Articles by President Janet Jagan
Text of the address to the Amazonian Parliament by Her Excellency President Janet Jagan of Guyana – La Paz, Bolivia, 21 April 1998
THE SUPPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE POWER TO THE POLITICAL AND PARLIAMENTARY DIALOGUE IN THE AMAZON REGION
The increasing co-operation of countries in the Amazon Region within recent years fully accords with the aspirations of the peoples’ of our countries. This co-operation is exemplified in many ways and in many areas of policy and has been generated by the support of the executive power to the political and parliamentary dialogue in our region. We have seen that Amazonian co-operation not only assists in resolving common problems facing our countries but in developing common positions on issues which affect us. There is no doubt that the numerous problems which afflict our region can be resolved if we intensify the development of common and unified approaches to our own and the great problems facing the developing world.
Countries of the Amazon Region have undergone fundamental political and economic changes in the recent past. These changes have been brought about by a variety of factors operating in our countries and in the world at large and the basic reason for them is the age-long quest of mankind for a better life. The poor and disadvantaged in our countries have played a major role in determining the direction of these changes. Their voices continue to influence the direction of change and their continuing empowerment will provide the necessary stimulant for further progress in our dialogue.
The most important of these changes is the democratic transformations which have swept our countries. Formal democracy was won by countries which did not enjoy it before. The intensification and further entrenchment of democratic practices developed in those countries which had been enjoying democratic rule.
The wave of democratic transformations was the result of the growing refusal of our peoples to accept conditions of poverty, exploitation, inequality and injustice which had long helped to generate conditions of instability, war and poverty in may parts of the world. Our efforts at co-operation had been a product of our peoples’ aspirations for better lives. We are therefore enjoined to address matters of vital concern to their welfare.
Technological advances have raised consciousness and generated urgency common to all our countries and most of the world such as poverty, disease, crime, growth with our development, the environment, the debt crisis, the effects of globalisation and many others. These issues are no longer confined to dedicated activists determinedly trying to capture the attention of governments, parliaments and politicians. The information revolution has come to the rescue of the disadvantaged by placing these concerns at the top of the political agenda for the international community. At the same time, these scientific developments have dramatically increased the possibility of resolving the fundamental problem of poverty which we believe is at the root of most other problems.
A major advance has been the interest which Governments of developed countries and international agencies have been demonstrating in relation to issues affecting our countries. We have achieved tremendous success in advancing those causes which have so adversely affected our peoples and countries for so long.
Out of all of these experiences and developments, arising out of our long struggles against colonialism and domination, one of the earliest lessons which has been forced upon us is that of co-operation and solidarity in as many areas as possible. While we need to protect our individual interests, we have to always remain focused on the common problems of the Amazon Region in order to develop strength in unity in defending our interests.
The executives in our region and beyond have given support to parliaments and politicians in the discussions and debates which have been taking place in relation to the great issues which need to be resolved if our countries are to move forward. One of the main products of the efforts of dialogue in our countries has been the Treaty of Amazonian Co-operation. The impetus towards globalisation has raised new and sometimes unfamiliar problems. Issues of trade and investment, particularly for less developed countries, can have devastating impact on their economies unless the appropriate conditions are satisfied. Yet these countries do not, individually, and sometimes in unity, have the economic and political power to negotiate conditions which are adequate enough to protect their economies.
The extension of free trade and especially the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which will involve our countries, will require a high degree of unity, co-operation and co-ordination between our countries, Governments and Parliaments and all politicians in dialogue to arrive at equitable policies to advance which are fair and balanced and which will protect our countries and, at the same time, ensure maximum advantages for us all.
I am sure that the lessons which we have already absorbed from internal dialogue and Amazonian Co-operation will serve as a guide and inspiration for us to achieve the best for our peoples.
The crushing burden of the debt crisis has been one of the major factors restricting economic growth in our countries. Many of our countries face the situation where the sums which we export in debt servicing are larger than the investments which are made in our economies.
We also face the problem of capital export where more is taken out of our countries than new investments which are attracted.
Falling or depressed commodity prices on the international market and the reducing support for those protective measures which have hither to enabled our countries, so far, to survive the growing liberalisation of trade, are another major obstacle to the sustained growth of our economics.
