Cheddi Jagan Research Centre
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Reminiscences of Cheddi Jagan by Janet Jagan

Cheddi Jagan - The Man by Janet Jagan

Cheddi Jagan liked to consult a wide range of people on important matters. That was the pattern he established during his long years in the opposition as well as the years he spent heading his PPP Governments.

He faced criticism frequently for taking too long, in some people’s opinion, to come to a decision. However, he always sought a wide variety of opinions so that he could sift through them and, as he hoped, come to a realistic, practical and correct decision.

I can recall becoming the victim of this practice. In the PPP’s Executive Committee, he would sometimes put forward an idea or proposal, sometimes arising out of a point someone made. This would be debated and sometimes, at the same meeting, a conclusion arrived at.

When the Executive Committee met the next week, he would sometimes – but of course not always – re-discuss the matter and come up with a different point of view.

I was frequently blamed for this change or shift and it would be said, behind the scenes, that I influenced him and succeeded in changing his opinions.

But they did not understand how he operated. Once the idea was conceived, he thought it out carefully and consulted a wide range of people, to hear their views. He was the direct opposite of "rigid." His ideas could flow in all directions until the point at which he felt he had sufficient ventilation of the idea to come to a conclusion.

I used to tell him that I was the official scapegoat and I would be blamed for just about anything that went wrong or did not please whosoever was involved. And he used to laugh and say that I had a persecution complex.

Even now, at the slightest excuse, there is a tendency to blame me for things really impossible for me to have been involved in. But that is its own story.

Cheddi Jagan was very easy to live with. His needs or requirements were small. He ate small amounts of food and never over ate. He loved to garden and plant fruit trees. One of his greatest enjoyments was to eat the fruit from the trees he had planted and cared for. He exercised daily, usually while listening to the news. Every day, at least twice a day, he had to hear the news and his greatest possession was a small radio he could carry about and listen to when he had time.

He used his time carefully and rarely wasted it. He sat at his desk for long hours, in and out of government. The Cheddi Jagan Research Centre which houses his many papers, can testify to his output.

But, at the same time, he always looked forward to going out in the country or walking about Georgetown, meeting people. He told me that he felt "refreshed" when he met people at public meetings, just stopping off when people gathered, at social functions like weddings, or Party fund-raising activities. And, of course, people loved to be with him.

I can recall some of the hard times when stones and rotten eggs were thrown at him and others. When we would go into friendlier areas the women and children would come out and smother him with flowers. He accepted both kinds of treatment as part of the struggle.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Five Years After by Janet Jagan

I can only guess that a person's worth after death will, to some extent say something of his worth while alive.

I remain, as I have since 1950, a member of the Central Committee (formerly General Council) and Executive Committee of the People's Progressive Party. These two committees are the governing bodies of the PPP in between Congress, which is the highest authority of the Party and which elects, on a delegate basis, in our Party's democratic elections for the Central Committee.

Since Cheddi Jagan's demise in 1997, I have missed only a few of these meetings. What I find remarkable and significant is that at most of these meetings (Executive Committee meets weekly and the Central Committee quarterly) Cheddi Jagan's name comes up frequently. For example, we may be discussing a matter like race relations and the setting up of a Race Relations Council. Members will remember what he said on the subject and the manner in which he would deal with the matter.

We might be discussing financial matters and the specific item of debt relief. Dr. Jagan's views on this would be recalled and we would be guided by his views and experience.

His ideas and thoughts continue to influence the PPP. But not in any dogmatic or slavish way. He always sought the widest opinions on vital matters and was never afraid or reluctant to ask the views of those least expected to be consulted by him. His mind was never closed to new ideas and this attitude has pervaded the thinking of the Party's leading members.

On moral issues, the Party leadership is constantly reminded of his solid standing and unwavering adherence to the principles of honesty and integrity.

At the more personal level, can I but remember him when I eat a mango from the tree he lovingly planted or when I pet the same dog he petted the very night he took ill at State House?

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Cheddi - A Unique Leader by Janet Jagan

(Taped address by Janet Jagan at the Cremation Site, Babu John, March 9, 2003)

I regret being unable to attend this ceremony due to health problems, but take this opportunity to thank everyone here for paying tribute to our late President and Father of the Nation.

Not far from where you are today, he was born to sugar workers of Port Mourant, Jagan and Bachaoni, both born in India and who arrived in the then British Guiana with their parents who were indentured labourers. From this humble beginning, Cheddi reached the highest position in the land of his birth, the Presidency.

But, it is to his everlasting credit that he never forgot his roots. His whole life was dedicated to the betterment of humankind, both in his country of birth and everywhere that people lived and suffered.

Through his many years of active life in the service of humanity, his contributions to society in general were enormous. He led the anti-colonial struggle in Guyana and in the historical sense is related to all the leaders of these struggles - Nehru, Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Mandela and others. He actively fought for and led working people in their struggles for a better life, never giving an inch or making compromises that endangered their rights.

