What did Jagan do during his presidency to put shared governance on the agenda?

Dear Editor,

With much interest I continue to read Mr Ralph Ramkarran’s columns which are quite revealing about his thinking and political position. The recent column in Sunday Stabroek,  ‘The PNC, APNU and national unity’ (October 13) analysing Messrs Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan’s politics and the  political environment, stands out not so much for what it says but what it didn’t say. Here are some examples:

1. “The basis of [Mr Burnham’s] political strength was Western economic aid and support by way of silence about rigged elections and subversion of democracy”: An understanding of this era would help were we to benefit from Mr Ramkarran’s analysis of Dr Jagan’s silence in the one-party countries of the Eastern bloc and Cuba which subverted democracy and gave similar economic aid and support to the PPP. For instance, how did Dr Jagan and the PPP feel about the people in those countries? Were or weren’t they equally deserving? Was the PPP sympathetic and gave support to those fighting the political establishment in these countries?

2. “[Mr Burnham’s] political survival depended on maintaining disunity.” The reader is denied any evidence of Dr Jagan’s effort to forge unity while in opposition and which continued in his presidency.

3. He writes: “[Mr. Burnham] scuttled the talks which were initiated as a result of the PPP’s ‘Critical Support’ in 1975. He ridiculed the proposals for a ‘National Patriotic Front’ made in 1977, even though the PPP conceded in them that the PNC would hold the executive presidency.” Accepting the face value of this claim, what did Dr Jagan do during his presidency (1992-97) to put this focus back on the national agenda? Five years is long time to have at least initiated talks or left a blueprint for “shared governance,” a term we are now informed was “first used by Cheddi Jagan.”

4. He refers to “…the horrific suppression and violations of human rights by the PNC even after 1985.” Is the PPP, as a party and government, innocent of human rights violations and can a record be produced to verify this innocence and/or one produced where efforts were/are being made at correction?

It is encouraging to read about our history because there is so much to be told, understood and contextualised in efforts to learn from the past, and be better served by these experiences. Unfortunately, this country, and moreover the younger generation which makes up the majority, will never be able to benefit from the content and context of our history, and have the opportunity to bloom and grow, if our politicians, historians, media and older generation continue to tell a story of poor governance and human rights violations about the other while the same attitudes are ignored, hidden, glossed over or contextualised for them. And it matters not whether political parties were in opposition, government, or never held office. The point here is that a great service is done to the country when the attitudes expected of others themselves conform to principles of organisational behaviour and leadership by example, features that are becoming increasingly scarce in our society.

Sometimes it is befuddling when seeking understanding of the past to know who are really the hindrances to Guyana’s development and Guyanese cohesiveness ‒ our departed leaders or some of those who profess to carry on and preach what they would like us to think is their legacy. And this is a concern, integral to a political solution, that is not meant to address Mr Ramkarran’s writings alone, but also goes for others who speak about our history using similar approaches.

Yours faithfully,
Minette Bacchus

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