These are all issues which our executives, parliaments and politicians are addressing in one form or another in our individual countries. The dialogues which have taken place have brought many of these issues, including the debt crisis, to the attention of the international community. The result is that Governments of developed countries and multilateral agencies are adopting flexible approaches to the burdens which some of our countries are facing. However, much more needs to be accomplished in all of these areas, including further debt relief and protection of our economies in the course of globalisation.
Our region has been the host to international agreements relating to the environment and sustainable development which have been the result of prolonged and profound dialogue in the international community. It is appropriate that our region should have been the host to these treaties which have transformed the manner of our approach and our commitments to the environment and to sustainable development.
Guyana, like other countries in our region, has enormous forestry and mining resources, the exploitation of which are necessary to ensure that our people are able to climb out of poverty. Guyana has adopted policies and enacted stringent laws for the protection of our environment and the sustainable development of our resources which are in conformity with our international obligations. The administrative agencies to monitor and implement these laws and policies have been strengthened with bilateral and multilateral assistance which are continuing.
At the same time Guyana has taken steps to demarcate the boundaries of lands belonging to the indigenous peoples of our country which was promised to them since the time of our independence from Great Britain 32 years ago but which has not been fulfilled by successive Governments. We have undertaken to the indigenous peoples of our country that as soon as the demarcation is completed, we will address the question of additional lands which they have occupied for farming with a view to legalising their occupation.
Guyana’s commitment to the environment has been demonstrated by the donation of 900,000 hectares of rainforest in the Iwokrama Region of Guyana to the international community for the purpose of research in sustainable development. It is hoped and expected that the results of this research, which would be ongoing, will add to the world’s store of knowledge in sustainable use of forest resources.
The continuing support of governments to political and parliamentary dialogue depends on the maintenance of democracy in our region. In some of our countries, especially where democratic renewal has been recent, democratic systems and structures are still fragile. It is vital that as part of our co-operative effort that our countries through our parliaments and other institutions maintain dialogue with a view to strengthening our institutions. Strong institutions, rooted in a democratic culture and based on a shared commitment by all social partners, generated by trust and confidence, are essential for democracy, stability and economic growth.
In those of our countries where democracy is still fragile, it is necessary to ensure maximum vigilance as well as tolerance so that our democratic gains so far are not destroyed. Our experience in Guyana demonstrates that democracy must be given high priority nurturing to ensure its sustenance and growth and the development of our region.
The political and parliamentary dialogue in our Region supported by our governments, have already brought benefits. We of the Amazon Region must ensure that we exploit to the fullest extent the trend towards international co-operation and seize the opportunity to globalise issues affecting our vital interests. In this way our region can begin to play a much larger and more deserving role in protecting the interests of our peoples while at the same time advancing the cause of international co-operation.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
Opening Address by Her Excellency, President Janet Jagan at the 4th Caricom-Central America Ministerial Meeting At Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana, 22 March 1999
Mr. Chairman, Secretary-General of CARICOM, distinguished Foreign Ministers of CARICOM and Central AMERICA, Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Diplomatic corps, distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the Government and people of Guyana, I bid you a very warm welcome to Guyana. I trust that your deliberations will be fruitful and that the results will prove to be beneficial for on-going co-operation between the Governments and peoples of CARICOM-and Central America.
Guyana has been in the forefront of the integration movement in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Today our vision embraces ideas of greater union among the nations of this hemisphere given the global realities. It is important that we seek higher and higher levels of co-operation in fostering development and find ways of minimising marginalisation of smaller and vulnerable economies - a challenge current globalization trends present.
I am aware that this meeting was originally scheduled for October of last year, but because of the disaster unleashed on Central AMERICA by Hurricane Mitch, a request was made for a postponement to a later date. That time has finally come, and we are very happy to have all of your distinguished Foreign Ministers in our company.
The severe tragedy that struck the Central American countries, particularly Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, has indicated clearly to all Governments of the Americas that there is a dire need to rapidly co-ordinate and mobilise assistance to countries hit by natural disasters. This issue was raised by Guyana at the Organisation of American States since late last year, and we are happy to note that the hemispheric body is now taking steps to set up an Inter-American Committee on disasters which will be responsible for doing so.
