On the anniversary of my father’s birth, March 22, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about two individuals who are still alive and who helped significantly in President Chedddi’s foray into national politics and great success in the 1953 elections when my Dad was the first elected leader of Guyana.
Mr Ashton Chase, a great patriot and a leader of the early trade union movement, was one of the founding members of PAC, the precursor of the People’s Progressive Party. Mr Chase authored a very important book, A History of Trade Unionism in Guyana 1900-1961, which should be read by everyone who wants to have a knowledge of one of the most important aspects of our history. Aston Chase documents in his book the very beginnings of the union movement on January 11,1919, with the formation of the British Guiana Labour Movement and its leadership by the father of the movement, Mr Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow. Mr Chase to this day, remains the way he always was – quiet and unassuming, practising the legal profession, I am sure, with the same commitment, humility and dedication he always brought to the landscape of political and labour-related issues which affected the Guyanese people. I am sure that if President Cheddi was alive today, Ashton Chase would have been one of the seasoned persons who would have been consulted, especially in labour-related matters.
The other individual whom I would like to mention, at the same time wishing him a happy 86th birthday in advance of April 4, is Mr Eusi Kwayana, another patriot of Guyana and a man who stood by my father in the turbulent period before and after the suspension of our legitimate constitution in 1953. He was a founder member of the PPP in 1950 and was a member of the executive of the PPP in that period.
He wrote the lyrics for the PPP party song, ‘Oh, fighting men’ in that same period. Mr Kwayana served as Minister of Labour in the first elected government of Guyana in 1953 and in 1954 was arrested and jailed by the British authorities. This ‘Sage’ of Buxton, as he was often referred to, eventually became a founder and leader of the WPA and worked closely with Dr Rodney to bring a new revolutionary spirit to the people of Guyana and a new awakening to the politics of resistance which live in the bosom of the Guyanese nation, and which was nurtured by his early years in politics with my father, and in which Mr Kwayana played a leading role. His political activities in those early days were a measure of the man, as he became indispensible to the success of the resistance to British rule. Today, Eusi Kwayana lives outside Guyana but he still writes and gives his opinion on important matters facing the Guyanese nation, but his wisdom, apparent good health and natural instincts for protecting the people’s welfare will continue to keep him involved in Guyanese affairs although the people of Buxton and the Guyanese nation would, I am sure, welcome his homecoming with the full honours which he deserves.
At a personal level, I always remember when I was a little boy and meetings were held at our house, Mr Kwayana would throw me on his shoulders and give me a ‘ride’ around the living room, making me laugh and probably breaking the tension of those times.
Editor, these men are but a few of the people who made my father’s political career a success, and who contributed greatly to the freedom struggle in our dear country. I want to wish them well and may God grant them many more productive years in their lives. Ashton Chase and Eusi Kwayana gave their utmost for our nation and one day, not far in the future, Guyana will place them on the pedestal of pride for their service to this nation. God bless them and keep them safe.
Cheddi (Joey) Jagan (Jr)