Someone once said what distinguishes a great national leader from other leaders is not merely the number of projects successfully undertaken or even targets/goals/objectives achieved, but all of those in addition to identifying successors capable of ensuring continuity.
For what good are all those achievements if, after that leader passes on, his or her successors fail to build on them or even cause their deterioration or destruction? It is imperative, therefore, for a great national leader to identify and nurture young, dedicated followers with leadership potential so that they take the reins of leadership when the time arrives.
The passing of a founding-leader of the PPP, Janet Jagan, may be a time for national grieving, but it is also a time for taking stock as a nation to assess whether we lost a truly great national leader given what is being passed off as governance under the leadership of President Bharrat Jagdeo. In short, will Mrs. Jagan be remembered as a great political leader or just a dedicated political fighter?
Much is currently being written and spoken of the more than 60 years of dedicated work by Mrs. Jagan to the morphing of the Guyana political landscape through her involvement in the PPP, which now runs the government, and while I cannot argue with that degree of dedication, I have to ask: Is the person she helped in picking to succeed her as President currently building on anything she might have achieved for the PPP or the country? Matter of fact, is it possible that she did not really achieve anything much or great so that her successor does not have a high standard of expectation against which to measure his own mediocre performance as leader of the nation?
We can write and talk about the different areas where she impacted people, and she has; but I am absolutely certain about one thing: Mrs. Jagan entered into and remained in the local political arena for her own self as much as she might have used a combination of people and circumstances to try and achieve her personal goals/vision. No one can tell me Mrs. Jagan was in this only for her love of people.
Mrs. Jagan was a die-hard communist who saw an opportunity in Guyana to turn the country into a communist nation. And this was what motivated her all these years to keep trying.
Give her credit for trying, but credit stops there, because other than trying, the woman has not achieved anything substantial for Guyana’s socio-economic well-being. Her fight for women’s rights and other rights, though commendable, are not without significance to her own fight as a woman who wanted to use the rights she achieved to have her dreams and vision of a communist state fulfilled. To me, this woman was a political fighter with a vision that was birthed since her early days in Chicago, and that vision had nothing to do with the political and socio-economic circumstances of Guyana’s history and future.
Trinidadian economist, Lloyd Best, who was appointed by the United Nations as an economic advisor to the Cheddi Jagan government in 1962, and blamed Dr. Jagan’s inflexibility on ideology for contributing to his defeat/ouster as Premier of Guyana, was asked whether anyone in the PPP couldn’t have influenced Dr. Jagan to soften his ideological stance. Mr. Best reportedly responded by stating that “Mrs. Jagan was a bad influence on Dr. Jagan.”
He also said of Mrs. Jagan, “I don’t think she had any insight into the complexity of the Guyana situation, and she was the biggest buttress of Cheddi’s intransigence in Guyana. She was very hostile to dissent. In my judgment, she was a person who believed if you were not for me (her), then you were against me (her).”
I am sure Mrs. Jagan will be remembered for a long time by those who admire her political or even personal works, and I think it is fitting that space be granted to those who want to publicly grieve and verbally pour out their anguish and sorrow. However, like I have said about the passing of the late Forbes Burnham in August 1985, when some were in a state of grief and others in a state of relief, not everybody admires the political works of Mrs. Jagan, and so her admirers should grant space for others to publicly vent their angst against her politics, even as we are sensitive to the pain of her grieving relatives.