This catastrophe resulting from Hurricane Mitch, and also earlier by Hurricane George in the Caribbean, has caused people all over the American continent to mobilise efforts to render assistance. The expressions of solidarity we have witnessed in the provision of assistance are clear manifestations that the nations of the Americas are growing closer to each other and are willing to synchronise anti-disaster plans.
While we contemplate co-ordination of efforts to deal with natural disasters there are other important strategic issues on the front burner. As we move into the next century, we have to recognise the reality that developing countries are extremely vulnerable.
Mr. President, as we have become painfully aware, threats to our environment also impinge on our peace and security. Global warming and climate change have increased the vulnerability of small states like Guyana to a wave of natural disasters. The El Nino phenomenon recently inflicted on our country a period of intense drought, taking a heavy toll on our economy.
In our continuing efforts to develop our country and meet the needs of our people, especially those living in poverty, my country remains dedicated to the preservation of the environment and the sustainable development of our resources. We are concerned therefore that when we seek to exploit our forest and other resources for the benefit of our people, we face criticisms by those who accuse us of disregard for the environment. We have institutionalised arrangements to ensure the conservation of our natural resources. Moreover, under the Iwokrama Rainforest Project, we have set aside almost a million acres of these forests for research by the international community into the preservation of bio-diversity and the sustainable use of forests.
Countries of the Caribbean and Central AMERICA have put in place programs for disaster preparedness, but these involve, in the long run, much resources which have to be pumped into town planning systems, the purchase of emergency equipment, improved building designs, environmental protection, and even increased agricultural production to stockpile in case of a disaster such as a hurricane.
Our countries generally do not have available resources to do all these. Now, with some countries of our hemisphere literally wrecked, the multilateral financial institutions have to seriously consider the cancellation of these countries' debts, thus enabling them to have more available financial resources for rebuilding.
It is obvious that countries of our region also need human resource assistance in times of crisis.
Currently, the countries of the hemisphere give support to the White Helmets, an Argentine initiative backed by the OAS, the Summit of the Americas process, and the United Nations. However, this unit sends mainly medical volunteers to countries affected by disasters and it is definitely not geared to co-ordinate and mobilise assistance for large scale operations. In 1994, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, the late President of Guyana, proposed the establishment of a Corps of Development Volunteers to supplement the work of the White Helmets. These skilled volunteers - in various fields of expertise - would be recruited from all over the
American continent and deploy to countries in need of assistance. The Miami Summit agreed in its Action Plan for the establishment of this Corps, but unfortunately, this has not yet bee reflected. In light of the problems created by Hurricane Mitch in Central AMERICA and Hurricane Georges in the Caribbean, the need for these volunteers in now of paramount importance.
We are all convinced that the increased discharge of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is the biggest cause of global warming and the savage violence of the resulting hurricanes. But while we debate over what countries should do to prevent global warming, the resulting weather-induced natural disasters continue to occur.
Added to the problems caused by nature, the global financial crisis is also having a negative effect on our economies. In the case of Guyana, last year we had the misfortune of having setbacks caused by a severe drought which decreased agricultural production, and also a decline in the prices offered for our exports, including rice, gold and bauxite. The rippling effects of the Brazilian financial setbacks reached our shores and pressures have been placed on our currency. Political disruptions have only assisted to compound the economic problems and threaten investor confidence.
It must be of some concern to us that smaller economies are treated differently from others considered to be more central to the world economic system. These countries have attracted massive injection of aid to prop up their economies. But we note that the smaller economies like those in this hemisphere have not been treated with such fraternal concern. Vice-President Al Gore of the United States at the recent World Economic Forum drew this to the attention of the world and urged assistance for the smaller and weaker economies.
We need a new dispensation in the arena of world politics and economics. The smaller economies are not begging for handouts. We are merely sounding warning signals that the root causes for social and political upheavals continue to prevail and can be removed. We must work together for a better understanding of our special circumstances. And we have to prove by example that we are committed to the development of our people's well-being. If we do not show solidarity in times of difficulties, then the wider world will show us none. The banana issue in the Caribbean is a case in point. The position of the Caribbean States as regards this matter will cost the industrialised countries nothing, yet we witness a lack of sympathy for the implication to the economies and people of these countries. It is a example of the deep contractions inherent in the present system and the weak positions of smaller economies.
