The past two weeks witnessed a proliferation of letters in Guyana’s two dailies analyzing, defending and extolling the life of the late Cheddi Jagan. None other than ex-President Donald Ramoutar has stepped into the ring and has attributed mentor’s beloved slogan ‘middle class’ to Dr. Ramharrack. The Professor needs no assistance to defend himself but there is one phenomenon I have to indicate to the ex-President: Dr. Jagan never gave his son and daughter any position like you did at the Gold Board and with the fiber optic cable project, where your son mishandled US$80! While it may be superfluous to further analyze the life of this fallen comrade, I would like, however, to indicate some of his inconsistencies that actually reached the heights perversion and hypocrisy.
Having been elected to the Legislature in 1947, Jagan formed the PPP and three years later was elected the country’s first Premier. But his adherence to the Socialist doctrine and his close ties to Moscow and Havana precipitated the suspension of the Constitution in 1953; moreover, his hard line Marxist ideology in the height of the Cold War ultimately saw him ejected from the seat of power through the machinations of the British and the US.
At the Independence Conference in London in 1963, he was advised by his Attorney General, Dr. Fenton Ramsahoye, not to accept the change to a Proportional Representation system of elections instead of the existing First Past the Post, unless it was accompanied by Independence. (Dr. Fenton personally told me this in 1991 when I visited him in Barbados). Against the advice of his learned Attorney General, the PPP leader went ahead and signed the document handed to him by Commonwealth secretary Mr. Duncan Sandys unknowing to his Attorney General. Poor Jagan. Claiming that the MI-5 had bugged his hotel room may have had some merit, but it was a lame excuse to disregard the advice of his trusted friend and Attorney General.
After the alleged rigged elections in 1968, Jagan had enough resources to pressure the emerging Burnham dictatorship. His supporters had incisive control of the entire agriculture sector, including the sugar and rice industries, in addition to private transportation, fishing and lumber manufacturing. This was more than enough to break the hegemonic control of the Burnham the regime; instead, Dr. Jagan cowardly regurgitated his foolish Marxism verbiage—tantamount to holding a red flag in front of the bulls–while his support base attenuated.
In August 1969, the world condemned Russia when it was discovered that it sent more than 600,000 Russian troops marched into Czechoslovakia, yet Cheddi Jagan gave his full support to Russia. The invasion, later known as the Prague Spring, usurped the many freedoms that the leader, Alexander Dubcek, had given his citizens.On the home front, in the height of the kick-down-door rampage, the Minority Leader, with his lack of ebullience, ascribed this phenomenon as a class struggle. When Burnham nationalized the sugar and bauxite industries in the late 1970’s, Jagan was static. It was power to the proletariat—the panacea for development!
He urged further nationalization which perpetuated a specter of doom over institutions like the commercial banks. In Jagan’s own words “We have forced the PNC to accept Socialism, so while they will be pulling the cart, the PPP will be holding the reins”. He then embarked on a most bizarre program of ‘Critical Support’ for Burnham. What stupidity from a man who more than half the people of Guyana idolized! Jagan’s skewed political antics had rivaled the convoluted emotional frolics on the Jerry Springer show!
As for being a learned and dedicated politician, Jagan was more interested in the Marxist ideology than Guyana. He was a nostalgic, self-centered and narcissistic politician whose philosophy led to the demise of Guyana. When desi Bourterse overthrew Henk Aaron in Suriname in 1980 and murdered some 15 former ministers and officials the PPP Leader declared that those killed were opponents of the revolution! When Russian leader Gorbachev declared glasnost and perestroika (openness and modernization) in 1990 Jagan trumpeted ‘these are the changes I have always called for’! A truly convoluted, confused, hypocritical explanation! His supporters believed in private industry, yet they embraced a man whose philosophy embraced state control. They did not realize that their saw-mills, rice mills, manufacturing plants among others would have become collective enterprises owned by the state. It remains a profound paradox that half of Guyana’s population has perpetually gravitated to a man who disliked while Imperialists yet slept wilt a white woman every night, a man who juxtaposed Marxism with his personal aggrandizement against Imperialism, and a man whose belief in God and religion remains a mystery to this day.
Had he been Head of State in 1964 Guyana would have become another Cuba or North Korea. His whole career was focused on Marxism and, once on a visit in 1990 to Freedom House, I saw Pyongyang Times and Beijing Review in the waiting room — no New York Times Newsday or Washington Post. Ironically, it was the fall of Jagan’s beloved doctrine of Marxism, which is still enshrined in the PPP’s constitution, that saw the advent of free elections returned to Guyana, thanks to President Carter of the United States—a country Jagan described as an Imperialist exploiter in his book ‘The West on Trial’.
It is public knowledge and utter hypocrisy, that while Guyanese were lining up to purchase oil and soap and eating rice flour, the son and daughter of the Marxist Cheddi Jagan were enjoying the spoils of Capitalism in Canada and the United States.
Leyland Chitlall Roopnarine