What is happening to Cheddi Jagan today has happened to many great men in history.
When he was alive, he was persecuted and had to face many vile attacks because of his principled position on all important national and international issues. This man stood like a colossus against the colonial powers and the imperialist policies of the US to win independence, freedom and democracy for the people of this country.
The party currently in power, PNC/APNU, at this 50th anniversary fought against Independence and against Cheddi Jagan tooth and nail. They took the position of no independence in 1960.
The PNC was placed in power at the time of Independence to frustrate the aspirations of our people. It is this same party that had removed May 26 (Independence Day) from being a national holiday. In the process, they will do everything to ignore the role of Cheddi Jagan and the PPP’s contributions to Guyana attaining independence.
It is well known that our country should have gained independence since 1962, at the same time as Jamaica and Trinidad. The 1961 elections were fought with the objective of whichever party won would lead the country to Independence. The PPP won those elections.
This was a period when the Cold War existed and the US, in alliance with the UK, destabilized our country to stop independence. In the process, they needed the assistance of local collaborators, and the PNC played that role very well. They did not care about the human suffering they caused. The finance came from the US. Indeed, the colonials established a state of emergency in the then British Guiana. This was to frustrate the people’s demand for Independence.
British Guiana was the only colony that was granted independence under a state of emergency, with political prisoners, including Brindley Benn, C V Nunes and others, languishing in the Mazaruni prison. Their crime? Being members of the PPP in the fight for independence.
After this, the PNC downplayed Independence. The day ceased being a public holiday and instead republican status was emphasized more.
The PPP was supportive of republican status and argued that we should be a republic on the same date as our independence. The PPP even proposed through Dr Jagan, that Independence and Republican status should be August 1, 1962. This was to coincide and give emphasis to the date in 1838 when slavery was abolished. The PNC did not support this.
Dr Cheddi Jagan never wavered from his position of freedom. In January of 1955, when rumours of a split in the PPP were becoming clear, with a section of the PPP (led by Burnham), arguing that the radicals in the PPP should be removed to please the British so that they would end the period of suspension of the constitution, Cheddi Jagan wrote that even if they succeeded in doing so, they would not be able to deliver anything to the people. His words have proven to be prophetic.
Independence under the PNC led to the loss of democracy, which was characterized by rigged elections. The economy was bankrupt, shortages and long lines for basic commodities, discrimination and political oppression were the order of the day. The destruction affected every aspect of life in the country. We became a laughing stock of the Caribbean and further afield.
In 1992, led by Cheddi Jagan, democracy was restored. With that, our country began to advance in every aspect of life, so much so that international institutions began to point to Guyana as a model for development.
These achievements were made under the most difficult of circumstances. The PNC/APNU did everything to stymie progress in our country. Now they are trying to rewrite history and cover their record of sellouts.
Typically, once more they are trying to ignore the real champion of our independence – Dr Cheddi Jagan and the PPP. However, history is not only about today’s circumstances. Cheddi Jagan’s life and work were open books. The achievements are both material and spiritual/psychological. His contributions have been so immense that former US President Jimmy Carter once stated that Jagan was Guyana’s greatest asset.
And judging by his great work and the example that he has left, he still is our greatest asset.
No matter how much they try to play down Cheddi Jagan’s role, they will fail. History and time will see to that!