No doubt, problems that we have been experiencing are not unique, and we all have to work together to find solutions to economic problems that we are facing. In this respect, I am pleased to note that Guatemala has proposed that as part of the Foreign Affairs Ministerial dialogue at the OAS General Assembly to be held in Guatemala City in June, discussions should centre on the effects of the global financial crisis on the Region. In supporting this initiative, I suggest that discussions and dialogues on this issue should also take place among other Ministers at the hemispheric level, and also among institutions and civil society in all our countries. Through such discussions and dialogues, constructive suggestions on stemming the negative effects of this crisis can be generated.
I note that as part of your agenda, you will be discussing a proposal for a strategic alliance between the Caribbean and Central America. The streamlining of such an alliance is definitely needed, especially at this time in the development of world history when we are seeing a growing regionalisation trend. The countries of Central America and the Caribbean are all small economies with similar economic problems, and common and united efforts by all of us can help to solve the issues that confront us.
Currently, we are all working together for the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, expected to be established in 2005. With the problems of globalization and the peculiarities of smaller economies confronting all of us, we certainly have to make serious adjustments to enter into the vast markets which will be thrown open by hemispheric free trade.
The big question is: are we ready? Are we in a position to retool our institutions to meet the demands of free trade? When we consider that our region is disaster-prone and at the same time economically weak, we have to agree that for free trade to work for us, economic assistance is necessary to put us on a level playing field with the larger economies of the hemisphere. At the present time we have to admit that we all have severe limitations in competing fairly in a free-trade environment. This fact is now clearer than ever. We need assistance in improving our infrastructure and productive base. Our proposal for a Regional Integration Fund to meet the needs of the smaller economies of the Americas lies on the table. In the light of the economic problems being experienced by our countries today, the necessity for having it becomes even more relevant.
Mr. Chairman, I take pleasure in welcoming you and opening this important meeting for another special reason. Today, March 22, marks the 81st Birth Anniversary of my late husband and former President of Guyana, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, as you well know he has made a lifelong contribution to the development of the region and it was his dream for us in the hemisphere to realise greater levels of integration.
His vision continues to guide us. In his advocacy of a New Global Human Order he underlined the need for countries of the south to move closer together and for North-South cooperation to deal with fundamental problems of the world today. He was motivated by the great developments in the field of science and technology with affords us the opportunity to give the world's population a decent living standard. I want to leave you with a few of his words from an unpublished paper which was prepared to be delivered at York University, Canada, just before he passed away.
I Quote: "While all our countries are individually searching for more aggressive and innovative ways to cope with the growing inter-dependence and globalization taking place, there are fundamental issues which can be addressed only by new global initiatives. It is clear that if present world-wide trends continue, tensions, conflicts and disorders of potentially disastrous consequences could become the order to the day.
Disaster can be avoided. As an adjunct to the UN Agenda for Development, Guyana has been advocating a New Global Human Order which must have as its goal, human development: meeting the basic needs of the people; cultural upliftment and a clean and safe environment. The proposal is founded expressly on the requirement for guaranteeing to every woman, man and child the rights, respect and recognition that have been so well underscored by international agreements; for ensuring effective, democratic, accountable and transparent governance, gender quality and empowerment of women, reduction of mortality rates for infants and children, primary health care systems to reproductive health services for individuals, diminished prevalence of disease, environment sustainability and regeneration, and basic capacity building for efficiency and effectiveness, for combatting the environmental degradation; for attention to the root causes of poverty with diametric reduction by the year 2015 for securing the physical and material well-being of people through economic growth and development; and for facilitating these objectives through a global partnership that assures support for their attainment.
"It is relevant to note that Science and Technology today has within its grasp the ability, if properly harnessed, to cut hunger in half within a few years. But this will require a sound scientific development strategy, wider intellectual understanding, strong political will, deeper moral commitment and effective policy measures - a balanced an integrated set of economic, financial and social policies. There is an inter-connection and interaction between the economic, political, institutional, ideological, ecological, social and cultural spheres.
