Order of liberation raises eyebrows, questions

The Order of Liberation of Guyana, a one-time award given to the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan and made possible through a signed proclamation of President Bharrat Jagdeo is causing consternation among some citizens who feel they should know why and how it was conceived and granted.

Apart from some letter writers to the country’s dailies, MPs including Leader of the Opposi-tion Robert Corbin, Sheila Holder of the AFC and Clarissa Riehl of the PNCR-1G, are concerned that the award, which surpasses the Order of Excellence, was granted without an amendment to the Act that created the Constitution of the Orders commonly known as the National Awards.

The award, granted posthumously to the late president, was received by his widow, Mrs Janet Jagan, a former president herself at State House on December 18 last, the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his entry to the legislature.

“I do not know anything about the Order of Liberation,” PNCR Leader Corbin said. “I propose to address it more fully in my press conference next week. We [the PNCR] know nothing about it. I have never been advised of it. Our support in Parliament on the motion had to do only with recognition of his [Dr Jagan’s] service to the Parliament. On the question of the Order of Liberation I am yet to be advised about it.”

GAP-ROAR MP Everall Franklin said a Government Information Agency (GINA) report that Parliament unanimously approved the posthumous award of the Order of Liberation of Guyana to Dr Cheddi Jagan at the December 13, sitting in a motion to pay tribute to Dr Jagan’s struggle for a free and democratic Guyana, “is totally incorrect. We were shocked when we heard of it. What was passed was a motion recognising his contribution and publishing a Special Hansard of his contribution to the Parlia-ment. It had nothing to do with the Order of Liberation or it would not have had our support.”

He said if the government wanted to give the Order of Liberation, it should not be only for Cheddi Jagan. “There are many others to be recognised in that manner. Giving it to just Dr Jagan is myopic. It does not give justice to all those who fought in the pre and post-independence era. Even Mrs Jagan is worthy of mention there. There is a long list of people who contributed to the independence struggle. It was never a one-man show. Not recogising them is eye-pass.”

Holder said: “The proclamation was not brought to Parlia-ment to give it legality and to treat it with respect. Why should we have attended the ceremony (at State House)?”

From the AFC perspective, she said, the party has never heard of such an order. The party believed that if the President was serious he would have taken the proclamation to Parliament and announced it.

“Everything seems to be done in hindsight, back to front, so we consider that unfortunate for Dr Jagan, a president for whom lots of people have a great deal of respect,” she said.

Riehl said she saw the announcement of the Order of Liberation for the first time in the newspapers. “I never heard of it before. I don’t know anything. It is not in the list of national awards. I am still waiting to see if the government is going to bring an amendment to the act that brought into being the national awards,” she said adding that she did not know enough on the matter to say more.

The Mirror newspaper of December 24, said Guyanese learnt of the Liberation Order award when the announcement was made at the Cheddi Jagan memorial, Babu John, Coren-tyne, Berbice on Sunday, March 11, by President Jagdeo.

According to the Official Gazette of December 15, the Order of the Liberation of Guy-ana was made by Proclamation No 1 of 2007, which bears the signature of President Jagdeo and the Seal of the Republic of Guyana, Seal No 176 of 2007.

The Constitution of the Order of Liberation of Guyana and the citation was signed by Head of the Presidential Se-cretariat Dr Roger Luncheon under the President’s command on December 1, 2007.

It was presented on December 18, with Secretary of the Orders of Guyana S. Persaud reading the citation.

The Constitution of the Order of Liberation of Guy-ana states, “By virtue and in exercise of all powers enabling me in that behalf, and notwithstanding anything in the Constitution of the Orders of Guyana, I proclaim the Constitution of the Order of Liberation of Guyana, which shall be the highest award of the state, to posthumously award the Order of Liberation of Dr Cheddi Jagan for his lifelong struggle to improve the living conditions of the people of Guyana and the world at large; for his dedicated, persistent and purposeful leadership of the national movement resulting in the winning of universal adult suffrage, political independence and the restoration of democracy; for his visionary promotion and pursuance of the National Democratic State in Guyana and the New Global Human Order in the World.”

The Constitution of the Orders of Guyana came into being by proclamation in 1970 with the Order of Excellence and the Order of Service by then President Arthur Chung. Then in 1976, the Order of Roraima came into being by proclamation once again by Chung. The proclamations were given effect by amendments to the act that brought into being the Constitution of the orders of Guyana.

According to the Constitu-tion of the Orders of Guyana, the President is the Chancel-lor of The Orders of Guyana and custodian of the insignia, ribbons and records of the orders.

He is aided by an Advisory Council which submits to him a list of persons whom the Council recommends for appointment to the Orders of Guyana. The Advisory Coun-cil comprises a chairman, who is the Chancellor of the Supreme Court of Judicature, and not less than five or more than seven other members.

The advisory council should have not more than four members appointed by the President acting after consultation with the Prime Minister; one member appointed by the President after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition; one member appointed by the President; and one other member from among citizens of Guyana who are members of the Order of Excellence of Guyana.

No national awards ceremony has been held since 2002. Previously the highest national order was the Order of Excellence followed by the Order of Roraima and the Order of Service.

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