Liberty Palace on 131st Street and Liberty Ave in Richmond Hill, NY, came alive on Sunday March 25 for the celebration of the life of the late Guyanese founder Dr. Cheddi Jagan who passed away in March 1997. The catering hall was packed for a lecture and dinner to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of the late iconic leader.
Dr. Jagan was the principal founder of modern day politics in Guyana since 1943, the year he returned from the USA where he studied dentistry and economics. Dr. Jagan was born in the indentured sugar estate of Plantation Port Mourant. His parents migrated from Uttar Pradesh India during the late 1800s as girmityas or indentured laborers.
The birthday celebration was organized by the Guyana Solidarity Movement (GSM) led by Ruben Khusial and other stalwarts as well as other co-sponsoring organizations and individuals. The catering hall was specially decorated with colorful balloons and party favours, There were also banners of organizations and of the PPP and Dr. Jagan and the flags of the PPP, Guyana and the USA. A special photographic exhibition of Jagan’s political life was on display at the back wall courtesy of Arun Jewan Persaud.
The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Frank Anthony the former Minister of Culture and Sports. Mr. Harry Nawbatt, who served as Minister of Housing as well as Ambassador to Brazil and Canada, delivered remarks.
Dr. Anthony gave an update on the fiasco relating to the non-production of the stamps that were supposed to be minted by the government on the occasion of the centennial of Jagan's birth. It was commissioned by the Guyana Post Office and which was also paid for by the Dr. Cheddi Jagan Research Center. The government withdrew the stamps. Dr. Anthony also spoke on the plight of the sugar workers, thousands of who were laid off from several estates like Skeldon, Rose Hall, Enmore, and Wales.
The program was chaired by GSM secretary Ruben Khusial. Dr. Dave Rawana gave introductory remarks and also introduced Dr. Anthony.
The birthday program was a mix of songs, cultural dances and speeches, poetry and glowing tributes to the legendary Guyana leader. It was a typical cultural variety program.
Besides the main speakers, Anthony and Nawbatt, several others delivered remarks including Flattie Singh of the Pennsylvania Association Of Concerned Guyanese (ACG of which Mr. Singh was a founder of the USA branch), Chuck Mohan who was a founder of the ACG USA, Ms Vrinda Jagan, granddaughter of Dr Jagan, and Frank Bassodeo of the GSM-NY.
A special birthday cake was prepared for the 100th anniversary. It was cut by Ms. Jagan who was joined by Dr. Anthony, Sally Prabhoutie and others. Guests were treated to a full complement of a buffet dinner and live entertainment.
As some members of the audience entertained themselves, the organizers headed by Dr. Dave Rawana and Mr. Reggie Rawana drew a raffle to raise funds to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary with other activities which are planned for later in the year. The organizers released a commemorative calendar of Dr. Jagan and a special booklet "The Thinker" which was produced by the Cheddi Jagan Research Center. Both of them were reproduced by the GSM-NY. The organizers thanked those who contributed to the publication of the calendar and the magazine which was dedicated exclusively to the life of Dr. Jagan.
The closing remarks were delivered by Vishnu Dutt who thanked all for their attendance and those who contributed financially and otherwise who helped to make the activity a successful one. Several individuals, including this writer, donated cash to cover the costs of the event. A special thank you was given to the Executive and members of the GSM-NY for the hard work done in planning the activity and to Dr. Anthony and Nawbatt for gracing the occasion.
Guests said they enjoyed the sumptuous buffet banquet and the birthday cake. Almost everyone expressed deep concern about the political, social and economic situation in Guyana and especially the loss of jobs of thousands of sugar workers. They showered compliments on Dr. Anthony for the update on their former homeland