"We also need to establish new global institutions to respond to the global dimension of the existing human society. The UN itself has to play a more central role in global economic management and should have access to large financial resources - the possible source of which we have already identified. The Bretton Woods Institutions -- the World Bank and the IMF - have moved away from their original mandate and have to be brought back to doing what were originally intended. They need to concentrate on human development as distinct from the means of development. They have to be more concerned with social and human factors than with statistics of growth. We need structural adjustment with a human face." End of Quote.
I wish you successful deliberations during this historic meeting.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
Excerpts of Her Excellency President Janet Jagan's message on the occasion of the 33rd Anniversary of Guyana's Independence - 1999
As an independent people we have to make our own choices as to the preferred ways to achieve our goals. As a multi-cultural society, there is a clear vision laid down by our ancestors that we have to go forward as one people. We have to shape our institutions and our way of life so that each and every individual is respected and is respectful of others. Every citizen must be equal to every other citizen in the enjoyment of his and her rights and freedoms. Every citizen has a responsibility to the nation as a whole and the nation must be able to provide opportunities for every citizen to be gainfully employed and expect reasonable returns for his labour.
Sometimes it is difficult for us to understand that we are still an underdeveloped country. Since independence we have been struggling to create more and more wealth so that each and every citizen can consume a bigger slice of the national cake. We must also accept the distasteful fact that we have lost several decades in streamlining our economy with the wider world. The conditions enjoyed by many of our neighbours are constant reminders of our lost opportunities. Those who travel to other countries often marvel at the strides others have made after independence even though they seem to have less potentials.
So today, we recognize that to catch up with others we have to expend twice as much energy. We have to produce more wealth for ourselves. Independence means that there is no fairy godfather around. Regardless of who is in government, regardless of our seemingly endless political competition which is a feature of all democracies, the bottom line is that, as a society, we have to produce more and earn more and distribute the proceeds in a just manner. At the end of the day we can only distribute what we have created.
With all of our limitations, many see Guyana as a land of opportunities. While the government and the private sector are aiming at creating more and more jobs, there are many opportunities being opened for our people to be involved in self-employment. Unfortunately not all are prepared to abandon conventional thinking and seek a future and fortune for themselves. In recent years, I have seen more and more young people who are prepared to apply their creative energies and start their own enterprises. We have been talking for years about our vast potentials. Let us now go out there and work on these.
The days of a large state sector providing jobs for more and more people are over. We are locked in a free market society where the private sector is the engine of growth. We now look towards private investment to do many of the things that government once did. We can engage in an endless debate as to the relative goodness of such an economic system but prevailing conditions do not present us with viable alternatives. What we have to do is to perfect the system so that the advantages are more than the disadvantages. This is very important for smaller economies such as ours since the bigger and more powerful countries tend to influence world development in their favour. Last year, for instance, the prices of many of our export commodities fell to the extent that we cannot this year do all the things we had intended to do, including paying more to government employees and enhance the resuscitation of our outdated infrastructure.
I get the impression sometimes that there are some who do not see the creation of more wealth through foreign investment as having a direct relationship to their personal well-being. A study of those countries that have developed far ahead of us, came to this conclusion a long time ago. They have done everything to facilitate the creation of jobs and wealth. So when we have people say that they will make the country ungovernable and try to create uncertainties for investors, you must know that they will be taking bread out of your mouth. When revenues are not collected, then this will be reflected in the governments ability to provide services. When factories are closed there will be less production, less foreign exchange, and ultimately higher prices.
As a nation we have to settle down and carry on our business, including political and labour advocacy, in a manner which allows us to continue to create wealth. It will be self-defeating to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
My government recognizes the dire plight in which many of our people live. The reality is that the PPP/Civic administration has to confront a situation where the majority of our people were kept below the poverty line before we came into office. We have engineered a bold programme aimed at eradicating this scourge which includes opening more opportunities for education and training, expansion of economic activities, a vigorous housing programme, rehabilitation of drainage and irrigation, increase in medical services, conducive atmosphere for job- and wealth-creating investments, etc.
In spite of the strides made in recent years, the demand for more services and a better standard of living is still there. I do not interpret these demands as being excessive and irresponsible. On the contrary, I see them as expressions of hope by our citizens and that they have a stake in the development of this country. What the public is outraged about, is that some players in the game are prepared to abuse the legitimate demands of the ordinary people to enhance their own selfish ends. And in so doing, they are undermining the interests of those same people who they say they represent. We must be able to see through the hypocrisy of some of these leaders. Follow those who have the well-being of the nation at heart is advice to follow.
