installed the PNC-UF deadly coalition that led to the 28 years of ruthless dictatorship.

The United Force removed itself from the dirty coalition – but only After being involved in the first electoral rigging of 1968. Burnham’s rigging was not only aimed at defeating the PPP, but in getting rid of the United Force – one of those ironies of fate.

Life was not easy for Guyanese during this disgraceful period of history from 1964-1992. Whatever gains workers and farmers had won in the previous PPP administrations (even under British rule) were lost and poverty began rising as never before. Many rights formerly enjoyed by Guyanese were removed or restricted. No longer did Guyanese have the right to elect a government of their choice through free and fair elections; no longer was there free speech and free movement of people. The Burnham regime craftily restricted press freedom by refusing the importation of newsprint, ink and printing machinery, besides other methods. When some journalists wrote that the 1973 elections were grossly rigged Rickey Singh and Rick Mentus of the Guyana Graphic were fired, and Father Wong of the Catholic Standard was removed from his post of Editor.

Parliament was reduced to a farce. I give one example of my own experiences which can be checked at the Parliament Office. As an MP, after the scandalous and horrific Jonestown massacre, I tabled a series of questions which would have been hard to answer: who gave permission for Jonestown to have weapons, US currency, poisons, sophisticated communications equipment and a whole host of penetrating questions. Despite frequent enquiries these never hit the Order Paper. When the next Parliament was convened, I put the question again, and again and again. There was never any intention to answer them. And that was much the pattern of the National Assembly, whose Speaker eventually prevented Opposition Leader Cheddi Jagan from speaking in Parliament for over two years!

The years 1964-1992 were the worst in the nation’s history in modern times and probably as painful and detrimental to the population as the earliest years of colonial rule.

The PPP under the leadership of the courageous and resourceful Cheddi Jagan led the resistance to the PNC dictatorship, never giving up, never reducing the pressure. I can say with absolute certainty, that had it not been for the perseverance of the PPP, the 28 years of tyrannical rule might not have ended on October 5, 1992. There are many who put in their claims for helping to bring down the dictatorship – but no one but the PPP had the guts to oppose the PNC for many, many years. It was only later, when civic groups and the WPA emerged to finally form the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) along with the PPP, that the movement to restore democracy was strengthened and broadened. Before that, fear was a decisive factor, and that can be easily understood, as the PNC regime was utterly ruthless.

So emerged a unified opposition to the PNC’s undemocratic rule and the engagement of overseas support – largely due to the influence and perseverance of Cheddi Jagan that brought in former US President Jimmy Carter to help the process.

We know how his efforts were greatly responsible for removing some of the worst elements of electoral rigging – like the removal of ballot boxes with votes being counted secretly away from the place of poll. This was corrected and when elections were finally held on October 5, 1992, we know the results.

The man who led the struggle for Independence and the restoration of democracy, Cheddi Jagan, became the first democratically elected President of Guyana. Today, with democracy a part of daily life in Guyana, and with progress leading to better standards of living and life far better than that dark period, we can be grateful to all those who gave their lives, their time and their energy to make Guyana a land of the free!

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Will there be Positive Changes Resulting from the US Elections?

by Janet Jagan (Nov. 11 2006)

Two important events happened over the last few days. These are the presidential elections in Nicaragua and the mid-term elections in the USA.

In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega was returned with a strong vote to the Presidency of his country. Sixteen years ago he was voted out of office, but returned through a victorious re-election this week.

The USA has had its hands in the affairs of this small Central American nation for over a century. Nicaragua, in the early history of the Americas, was occupied by the US military, and through the years, seemed unable to keep its hands off that nation’s internal affairs.

A brutal war against the Sandinistas, the revolutionary group led by Daniel Ortega, was promoted and financed by the USA through what was known as the "contras" – those against the Sandinista revolution that had arisen to fight against the brutal Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza.

The US succeeded in destroying the infrastructure and economy of Nicaragua to smash one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. The northern power also succeeded, in the 16 years since deposing Ortega as president, in preventing him from gaining office again. However, on this occasion, US influence declined and Ortega has won in free and fair elections, despite clear warnings by the Bush regime that aid would be stopped if he were returned to office. The people were not to be intimidated and gave Ortega enough votes to put him in office without a second run (a candidate has to get over 40% of the votes to prevent a second vote).