Perhaps, one of the most remarkable aspects of Cheddi Jagan's life was his consistent struggle for justice, never compromising his beliefs and always advocating equality, unity and struggle. Unlike many before him and after, he never sold out the people. His honesty and integrity made him unique in the realms of leadership. Even those who hated him the most, never doubted his honesty or his intentions.

What we can learn from the life of Cheddi Jagan is never to give up, once you know that you are doing what is right. In the face of the most difficult situations and the most dangerous period, as in the 60's, Cheddi never gave up and in the face of terrible attacks, still called for national unity, as he knew how important this was. At the height of the combined forces which had one objective - the removal of the PPP from office and the aim that it would never again gain office - in 1965 he said:

"Regardless o f race or ethnic origin, let us consolidate our, forces, win new support and march forward to victory ... Racism is the greatest curse of our land... anyone who .spreads racial propaganda must be severely dealt with. Such a person is an enemy to himself and his country.

" Unity of the working class regardless of race is vital. If we are to go, forward, the party must have the backing not of one race, but of all races. We must take the offensive. We must combat racism mercilessly and build a disciplined party .... " (1967)

Today, as we pay tribute to the Father of Independence, let us remember this man who was our brother, our father and who gave our country the unique leadership of a man who truly cared about the people. Long may his name be kept alive!

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Cheddi Jagan - a real life success story by Janet Jagan

(Text of an address given at Babu John on March 3, 2002)   

Cheddi Jagan's whole life is a success story - a record of achievements. Despite so many obstacles and setbacks, he succeeded in everything he started.

As a student, life was hard for him. Attending Queen's College, Cheddi certainly did not have it easy. He stayed with a family in Georgetown that believed in the caste system and treated him with scorn and arrogance. At school, he lacked most of the things students from well-to-do families had, but it never deterred him.

Going abroad was a matter of luck, and he made the most of it. Besides the passage raised by his father for the trip to the USA, he had no other financial backing and had to work his way through university, up to the time he became a Doctor of Dental Surgery.

The archives at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre include a letter written to him when he became President. The writer said he remembered Cheddi who was the "elevator boy" in the residential hotel he lived in during the '40s; and was happy at his advancement. All through his academic years, he worked an 8-hour day/night shift and came out on top in his studies.

As a professional, a dentist, he was the very best. His practice of dentistry before he left it to go into political life full-time, was a reflection of his character and behaviour all his life. He gave only the best; second best was out of his range. He never shortchanged his patients and refused to abide by the high-controlled fees of the other dentists. He always discussed with his patients what they could afford and adjusted fees to meet their pockets. He felt strongly about poor dentistry and covering teeth with gold crowns. He helped break that pattern which was a craze in the '40s and '50s, concentrating on good dental health for both adults and children - the latter being neglected until he came on the scene.

As a family man, he was a role model. He did his best to give his brothers and sisters an education. He was a loving son to his mother and father, helping them as they had helped him. To his own children he was a caring father - a hero. He enjoyed being a grandfather and had fun with them, as well as guiding them. I recall how he would cut fruit for them and encourage them to eat local foods and not so many sweets. As a husband, he was understanding and demonstrated his genuine belief in the equality of women.

In politics, he was many things - an idealist who felt the pain of the world's homeless and poor, a visionary, some said,  way  ahead of his time, an academic who read deeply and studied documents and books all his adult life, a writer who has left a huge amount of his writings, now housed at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre And of course, his main role in Guyana as a leader, a teacher and an activist who never lost touch with the people he led.

By his wisdom and the love and respect held for him by the masses, he liberated Guyana twice - once from British colonial rule and then, he fought tirelessly to win the return of democracy - which he achieved in 1992 - another success story.

Before he died, he set Guyana on a course for recovery after the dreadful 28 years of PNC rule which had devastated Guyana.

Cheddi Jagan's life is one of achievements - in overcoming the most difficult obstacles and in giving the leadership Guyana needed over the last half century.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Remembering Cheddi - National Unity Should be the Watch Word by Janet Jagan

March 5, 2003

The world over, people campaign to change unjust systems or to support a cause that they feel strongly about. In Guyana, Cheddi Jagan was one such person. Throughout his life he fought to create a better world for each and every Guyanese and, in so doing, he made a very significant contribution to this nation’s history.

It is the supreme test of man’s character to overcome the trials of adversity and disaster. This, Dr. Jagan understood only too well, for his life was an exquisite statement of struggle, first as a child; then as a student; as a nationalist; a political leader and finally, as Guyana esteemed statesman.

In the hostile colonial environment in which the natural progression of his country was first frustrated and subsequently truncated by the Anglo-American Alliance, to the cruel travesty of twenty eight years in the political opposition, Dr. Jagan confronted unquestionable adversity yet he was forever optimistic, convinced that history and time were always on the side of the just.