Let us have constructive dialogue on serious national issues such as charting a course for our future development so that our people can see clearly where we are going. We have to develop a society in which all our citizens are equal in the eyes of the law, equal in the enjoyment of their constitutional rights, equal to the opportunities available in the country and equal in the distribution of wealth and services in the society. Such a national perspective for betterment cannot result from confrontation. There are bound to be differing ideas and modalities on how to advance from where we are. That is a good place to start to shape a national consensus. Dialogue is an on-going and sometimes tedious process, but there is no alternative, as the experience of others have shown. We have gone out on a limb to show our good faith. And sometimes we need to go out on a limb since that is where the fruit is.
Our 33rd Independence Anniversary is observed on the eve of a new millennium into which we must take our struggles and dreams. Our struggles against oppression and for freedom began a long time ago starting with our Amerindians and then through slavery and indentureship. These have forged our people into a common destiny.
There are many Guyanese who were involved in the long and hard fight against colonialism. There were many difficulties but we eventually surmounted those and were victorious. Unfortunately, the wounds inflicted on the nation have taken time to heal but this is not beyond our efforts. As a nation we will walk away from those painful shadows of our colonial past into a bright future. And as the Chinese say, dont curse the darkness, light a candle. The late President Cheddi Jagan, the Father of our Independence, the architect of the massive united independence movement, had always reminded us that we should strive to bring back the spirit of the fifties and continue the road to progress in unity and harmony.
Our Independence means a bonding of our people of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds into a common Guyanese identity. On this anniversary, let us renew our pledge to achieving national understanding, respect and cohesion. Our independence also means economic emancipation which requires sustained efforts by all our citizens to lay the foundations of a modern state which can stand as equal to others in our global environment.
Today, we live in a free and democratic state. At all times we must seek to preserve this status and seek to enhance our democratic culture and create more options for our people to direct their energies for their own benefit, for the benefit of the people. It must be a culture that appreciates the significance of law and order in our development process. It must be a culture which by its very nature has to be based on the involvement of all the people. It must be a culture for the respect of others: their views, their rights, religion, history, culture and way of life. It must be a culture of creating a better quality of life. It must be a culture that puts Guyana first.
I wish every Guyanese wherever they may be at this moment, a happy 33rd Independence Anniversary.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
by Janet Jagan
In the interest of historical accuracy, I wish to comment on a letter by Mr Ramharack in the Monday Stabroek News entitled "Mr Rai Backed Dr Jagan's candidacy in 1947."
Mr Rai's contribution to urging Dr Jagan to fight the Central Demerara seat in 1947 was very slight. I was present at our Kitty home when a group of residents and farmers from Beterverwagting came to see him and asked him to contest. They said they were fed up with John D'Aguiar and wanted new blood. I am not saying that Mr Rai was not around, but I really cannot remember him playing any major role in the 1947 elections. The two names that I am familiar with in those elections were Sydney King and Ram Karran, who campaigned with Dr Jagan.
I cannot comprehend Mr Ramharack's point when he wrote that Mr Rai, when he returned from UK after completing his LLB Degree "understood the implications of what a Marxist Party was up against in colonial Guyana" and "his ideological and political opposition to Marxism." Then why did Rai join the PPP?
Mr Ramharack gives to Mr Rai credit for what others did. I must know. I was there. For example he writes about equalisation of the three major religions - "recognition of equal status of Pandits and Imams at official state functions.." Mr Ramharack couldn't know, but I am sure Mr Rai will recall that I was the one who raised objections to the presence of a priest and no other representative of the two other religions when I opened the Port Mourant hospital in the 50s. I thought it unfair and raised the matter with Dr Jagan; the practice of inviting representatives of the Christian, Hindu and Moslem religions to official openings, etc. began then and continues to this day. This was the basis for Mr Rai's introduction of amendments to the Marriage Act which appoints Pandits and Imams as marriage officers. And anyway, no particular legislation or acts by ministers were done individually, but within the context of joint responsibility in the cabinet.
Mr Ramharack's letter states that Mr Rai, when Home Affairs Minister issued several directives regarding height, physical make up etc. leading to increased recruitment to reduce "ethnic imbalance". Whether this is true or not, you can judge.
