Cheddi Jagan - a legacy of hope amidst a culture of political impropriety and sexual exploitation
Photo : Dr. Cheddi Jagan
Dr. Cheddi Jagan is a giant in the Caribbean community. There is no other leader like him, a man of incorruptible honesty. His leadership is not exemplified in the Caribbean. Instead, we are saddled with rumours of sexual exploitations which are like the endemic flu that keeps returning again and again. From Shepherd fetish to surrounding yourself with young folks (both females and males) for sexual escapades, the wild fantasies that are driven by lust appear to linger on threatening political death. More devastating is when such promiscuity is fuelled by power and money. Dr. Jagan would never tolerate such behaviour. In fact, he never accepted payment for his work (his service as President, or Prime Minister or opposition Leader) and he returned every cent he received to the nation.
Jagan never stripped naked in front of others to entertain himself. He did not encourage homosexualism in the party or in government office. He would have disciplined those who engaged in sexcapades and not close his eyes like what recently happened in Trinidad. Recently, the media was packed with rumours of a female worker being paid gratuity (in record time) after being touched inappropriately by a minister of government. Such behaviour of a minister of government is making citizens, especially talk-show hosts- all males- fearful of walking near this minister whom they have labelled as thirsty and desperate.
We need to rekindle the spirit of President Cheddi Jagan. This year, 2018, marks the 100th birth anniversary of arguably the most indomitable and incorruptible political son of the Anglophone Caribbean and possible the entire world. Throughout his political career of fifty years (1947-1997) Jagan had held his head high. He was never known to be corrupt and engaging in immoral acts as now taking place in which politicians exploit young females as well as males in homosexual and lesbian affairs. The kind of integrity displayed by Cheddi was rare but certainly not lost and must be emulated.
Jagan was elected to the British Guiana Legislative Council in 1947. He was only 30 years old, thus becoming the youngest member of the legislature. Young, handsome, brilliant and with a striving dental practice in Georgetown, there was never rumours of Jagan busy lifting skirts or going after boys. No record of any marriage was ever torn off the marriage register under his governance. It was public knowledge that his wife was Janet, a white American of Jewish ancestry with two children - Nadira and Joey. In fact, the only charge his enemies hurled at him was that he was a communist, was against the rich, and had a commitment to improve the welfare of the working people of Guyana.
Elected as Chief Minister in 1953, the youngest leader of a government, Jagan’s administration was suspended after only 133 days in office and senior party executives were jailed including his wife Janet. Jagan did not despair and succumb to bouts of drinking and “womanizing” or “manizing” like what occurs among some politicians. Instead, he resolved to continue the struggle against his conspirators that included the UK and the USA. His wife, Janet, did not urge him to migrate for a brighter future but stood side by side with him in the manner that Sita stood with Rama.
In 1957, when constitutional rule was restored, Jagan was re-elected to office becoming the youngest Premier. He assumed the portfolio of Minister of Agriculture. He implemented two major agricultural development schemes at Black Bush Polder in Berbice and the Boerasirie Extension Project in Essequibo. These projects proved to be successful catapulting Guyana into a major producer of rice and placing the country on the road to prosperity. His long term objective was to make Guyana the food basket of the Caribbean. And he would have succeeded had the PNC not served as an impediment to his policies.
Under Jagan, the Demerara Electric Company was nationalised and power outages became a thing of the past. Banks Beers opened its doors inviting shareholders and the response was more than was expected. In 1963, Jagan launched the University of Guyana which the supporters of the PNC labelled “Jagan Night School.”
Jagan also nationalised the denominational schools thus curtailing the undue influence of the church on the majority Hindu and Muslim population. This action hurt the interest of the Roman Catholic Church who in turn collaborated with the PNC to remove his government from power.
Jagan was re-elected for a third time in 1961 and despite the protests by the PNC and its hooligans, he did not succumb to pressure. He was aware of the CIA’s active participation in a conspiracy to remove his government. Despite this, Jagan remained undaunted. When the Wismar Massacre took place in 1964 Jagan was never afraid of describing it as a national catastrophe and condemned the perpetrators.
In 1964, Jagan facilitated the demands of the Opposition PNC and the Governor for a change of the constitution from first-past-the-post to proportional representation. Although this resulted in the defeat of his government, Jagan did not turn to the streets threatening mayhem and lawlessness. Instead, he promised critical support for the PNC regime, all for the welfare of the Guyanese people.
With the PNC at the helm and with the support of a black police force and a black army, every successive election of the 1970s and 1980s was rigged. Many PPP activists were killed in their struggles to restore democracy. Several families were left with no choice but to migrate to secure the future of their loved ones; and all of this took place under the nose of CARICOM without the utterance of a single word of protest.
1n 1992, after 28 years in opposition, Jagan returned to power with the help of the Carter Center led by President Jimmy Carter. Other foreign missions were invited to the country to supervise the elections. For the first time since 1964 elections in Guyana was fair and free from fear. Jagan returned to power but without vengeance in his mind. When he was lobbied by supporters to investigate allegations of corruption by the previous regime, he refused because he argued it would only open further racial animosities. He pledged to the nation that his government would put country first, not party like what the PNC did when its policy was “paramountcy of the ruling party.” Such policy created a culture of entitlement where blacks became dependent on the State which inevitably led to bankruptcy.
President Jagan was a global phenomenon. He pioneered the New Human Global Order which championed debt forgiveness. Being the poorest nation in South America and the 2nd poorest in the western hemisphere Jagan was successful in getting the Paris Club and the T&T government to write off millions of dollars in debt.
He was the author of several books, the more popular being the West on Trial and Forbidden Freedom. Jagan was a scholar that was eager to improve the wellbeing of the poor not just in Guyana but the entire world. And he built FREEDOM HOUSE, headquarters of PPP very early in his political career. This is unlike the leadership of other political parties that relishes a culture of squatting!
I sincerely hope that some of our aspiring and seasoned politicians can learn from the political life of the late Cheddi Jagan. He did not compromise his principles. He did not ride into politics like an outlaw in the Wild West with blazing guns to bust the treasury and molest women and men with hungry mouths to feed.