Six years after his death there are undoubtedly many things on which we might choose to dwell. There was firstly the man himself- committed, honest, and compassionate. Then there was the contemplative scholar and reflective leader, forever thoughtful and analytical, discussing, advocating and, of course, writing. There was also the anti-colonial firebrand and nationalist political leader, ever championing the twin causes of the anti-colonial struggle and the national liberation process. There was, as well, the compassionate internationalist stridently advocating the cause of the dispossessed the world over.

Dr Jagan’s philosophical ideas and political actions constituted the foundation on which this nation was originally conceptualized. They were the well spring, the very seminal essence of the great man. Every Guyanese, great or small, understood where Dr Jagan stood. They knew that he felt their pain and their hunger. That he shared their hopes and aspirations and that he was committed to creating a better Guyana for them, their children and their children’s children. A society in which all were equal and were treated as equals. A society in which there was a place for the fullest development of their peculiar attributes. In Guyana, Dr Jagan was the most powerful voice for the poor, the dispossessed and ‘the wretched of the earth’.

Dr Jagan, has made a distinguished contribution, in theory and practice, to the transformation of the political culture, the termination of British imperial hegemony and the beginnings of the development of a modern independent state in Guyana. While there are other roles and contributions for which he will be revered, it is truly through his political leadership and for the formation of the Guyana state that he will be remembered by future generations in his own country and the world far beyond it.

It is apposite that we also remember his preoccupation with creating, facilitating and sustaining the process of national unity. It was his belief that unity was the primary means of attaining peace, progress and prosperity and he never stopped searching for ways and means of molding the classes and races into a strong and united Guyana. It is a sad but necessary commentary that with his passing this nation has been plunged into the abyss of ethic rancour and civil unrest.

The issue here must be the continuing quest for national unity. Certainly if we are truly convinced that Dr Jagan deserves the respect of this nation, and there will be few to deny that he does, then certainly Guyana owes it to his memory to redouble our efforts to ensure that national unity once again enjoys the type of priority he would have preferred.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

 

Remembering Cheddi – March 2004 by Janet Jagan

It was, as before, a grand occasion and unforgettable. Thousands gathered at Babu John, Port Mourant on Friday, March 5, 2004 to celebrate the life of the late President of Guyana and General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Cheddi Jagan.

They came from all over the Corentyne and as far away as Linden. Many walked the long road into Babu John in the burning sun, at its hottest around 2-3 pm on that cloudless Friday. Among the thousands who by the way, unconcerned about the foolish call by Kaiteur News to boycott the ceremony, were many of the Party stalwarts who have stood by their Party for decades. There they were, many now old and/or ill, and many of the younger Party activists, full of vigour and commitment to their Party and attending to acknowledge their love and faith in their leader of a half century, Cheddi Jagan.

The ceremony began with the laying of wreaths and flowers at the place of Cheddi Jagan’s cremation in March 1997, now a beautiful monument to this great and beloved Guyanese. I brought from home a spray of yellow orchids to lay on the monument, flowers which are blooming from plants Cheddi lovingly grew. When not hard at work, which was greatly limited, he loved working in his yard, planting fruit trees and flowers. He immensely enjoyed this form of relaxation.

In between the speeches were very impressive cultural items. Those who planned the programme, built the stage and the area for the seated audience and decorated the area are to be praised for their achievements. Everything was perfect and showed the love and devotion of those who laboured to make the occasion a success.

Three youths read passages from Dr Jagan’s "West on Trial. " Very appropriate! There was an item of Tassa drumming and African drumming. Twice the talented singer Gordon Lewis sang very moving songs of his own creation about Cheddi Jagan. Many wept at his song about Cheddi’s life.

Speakers included General Secretary of the PPP Donald Ramotar, two-times PPP Minister Brindley Benn, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, President Bharrat Jagdeo and myself. All were well received and all told an aspect of the life of Cheddi Jagan.

When we remember Cheddi, we must also remember, aside from all he did in his public life, the ideas and concepts he expressed in his unbelievably prolific writings. He had written many books and articles in his lifetime, notably "Forbidden Freedom" after the 1953 suspension of the Guyana Constitution and "West on Trial," written immediately after he was forced out of office in 1964 as a result of the coalition of the US and UK, bent on denying him office during independence.

Since his death, many other publications of his writings have been printed, the most notable being "Cheddi Jagan: My Fight For Guyana’s Freedom," reflections on her father by my daughter Nadira Jagan-Brancier. This beautiful book with over 350 photographs of Dr Jagan, was her loving tribute to the father she adored. She also edited and published "A New Global Human Order," knowing how strongly her father felt on this subject. In fact, she did two printings of this worthwhile book.

