Should Jagdeo bare all. Speak out. Give his tearful side of the story in an exclusive NCN interview, tuned into by millions of Guyanese all over the world?
As the President is wheeled headlong to the guillotine by the jeering, stone-throwing crowd, would a final and dramatic statement from the gallows − confession of sin and contrition, or plea in mitigation, or stirring denial − save his head?
It now appears too late. He has, to all appearances, been tried and judged by the Princesses of the land. Ladies such as Andaiye and Karen De Souza and the Radzic girls and Indera and Niveta and the National Congress of Women, men such as moral revivalist and former Prime Minister Hamilton Green, and social activist Vidya Kissoon, have joined the countless internet commentators and many citizens to judge and condemn Mr Jagdeo. So at this point, Mr Jagdeo’s silence may be considered only as one of two things. Either a commendably noble forbearance in the face of treacherous provocation, or an understandable terror at the thought of opening another can of worms in which the cruelties and faults of one or both parties will squirm into the glare of public scrutiny.
We do not know. And therefore, by the standards of the law or of common fairness, we cannot and should not at this time condemn Mr Jagdeo. We may be certain of nothing.
What is clear is that Mr Green, in his avuncular gallantry, or Mr Kissoon in his pro-victim reflex, and the nation’s Princesses in their pro-woman shock and outrage, are all convinced that Varshnie is mostly telling the truth.
But is it the whole truth? Did Jagdeo after the first seven days of marriage really decide, singly and unilaterally and selfishly, to take vows of sanyasi? Had he heard something, seen something, dreamt something, discovered or confirmed in his being other things, found the lady a non-stop talker, a terrible cook, a raucous and incurable snorer, too addicted to Bollywood TV? Let us abandon all speculation and admit only that, the couple apparently colluded to continue the masquerade of a marriage de convenance, and have been playing us for suckers for all of the succeeding time. The mosquitoes were among the beneficiaries and witnesses. But certainly not the only ones. The staff would have been aware. The intimate friends and family of both parties would have shared the secret. So there was a vast conspiracy there. With the PPP somehow involved.
And then, to further the charade, or out of a limited and quite puzzling benevolence, the President decided to house the victim for the remaining nine years of the marriage. All the while petulantly fretting at any lapse from the script. The victim agrees, it would appear, to play the game in exchange for certain perquisites and privileges which she now wants to enjoy at least until she decides that she has “retired.” Is this the naïve and well-meaning do-gooder we are being convinced to defend? Or is this an accomplice and player. Now in public, inflicting a public vengeance on the man who stubbornly refused to understand that his game came at a price? Or is it that Jagdeo, fearing further ridicule, played along while praying for her to go.
Not that the condition in which the President finds himself is “personal,” “man and wife story” and so on. For if the parties were together decided upon one thing, it was that the public would be involved in the show. But only as spectator. So therefore the spectacle had the character of a public play and therefore becomes a matter of public comment and judgement. If, constitutionally the President is above the law, he is not above public scrutiny.
Guyana has given us women of the highest calibre. There is among them a group whose solidarity with suffering and abused women has been consistent and unrelenting, conscious as they are of the abuse to which our women are subject. We therefore understand and welcome their intervention in this matter. They comprehend and have wholly internalised the view that Man-as-male bears the main moral and material responsibilities in the life of the couple. Hence, whatever Varshnie may have done, they are persuaded that Mr Jagdeo has ultimate culpability in the matter. He should not have allowed the situation to get to this point. It is perhaps conceivable, to most in this group of women, that he may have been manipulated by the victim, or by forces in the political arena, into the sad embarrassment in which he is now fixed. They will nonetheless insist that the possible manipulator/accomplice be enthroned as victim and duly compensated. This is strange.
From this perspective, Mr Jagdeo, as long as the woman was still his wife did have a legal and religious responsibility to provide for her. I am sure Pandit Gossai will agree with us there. And if, as she has insinuated, there was “a deal” of some sorts, then, he has to pay what she is legally owed. Which he says he will do. According to his or the lawyer’s calculations. Except that she wants more plus what appears to be punitive compensation for the neglect and cruelty she suffered. Except that, contracts entered into with the intention to blind and deceive either party or third parties are, a priori, null and void and one cannot, to my mind, insist on enforcing any of the conditions. The court dismisses the claim. The litigants go their separate ways. Their places soon taken by other contenders.