March 6 marks the 12th anniversary since my dear father, President Cheddi, died at an age where his life’s work was not yet completed. He was committed to a politically democratic and transparent government which would use all the political and economic resources at its disposal to shape a better Guyana. Has his vision being built and developed by those who inherited his leadership of the PPP? Ask the people who miss him so much and admired his honesty, humility and passion for the plight of the poor and underprivileged, and they will collectively shout a resounding “no!” Ask the same people about Dr Jagan’s stand on corruption, nepotism, squandermania and ‘square pegs in round holes’ in government and whether this PPP administration is following his high moral precepts and again, there will be a resounding “no!” Ask them if President Cheddi would have sat still and made excuses like this PPP government does when confronted by events wholly due to their mistakes in governance (like the NIS money invested in Clico, the Skeldon factory and a list which would demand computer paper I can ill afford − again, a resounding “no!” Ask them if Cheddi Jagan would have imposed a killer VAT on the people of Guyana, and again a resounding “no!”
But this letter is not meant to just show the lack of commitment by this government to uphold the great principles of President Cheddi, instead of paying lip service to his legacy, rather, I would like to share with you some instances of the private and personal journey of that great man.
Cheddi Jagan was the son of a visionary called Jagan, who, totally committed to a large family in the early 1930s, saw the great potential of sending his eldest son, Cheddi, to study dentistry in the United States. My grandfather Jagan was a towering figure in Port Mourant, and as a driver in the sugar estate, he was well respected. He made up his mind that his children were to become professionals to escape the colonial exploitative system of the time. So President Cheddi’s ties to the sugar belt started at an early age.
Dr Jagan kept alive his father’s dream and dedicated his whole soul to the elevation of his family by hard work as a dentist in Georgetown from 1943. His brothers and sisters recall how in that period, big brother Cheddi would place them all at the dining table and make sure that hard studying was accomplished; the result is now history as the Jagan extended family, spread out through three continents, can boast many dentists, medical doctors, eye specialists, engineers, lawyers, computer experts, managers and fiscal experts, jewellery experts and the list can go on and on, to be extended in the next generation − like my kids who will be professionals in law and dentistry. God bless grandpa Jagan’s vision back in the 1930s and my father’s ability to carry it to fruition. And God bless the women who stood at their sides, the two Mrs Jagans, my grandmother and my mother.
With the entrance of serious politics into his life, my father always found time to spend with his family and dedicate energy to the well-being of all of us without compromising his political beliefs by being corrupt or dishonest in his commitment to public service. I remember the night he was released from jail and the joy on people’s faces; I remember the time at Red House in 1961 when he was so proud to move us there after living in a little house all those years; I remember when the riots and demonstrations occurred and the huge crowds in front of Red House and the brick which cut his forehead while he carried on his work on some papers; I remember his laughter which my sister and I could make happen with our antics − laughter which brought tears to his eyes from the joy we brought him; I remember him always telling me that “money was not the most important thing in life” and “don’t be a slave to fashion” and “smoking costs too much money”; I remember the good times like when I was married and at the function he mentioned that myself and my sister had the same birthdate which was due to his belief in the socialist principle of “central planning.”
I can go on and on reflecting on the good memories of President Cheddi, but they all lead to the same conclusion that as a father, he was an inspiration for me and he exhibited all the qualities of courage under fire, dedication to principles based on high moral standards, total honesty and straightforwardness in his relationships with a wide range of people and situations, and lastly, a loving and committed family man. I thank all those who remember his life and dreams and sincerely hope that those dreams can become a reality for the Guyanese masses − his optimism fuels hope that life can be better for all Guyanese.
Cheddi (Joey) Jagan (Jr)