But I do remember with clarity when I challenged the British Commissioner of Police Mr Owen and asked him why there was a marked imbalance in the police force. He told me that few other racial groups could pass the examinations, which included oral and written tests as well as stature and height. I told him that as far as I knew, there were no differences in mental aptitude. I enquired about the height requirement for policemen. In that conversation, Mr Owen indicated that Amerindians, Chinese and East Indians were short and not big enough to be policemen. I challenged him and reminded him that there were many countries in the world with people of small stature, but all maintained security forces.
I then asked to see the examination papers, which he was very reluctant to show me. Eventually he produced these papers and it turned out that there were two very different exam papers - the one for urban applicants was far easier than the one for rural applicants. One aspect of the exam papers required the applicant to write down the word called by the examiner. In the rural test there were difficult words and some I never knew existed. Just to be sure I called in my permanent secretary Mr Seelig, a highly educated man and asked him to spell two of the words listed. He told me he had never heard of these words and had no idea of how to spell them. These words I mention were three and four syllable words and were not in common usage.
Thus I had to speak in strong terms with the Commissioner of Police and told him to stop his nonsense and allow a fair system of recruiting to exist. The two examination papers system came to an end.
I do not know if Mr Ramharack was present during the early 60s, but he presents such outrageous charges about Dr Jagan's ministers being cowards, that I am bound to remark that he is not being fair and must have a reason for trying to denigrate the PPP ministers - Dr Jagan, Ram Karran, EMG Wilson, Fenton Ramsahoye, and others. I am sorry, Mr Ramharack, call us what you will, but the PPP has never yet been charged with cowardice. What is your purpose in trying to slam the PPP in your letters?
I could mention in the same breath that I had innumerable problems with Commissioner Owen. He felt that security was in his and the Governor's hands. He was giving up any of his territory and as I learned after, his policy was to exacerbate the conflicts in the then British Guiana.
We know of the infamous paper "X - 13 Plan" of the PNC to destroy the PPP government. He never gave it to me, although it was an official police document, researched by police. I had to get that and other important information from a friendly policeman who I used to meet secretly.
(Printed in Stabroek News 4/8/99)
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009
THE following is the text of President Janet Jagan's last address to the nation, first broadcast on GBC at 17:00 hours Sunday August 8, 1999
THE time has now come for me to take a decision, which I have been considering over the past month. When I became ill on the eve of my return from Rio de Janeiro Summit of leaders of the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, I spent a little time in hospital and then had medical tests in Trinidad. From these, I was advised to seek further tests abroad, and then proceeded to the USA where I was under the care of a Guyanese doctor whom I have known since his childhood. Despite the assurances that my condition is not life threatening, I found that my energy and stamina have been seriously reduced.
I considered at length and consulted close colleagues on the question of my continuing in office as President. It is now my firm and studied conclusion that I can no longer offer to the nation the vigorous and strong leadership that I had sought to provide during my 20 months as the lawfully and duly elected President of the Republic of Guyana. I, therefore, wish to announce that I intend to resign my position as President and to fulfil the promise I made during the 1997 election campaign.
At the time, the PPP/Civic had announced the concept of the `A' Team, made up of myself, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and Finance Minister, Bharrat Jagdeo. It was stated at public meetings and through campaign material that should anything happen to the President, clear cut means would be used to replace the President by the third member of the `A' Team, Bharrat Jagdeo, with the Prime Minister retaining his position in the post allotted to the Civic component of the PPP/Civic alliance.
Therefore, I am overseeing the implementation of this promise to the electorate and am assuring all concerned that the responsibilities of good and strong leadership will be guaranteed.
I would like to remark upon the extreme goodwill and support which I received throughout my time in office. The PPP/Civic government which I have led for 20 months has had several important objectives, many of which have been achieved with concrete steps in train to achieve others. The foundation policies of the PPP/Civic administration have been clearly outlined by our first democratically-elected President, Dr. Cheddi Jagan. His vision of a Guyana that is united, free and prosperous continues to define our work on behalf of the people. His administration, in just four and a half years, succeeded in stemming the slide that was evident in our society for decades.