Ortega was out of office for 16 years because of US intervention. Cheddi Jagan was out of office for 28 years because of US intervention. Both eventually were returned to office on the strong support of the people. Guyana had the support of former US President Jimmy Carter in its efforts to restore fair voting practices. Mr Carter has made a public call for the US to give Ortega "a chance."

In the USA, the Bush administration lost heavily in the mid-term elections. The House of Representatives (one of the two chambers of Congress) was won by the Democrats, who had lost control over a decade ago. The Senate has been won by a close majority by the Democrats. Thus, there has been a complete change in the control of congress from the Republicans to the Democrats. This control had given the Bush administration, through Republican control of both houses of Congress, free avenues to carry out many actions and policies that have been ultimately detrimental to the citizens of the USA. In particular, the war in Iraq has been unacceptable to the majority of Americans and was the main issue in these mid-term elections. The lies spoken by the president and his advisers as to the reasons for invading Iraq and the manner in which the war has been conducted were critical issues in these elections. It was said that the elections would be a referendum on Bush, whose popularity has plummeted since his decision to invade and occupy Iraq. It is interesting to note that in these elections the sum of $2.2 billion has been spent; the highest in any US elections.

One of the developments arising out of the shift from Republicans’ to Democrats’ control of the House of Representatives is the removal of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one of the chief advocates of the invasion of Iraq. Rumsfeld is now one of the casualties of the election.

The other important development is that for the first time in American history a woman, Nancy Pelosi will become Speaker of the House. This is the highest position any woman has achieved in the USA. Ms Pelosi is an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq and it is expected that these changes in the balance of power between the Democrats and Republicans will bring a change in the political landscape of the USA, hopefully for the better.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


The Importance of the Political Affairs Committee - now celebrating its 55th year

by Janet Jagan (November 2006)

Fifty-five years ago, on November 6, 1946, the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) was formed. Its significance in Guyana and the Region has continued to be of immense importance. In Guyana, the meeting together of the four persons who brought this about - Cheddi Jagan, Ashton Chase, HJM Hubbard and Janet Jagan - started a process that led to the formation of the People's Progressive Party (PPP)and the struggle for independence.

The PPP, supported mainly by the country's workers and farmers, won five general elections and probably many more if we take into consideration the election of 1964 when it received the highest number of votes of any other party and the four highly rigged elections sponsored by the PNC during its 28 years of illegal rule.

During its long years in and out of office, the PPP established principles and practices that have held up through all these years. Its leader, Cheddi Jagan, set the tone for integrity, grass root activity and closeness, care for the people, high intellectual standards and concepts which scholars today study.

The PPP set the tone and standards of a political party and its relations with the working people, never wavering in its goal for the future of the country and the betterment of its people. And it all began 55 years ago. 

I reproduce below an article I wrote 20 years ago on the 35th Anniversary of the PAC and published in the PPP's official organ Thunder. 

"The year 1946 was the post-war period, when there was ferment throughout the world. This was the period of the growth of the national independence movements in the colonial world, which at that time accounted for a very large part of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. No doubt the struggle in India, which was one of the most determined, best organized and most widely publicized, gave inspiration to many independence movements, certainly to that of British Guiana.

In British Guiana and the British Caribbean, the Union Jack flew in all the main buildings of the main cities. There were no visible or serious threats against British rule. What little strife existed was centred around workers' struggles for betterment and the growth of trade unionism. The centre of struggle was in the trade union movement, but at that stage, in the forties, it had little or no political content.

The idea of independence was no yet an issue - certainly not examined in writings in any form or discussed at meetings, what few took place. The concept that capitalism exploited labour was only a physical reaction to low pay, long hours of work, harsh conditions of work and harsh employers of labour. The unions were not talking about capital and labour or the working class struggle. They were talking about day-to-day problems of the workers, and were doing what was possible - that is, those not corrupted.

Four Powers
In British Guiana, this was the period when the four powers that ruled the country held it in a vice, a vice infused with the most extreme conservative attitudes and beliefs.

First, there was the British presence in the form of a Governor, whose authority was unchallenged. He was backed up by a large number of high-ranking British civil servants, who headed all the important departments. Below, were the local civil servants, educated for and attuned to their subservience to the British.

