Why did overseas universities give honorary doctorates to Jagdeo?

Dear Editor,
Many Guyanese are astounded that outsiders perversely reward the retrograde policies and actions of former President and de facto PPP boss, Mr Bharrat Jagdeo, which have resulted in low development for Guyana and its resources. We can only surmise that the ‘academic’ outsiders (a Russian university, two Indian universities and now most puzzling, a British university (Central Lancashire) have simply not bothered to check Guyana’s low international ranking on governance and high ranking on corruption which are evident to local and overseas Guyanese. Following the same trend, we may well expect honorary doctorates from universities in China and Iran.

Dr R K Pachauri, from India, praised Mr B Jagdeo for his understanding and implementation of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) in Guyana. Dr Pachauri was recently appointed as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Iwokrama Rain Forest Programme in Guyana. There are already two established herbaria at UG that serve as repositories for Guyana’s biodiversity: the Jenman Herbarium and the Smithsonian Centre. Instead of supporting and strengthening these existing herbaria, Mr Jagdeo’s LCDS proposes to build a third biodiversity centre. Why? Guyanese have no illusions what the motives are for another building project. No plans were announced for improvement of the science and engineering teaching and research facilities at UG.

The Iwokrama centre had spent years and considerable capital collecting samples of biological interest from across the country, and these were stored at UG. These most valuable samples were lost because of the lack of basic electricity, and the scientific team was disbanded because of the lack of recognition and support from the university during the administration of then Vice-Chancellor, Dr James Rose. The value of these samples and this potential eluded then President Jagdeo in addition to his VC, scientific advisors, government and party officials. Guyana lost tremendous potential and opportunities to have its own scientists and young people engaged in rewarding research and development of our biodiversity and possible biopharmaceuticals. Would Dr Pachauri and others ask about this loss and why a supposedly informed and intelligent leader (deemed worthy of an honorary doctorate) would allow this to happen?

Maybe we are looking at things from the wrong perspective. The former President’s ‘Low Education Development Strategies’ (LEDS) have been most noticeable in science, engineering and technology at UG. A visible sign of the decay is that the old buildings of UG are being re-claimed by the forces of nature.

The LEDS predictable successes were documented by several Guyanese over the years. Youths continue to leave Guyana (population reduction), and the country’s resources remain untapped (saving our resources for the future), or are exploited by others (some income is necessary) while the majority of ordinary Guyanese are mired in pervasive poverty (reducing the need for local consumption of foreign goods).

In addition, the country‘s educational system (and literacy rate) has fallen well below the standard of the late British colonial days or the height reached under Dr C B Jagan and his PPP government in pre-independent Guyana. Educated people create problems for the ruling elite, so why would any rational leader such as President Jagdeo assist such a process? We have regressed to early colonial years where local scientific, technical and engineering education were kept to a minimum, while outside experts or the children of the local elite were sent overseas for a university education. The President Ramotar-led PPP government is now trying to figure out the role of the university! (Dr Jagan and the PPP had done so a long time ago. According to former President Jagdeo, Dr Jagan and the PPP had the wrong approach.)

LEDS has led to one success after another, including the wrongful placement of a bridge, improper management and non-maintenance of the waterways and conservancies. The consequent silting and floods have caused undue hardship to many families and communities, but we are now at the mercy of Mother Nature, and she is reclaiming and reconfiguring her domain in Guyana. Mother Nature was ably assisted by our visionary former President Jagdeo.

In addition, Mr Jagdeo in his wisdom saw fit not to implement sea-wall defences and other measures to prepare for the consequences of global warming on the coastline of Guyana. This leader (was ably praised by outsiders for his expertise in environmental issues) did the right thing and neglected to prepare his country and people for the consequences of the rising seas.

Other trivial things like human rights abuses (including the pleas of the workers at UG and in Guyana, the torture of a child and limitations on media freedoms) and other numerous aberrations did not deter outsiders and some ‘academic’ institutions from honouring the wise man.
The overseas institutions that have conferred honorary doctorates on former President  Jagdeo agree with his actions and see nothing wrong in ignoring the supposed harsh realities inflicted on the suffering masses of Guyana.

The outside world honoured our previous dictator, the late LFS Burnham as ‘The Caribbean Man of the Year‘ and he sought to gain respectability with an honorary doctorate from  Dalhousie University in Canada. (Guyanese students in Canada protested and that conferral was stopped.) The young disciple, President Jagdeo also seeks respectability from outside sources.
The imitation is complete.

We have to congratulate Mr Jagdeo for his accomplishments in receiving so many awards from places and people we never knew. Certainly, we can now expect these overseas institutions to offer him professorships or visiting professorships. At least UG should employ Dr Jagdeo to teach Guyanese how to survive water-submerged Guyana. This would put Guyana at the forefront of the challenges ahead. We are also looking forward to see Dr Jagdeo’s publications in the science journals (Russia, India and Britain).

Yours faithfully,
Seelochan Beharry

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