First of all, we have had the task of consolidating democracy which was won after a long and hard battle and which involved a great many Guyanese who may or may not support the PPP/Civic. The protection of our democracy is vital for the development of our country. Its protection and deepening is a matter for all Guyanese. We all cherish this new freedom and we must see to it that at all cost there must never be a return to authoritarianism and rigged elections.
The results of that part of our history are still here for us to see.
Secondly, it has been the objective of my government to rebuild the economic and social foundations of the society and to launch out on a development course which would see Guyana coming out of its under-developed state. And, we intend to do so with the interest of the people at the centre of our strategy. Our open economic system is intended to bring growth and human development. In building a new society we have sought to encourage genuine partnerships with the main players in civic society, especially the private sector and organisations of the working people.
What is of importance is that we have put Guyana back on track. There is more hope for a bright future. More and more people are using their creativity to create wealth and to be part of the process of nation building. More and more people feel that they have a stake in this country and want to see it develop and flourish.
A glaring feature of our society, especially since the 1997 general elections is that we have not enjoyed the political peace so necessary for advancement and change. But as an optimist, I know that these will come in time. I am encouraged by history, the past and present, here at home and in the world at large. We are not alone in being beset by unreasonable and uncivilised behaviour of an opposition that cannot accept the results of democratic elections. It is nothing new. Reading American history recently I came across an episode in which the early President Thomas Jefferson was warned by his Attorney General that "because of the perverse, hostile and malignant state of the opposition, with facility of imposing on the public mind and producing excitements, every measure originating with the executive will be attacked with virulence". Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Yet such opposition was overcome and the USA went on to become a powerful nation. It is not my intention to compare the United States with Guyana, but simply reminding ourselves that an unreasonable opposition cannot hold back growth and development once the leadership and people stand firm.
My government, and myself, have been criticised for being too `soft' and `weak' as regards dealing with those who want to destroy our gains as a nation. Our attitude has been one of patience and we realised that the state and government, not the opposition or destructive elements, have the responsibility to see to it that the society does not descend into anarchy. We needed to have great political wisdom and prevent racial conflagration by finding new ways to solve the problems of a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. The opposition, by now, must know the response of society at large to the destruction they have caused both to the economy and to the social fabric of the nation. As a politician with some 50 years experience in this country, I can assure you that such tactics can cost votes. And that is what they will reap - the wrath of the people.
The PPP/Civic government stands for development and people. I have brought all my years of experience to the highest office, and have sought to maintain the dignity of this office. It is important for our country to be led by people who have the wisdom to know what is the best in the interest of society. Dr Jagan brought dignity to this country. So did Mr Samuel Hinds. I am confident that the new President, Mr Bharrat Jagdeo, will do the same. He is youthful and has presided admirably over the important Ministry of Finance. I know that he is firm in dealing with government business and is not afraid to make decisions. His office requires that kind of firmness. He will be aided by many veterans in the field in politics and those who have experience in running the affairs of the country. I am indeed leaving a strong and united team to lead the country. And, of course, I am not going anywhere. I will be around to assist in whatever way I can.
The process of healing the wounds of our nation continues. This will take courage and strong will. To bring peace requires understanding and this must be done without violence or disruption of the daily lives of our people. There must be reasonableness and a will to find common grounds if there is to be peace, progress and prosperity. The future of this country is at stake and we cannot allow the iron fist to rule. We have had enough of that. Our task is to unite and to do this we must strive for better ethnic and cultural understanding and give assurances of security to those who feel insecure.
I wish to thank Prime Minister Sam Hinds who has been a constant support, my Cabinet colleagues, the staff of the Office of the President, the Commissioner of Police and Chief of Staff and all the other hard-working people in government. A special thanks to my colleagues in the PPP and its leadership who have walked with me and my husband all these years. I will continue to be in their company in coming years. I want to give a big thank you to all those people who voted for me and the PPP/Civic alliance in the last elections. I thank them for their faith in me and their continuing support. Lastly, I want to thank the thousands from all walks of life who have welcomed me in their homes, who have visited me in my office, who have written me and who have sent me photographs, messages of support and have kept me aware of the problems and aspirations of the Guyanese people. Meeting you, my Guyanese friends, was the best part of the job.
Long live Guyana.
Copyright © Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009