Second, were the British sugar planters, the representatives of the owners of the big sugar companies based in England - mainly Bookers, McConnell and Co Ltd. They ruled the plantations and the lives of the thousands of workers under their control. They were the "gods" who lived well, who established paternalistic practices, and who along with the hierarchy of the British civil service, were the elite. They were all-powerful because they symbolized British wealth.

Third was the Church - the Christian church, since no one gave any recognition to the Hindu and Muslim religions, although they accounted for the majority of church-goers in the country. The Church (mainly the Catholic and Anglican) had at that time, impressive powers in the country and worked closely with the British. They too formed part of the elite. To understand their importance, one has only to recall the role of the Catholic and Anglican Church leaders during the period when the Constitution was suspended in 1953.
Fourth was the Chamber of Commerce which represented local and foreign capitalist interests in British Guiana. It was a powerful force at that period.

What is remarkable about the Political Affairs Committee is that it was against this array of powerful internal and external forces that it set out as its goal, its mission, to establish a party to demolish colonialism, imperialism and capitalism; to establish an independent state of Guyana and lead it onwards to socialism!

Those were astonishing aims in an unorganized, conservative-oriented society, divided by the British in order to prevent unity, closed to new ideas and submerged in the cultural fumes of the British Council.

It took courageous thought for the Political Affairs Committee in November 6, 1946 to announce that it had as its aims: "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 Scientific Socialism; 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 its three years of existence, November 1946 to December 1949, it worked with the trade union movement, spreading new and progressive ideas, giving solidarity, both local and foreign (sugar and bauxite strikes and the Canadian Seaman's strike in Georgetown), teaching and holding classes in Marxism-Leninism, preaching and praticising internationalism, guiding working people into struggle and laying the foundations for a political party to lead the country to independence and to be equipped "with the theory of Scientific Socialism."

If the Political Affairs Committee had not emerged in 1946, it is probable that the People's Progressive Party would not have been born in 1950 or that its role would have been different.

Historically, one cannot deny or lessen the importance of the Political Affairs Committee. Its birth 35 years ago was an important development. It is in this context that the PPP celebrates this anniversary and records its importance both locally and internationally. 

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Aid Traps

by Janet Jagan (Dec. 24, 2006)

I was reading a dated copy of the British publication “The Guardian Weekly” of June 23-29, 2006 and came across this interesting review of the book entitled “The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done so Much Ill and So Little Good” by William Easterly. Of course, the sub-title gives away the content, but this reviewer’s analysis gives much food for thought.

"The White Man’s Burden,” as he recounts “is the spirit of benign meddling that lies behind foreign aid, foreign military intervention and such do-gooder institutions as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the UN.”

We learn from the book review many things we already know or think we know such as the contention of the author that the do-gooders’ fundamental flaw is that they are “planners” who seek to impose solutions from the top down, rather than “searchers” who adapt to the real life and culture of foreign lands from the bottom up.

He points to the lack of success by the “planners” who believe that an infusion of foreign aid and economic advice will lift poor countries into prosperity. The trouble is that it doesn’t happen that way, because the basics are ignored or misunderstood, like the cultural, political and bureaucratic obstacles that “impede the delivering of real assistance … to the world’s poor.”

The author, according to his reviewer David Ignatius, has assembled overwhelming evidence of how little has been accomplished with the hundreds of billions of dollars in aid money, the thousands of advisory missions, the millions of reports and studies.

He cites how 22 African countries spent $342 billion (US) from the World Bank on public investment from 1970-1994 and another $187 billion (US) in foreign aid over the period. The productivity level was zero!

In Guyana, we’ve had our share of these misconceptions and lack of understanding by outside institutions – too many to name over too many years. When we gained the government in 1992, after defeating vote rigging, we were stuck with a massive foreign debt of over (US) $2 billion, for what, no one really knows. Certainly there was nothing much to show for such a massive debt whose yearly interest payments left us with very little funds to solve the multitude of social problems. We had, as evidence, cupboards in ministries stuffed with huge reports that no one read and were of little use.

