The Guyanese American diaspora (from the greater New York area) held a seminar and cultural variety programme on Sunday afternoon in a tribute to the late former Presidents Cheddi Jagan and Janet Jagan in Richmond Hill, Queens to celebrate his 99th birth anniversary and to memorialize and commemorate the 20th anniversary since his death and 9th anniversary since her death. Glowing tributes were paid to both former Presidents in their role as freedom fighters first against the colonial rulers and subsequently against the PNC dictatorship.
Some dozen speakers paid tribute to Dr and Mrs Jagan, The keynote address was delivered by former Minister of Govern-ment and Ambassador to Brazil and Canada, Mr Harry Nawbatt.
Both Cheddi and Janet were the among the founders (Ashton Chase and Jocelyn Hubbard were the others) of the Political Affairs Committee which was later transformed into the PPP (1950). Jagan served as leader of PAC founded in 1946 and PPP from 1950 till his death in March 1997.
The New York event was hosted by the Guyana Solidarity Movement (led by Ruben Khusial) comprising dozens of non-government organizations including splinter groups of the Association of Concerned Guyanese (PPP support group). Some of the splinter groups supported the AFC+APNU coalition in the 2015 election because of what they claimed was disrespect from the PPP leadership. One of the PPP splinter support groups did not participate in the tribute to Jagan.
Sunday’s programme featured brief speeches from several prominent community activists and PPP stalwarts including from former PPP Exco members Cyril Belgrave, Prof Chuck Mohan, ACG founding member Mel Carpen (who broke with the PPP in the 2015 election), Dr Tara Singh, Richard Hyuen (a Chinese Jamaican) who described Dr Jagan as his hero; Hyuen also saluted Janet whom he met several times in New York. Everyone gave anecdotes and snippets about their relations with the Jagans. The programme also included scintillating dances, poems, and singing. Everyone performed for free in tribute to their heroes.
Speakers noted how Dr Jagan was raised on a sugar estate and how he was successful in school going to the US to further his studies. They described how Jagan and Janet dedicated their lives, income, savings, work and teachings towards ending colonial rule and the PNC dictatorial rule. Cheddi and Janet were described respectively as founding father and mother of the nation. Mention was made of how the British and American Anglo axis toppled the PPP and Jagan from office in 1953 and 1964 and installed the pro-imperialist PNC in office.
Speaker after speaker spoke on the incorruptible honesty of the Jagans. They noted how the Jagans fought for the rights of the working class and the dispossessed. Some speakers lamented that the PPP has deviated from Jaganism and that the leadership had become too arrogant. The speakers urged the party leadership and the Guyanese public at large to emulate Jagan’s legacy and commitment to uplifting the lives of the poor and working class. Speakers also urged the PPP leadership to reform the party and make it inclusive to re-attract former members (who became alienated and left because the party lost its Jaganite moorings). One speaker in particular called for the party to embrace youths and for the older generation to make way for new youthful leaders. Speakers also felt the party should be inclusive to attract supporters of other parties and that it should collaborate with other (minor) parties to stand guard against what they see as increasing authoritarianism in Guyana under the coalition regime.
The event was coordinated by Ruben Khusial of West Coast Demerara, who also served as Chairman of the proceedings. Faiuze Alli moved a vote of thanks. The event attracted a near packed house at the Royal Princess catering hall. Attendees applauded the organizers for hosting such an activity in recognition of the former Presidents. Guests were served a full complimentary dinner and a variety of drinks. The costs of the event were borne by donors and sponsors.