I am fortunate to have a daughter who has not only published and promoted his books, but she spends much time going through his papers as well as establishing and maintaining a website known as Cheddi Jagan - Guyana’s hero - http://jagan.org. I invite all readers to check into this remarkable website and learn more about Cheddi Jagan.

Also Nadira and others have been responsible for the establishment of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre at Red House, which is one of the greatest tributes to this outstanding man.

New books are constantly being published, the latest which was launched at Red House last December, compiled and edited by Dr David Dabydeen, assisted by the Centre’s able archivist Mr Dudley Kissoore, consists of correspondence by Dr Jagan over the period of the 1940’s to the 1960’s. Also being prepared for yet another printing is "West on Trial" which his daughter Nadira is working on right now.

All over Guyana, from the Interior and along the coastal belt, commemorative activities are taking place this month, under the banner: "Remembering Cheddi." Active in this are the youth and women’s organizations which he helped build and nurture and leading stalwarts of the Party he built.

All are involved and all remember Cheddi and pledge to further the ideals for which he stood!

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Walking Alone? by Janet Jagan - March 1998

I have been asked to write an article for a special edition commemorating the first death anniversary of the late President, Cheddi Jagan, to be entitled "Walking Alone". I'm really not sure that I can write such an article, because the reality is that I am not walking alone. Next to me are good comrades, first class ministers of the government I lead and many, many friends all over Guyana and the world who are backing me and all those associated with my Party, there is my family - my children and grandchildren. This moral support, which is so important, particularly in view of all the happening's of December and January, help make my tasks easier and the responsibilities I carry, not such a heavy load.

I am no believer in the mythical, the mystical or the occult, but by association for over 50 years, Cheddi is by my side and the knowledge that I am, hopefully, carrying out his policies and works, helps. When I open a dictionary to assist in writing this bit, there is his name on the inside cover of the book he used at university. His photographs are everywhere. The very house I live in was designed and built by him, and he was proud of it. The mangoes and tamarind trees in my yard were planted by him. When I see an orchid blossoming on a tree, I remember when he brought the plant from the interior on one of his many trips.

When we meet weekly in Cabinet, there is yet to be a meeting where his name is not mentioned; constant references are made to his ideas and his plans. In the Party of which we were both founder-members, it is the same. His advice, his views on a particular matter come up as frequently as a light is turned off or on.

One year after his death, I still receive letters from Guyanese here and abroad, as well as many others, recounting their talks with him, sending me photographs of him and expressing his views in documents, treaties, studies and just friendly letters.

When he died a year ago, he left behind a legacy that enriches our lives, that remind us that on this earth there walked a man of unusual moral and intellectual stature who blended his ideas with a vibrant activism, not often seen in this special combination. As in life and so in death, he has become part of our lives.

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009

 

Address at Babu John by Janet Jagan

(March 2007)

We are here again to honour a great man, a man of the people, a man who opened the minds and hearts of the people of this nation to struggle for a better life and to bring justice, not only to the people of Guyana, but to all people everywhere.

Sixty years ago, Cheddi Jagan entered Parliament, the youngest member at 29, and served for the rest of his life, the longest serving Parliamentarian in the history of our country.

It was in those early days that many of the ideas and ideals that would direct his life were formulated.  From the very beginning of his public life, certain characteristics became clear and unchanging.  He was first of all, an honest man, a man of genuine integrity, a man whose hands were clean throughout his whole life.  I emphasise this quality because his unabashed honesty was the quality that let to trust, and trust is a very important aspect of life, particularly political life.

He was trusted by all, even those who disliked his policies and his beliefs!  In his whole lifetime there was never a shadow cast by any doubt of his integrity.  And of course, trust leads to many things, willingness to fight for and sacrifice, when necessary, for the goals set.  And Cheddi with his comrades, set difficult goals.  First was the struggle to end colonial rule and become an independent nation.  That is why he is called the Father of the Nation.

Second was his determination and his tough and relentless leadership later, to remove the chains of the PNC dictatorship and restore democracy.

He achieved both of these goals before his death ten years ago.  He set Guyana on the path of rebuilding an almost completely destroyed country and in his 4½ years as President, set the guidelines for a strong and united Guyana.

The Cheddi we all know and respected and loved, and this is as evident today as it was decades ago, was a man of the people.  His ideas and his attributes and his goals were derived from his frequent and genuine contact with Guyanese of all ranks of life.  They were part of his decision making process.  The views of the man-in-the-street, the farmers, the workers, the vendors, the merchants, the women, the children were important to him and he absorbed these contacts into his ideas and plans.  For these and many other reasons, we can be proud that a man of his stature and unique character lived and led us.

Today, at the site of his cremation ten years ago, we again pay honour to a man of the people, our own Cheddi Jagan!

Copyright ©  Nadira Jagan-Brancier 2009