I remember a particular problem the early PPP/C government had with the “do-gooders,” the IMF. They knew exactly what they wanted to do to solve Guyana’s problems. The first on the list was the denationalization of the sugar industry. But for a change, they were up against a man and his party who were not prepared to respond to the whiplash of money. President Cheddi Jagan flatly refused to abide by the orders of the IMF. He was put under intense pressure. Many advised him to give in if he wanted to get funds from the international agencies. But they had met their “Man” and failed to conquer. Eventually, they had to back-off from their demands to privatize the sugar industry.

Just last week, the Sunday Chronicle reported that President Bharrat Jagdeo told the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that Guyana would not be using the bank’s Agriculture Exports Diversification Framework model. He told the representatives that Guyana is using its own model and “We don’t need complicated monitoring and evaluation schemes.”

Recently I wrote about the givers of aid for HIV/AIDS victims who have succeeded in closing down our manufacture of antiviral drugs to satisfy the donors!

These are examples, in addition to those outlined in  Easterly’s “The White Man’s Burden” which amply endorse the fact that developing countries are now recognizing the dangers and frequent traps that hurt their people and their economies by those providing Aid and Loans. Time to wake up to these realities!

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009


Will the World’s Children be Better off in 2007?

by Janet Jagan  (Dec. 30, 2006)

This planet on which we all live was in pretty bad shape during 2006. Wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Ethiopia, etc), pestilence (HIV/AIDS and malaria) poverty (everywhere, even in the very rich countries), homelessness (as a result, mainly of wars and poverty) crime (increasing in every country) and all kinds of violence have all reaped heavy tolls on humanity.

Hit the hardest, as always, are the world’s children who suffer and die in increasingly large numbers because of all the ills of society. When it comes to war, the toll on children is devastating. In all the countries where wars exist, it is the children who are hit the hardest.

The numbers killed grow daily in the bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan and the suffering, especially in Darfur in Sudan is unbelievable, as children starve and die because of displacement, no food and shelter and the violence against their mothers.

Now before military courts in the USA are US Marines charged with the murder of 24 unarmed Iraqi citizens who died in Haditha, Iraq. Several were children who were allegedly gunned down by US soldiers. One young girl was raped and then murdered.

But this is only one of many such occurrences arising out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where one hears constantly of deaths by gunfire at weddings, for example, mistakenly thought to be ambushes or by false information. Always children die!

In Lebanon, Israeli soldiers flooded the country with cluster bombs that covered vast areas of the countryside, where children play and where these bombs explode and kill or maim thousands of children.

The BBC recently showed a feature its correspondents filmed in Vietnam, showing large numbers of children who were born horribly deformed – as a result of the poison Agent Orange which was used during the US invasion of that country. Thousands of acres of land were sprayed with this poison which remains in the soil and still has the power to destroy and deform babies. It’s always the children who pay!

Violence against children is widespread. Children are raped, frequently by soldiers, by relatives, even by their fathers. Children are beaten, some to death, by angry fathers, mothers, teachers and others.

In Guyana we debate whether teachers should be allowed to beat school children! We seem to be in the dark ages, when slaves were whipped and children beaten to serious injuries for minor offences.

Children go hungry in a world where food is plentiful and much of it thrown away. A recent news report said: “Hunger in American households has risen by 43% in the last five years and it requires urgent attention.” The report stated that the US Department of Agriculture released information that 38.2 million Americans live in households that suffer directly from hunger and food insecurity, including nearly 14 million children.

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, some 220 million or 44% of the population of the area do not have enough money to cover their needs.

And what do these statistics tell us? It’s the children who always suffer the greatest.

Further statistics help us understand the “Why” for such pervasive poverty. In the USA, for example, the richest 1 percent of the US population hold 40% of the nation’s wealth. In the UK it is there, but lower. 1% of Britons hold 18% of the nation’s wealth.

Although each year malnutrition in developing countries contributes to the death of more than 5 million preschool children, enough food is available to provide every human being on earth with more than the 2,350 calories needed daily for a healthy and active life. (From Crop Circles by Marc J. Chin reviewed in “Natural History,” October 2003).

We should go back to a slogan popular some years ago – “Save our Children.” Irresponsible, foolish and harmful wars must end. Voters in every country have to speak out – as they did recently in the USA against the war – and demand a better use of each nation’s resources, so that children can live, enjoy life and make their contributions to the welfare of all

  Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009