I knew Dr Cheddi and Janet Jagan since 1977 when they welcomed me as a new staff member to the People’s Progressive Party Headquarters, Freedom House. I served as Cheddi’s personal secretary from 1977 to 1992 October when as President Dr Jagan appointed me as his Minister of Health.
Dr Cheddi Jagan, junior, ‘Joey’s’ diatribe in his recent letter published in the Stabroek News on Thursday, March 22, reflects the utter disdain he has held and continues to hold for the PPP and its leaders not now, but for decades. Even before the PPPC won the first free and fair elections in 24 years on October 5, 1992 he had little respect for the hardworking leaders of the PPP who dedicated their lives (and their families’ lives) to the restoration of democracy and free and fair elections. Even under his father’s presidency there were several instances where he attacked ministers and his father’s government, in some cases embarrassing both parents with his public displays.
Dr Cheddi and Janet Jagan were great leaders but without the PPP they formed and its dedicated leaders and solid and loyal membership at the grass roots levels, bolstered by the thousands of supporters that victory would not have been achieved. To try to separate the Jagans from the PPP is an exercise in futility, something neither Dr Jagan nor Mrs Jagan would have countenanced. The fact that the PPP without the Jagans at the helm won the 2001, 2006, and 2011 general elections is a credit to the legacy of the Jagans and the PPP. Cheddi died 21 years ago but the PPP remains, moreso now under the Granger government, a relevant, vibrant, and critical partner in the body politic of Guyana; no solution to its advancement can succeed without the PPP’s involvement.
In his own words, Joey castigates this same PPP leadership “in no way would I support the ‘leaders’ of my father’s party who have soiled, sullied and betrayed the very principles of Jagan’s beliefs which encompassed humility, intolerance of any speck of corruption, hearing the cries of the dispossessed and fuelling the drive for racial and working class unity in Guyana. Cheddi Jagan’s principles have been assassinated and I say, ‘et tu Bharrat.’”
Ironically, it is this same party that he had no problem supporting in the 1997 elections becoming a Member of Parliament for a short time, and, again in 2011 as a PPPC candidate managed by the same PPP leadership he now berates in so vile a manner.
In fact, Dr Cheddi Jagan’s principles and policies remain intact in the PPP.
The achievements of successive PPPC governments from 1992- 2015 are a living testimony to the beliefs and polices that Dr Cheddi Jagan made at the ceremonial opening of the Sixth Parliament on 17th December 1992. His speech as Dr Henry Jeffrey stated, “was magnanimous, forcefully recognizing a multi-party system in Guyana and promising that opposition parties will not be treated with the arrogant disdain of the past.” This repeated what he had said at his swearing on October 9, 1992 that “I hope to develop a constructive relationship with Mr. Desmond Hoyte and the leadership of all parties in order to deepen our democratic process, and accelerate our economic development.” He expressed his commitment to make the Parliament a deliberative and inclusive body, to improve the lives of the people of Guyana and to make Guyana a model of development in the region. Contrast with the exclusionary behaviour and posture of the “ah we time” Granger-led government!
By 2015, despite the PNC orchestrated violence post 1997-99 and 2001 elections, and the machinations of the APNU and AFC parties in 2012-2015 (the parties which Joey supported in the 2015 elections), Guyana was emerging as a dynamic young democratic nation that moved from a low income country to a middle income country, that halved poverty, reduced infant and maternal mortality, provided housing, clean water and educational and employment opportunities to a large number of Guyanese of all races in all regions, improved access to health, education and employment in the interior and amongst Amerindians, the poorest people in Guyana. The status of all Guyanese had improved.
Yet where was Joey Jagan during the terrible days of the post-election violence and the most violent crime wave the country had ever experienced? Despite his dedication to his father Cheddi’s values, which is understandable, where was he in standing up for his father’s legacy and mother in those terribly demanding and dangerous times?
Why after supporting the APNU+AFC coalition has Joey become so silent on the gross violations taking place in the face of creeping ‘paramountcy of the party’ and greater hardships for the people?
Why has Joey said nothing about the reversals in the economy, the downturn in the quality of life of Guyanese, the closure of the 4 sugar estates and the termination of over 5000 sugar workers, the termination of the 1,972 Amerindian community service officers ‒ the first ones to suffer under the chopping block of the Granger government ‒ and public servants many of whom happen to be Indo-Guyanese?
Worse yet, he has been absolutely silent on the levels of corruption since the Granger government took over ‒ D’Urban Park, the Restoration of Georgetown projects, gross violations of the Constitution and the procurement laws including the purchase of almost $2billion worth of drugs and medical supplies in 2017 without going to tender, the feasibility study of the New Demerara Harbour Bridge, multiple retendering of projects, the sale of our patrimony with the oil and gas agreement to Exxon et al for a paltry sum, to name a few.
As to extravagance, whatever Joey believes the PPP leadership did, pales in significance to the extravagant increases in salaries, benefits and allowances of the APNU+AFC government, their advisors, and bureaucrats, their cars, residences, bodyguards and numerous personal staff.
I have no hesitation in saying that if Dr Cheddi Jagan was still with us, he would be fiercely battling as we are in the PPPC to expose the Granger government for its violations of the Constitution, its corruption, its anti-people policies and 200 taxation measures, as well as the termination of the 5000 sugar workers and thousands in the public and private sectors, all of which have brought greater hardships on our people and the nation.
From his letter, it seems that Joey, having lived abroad and benefited from modern facilities and conditions, begrudged PPP leaders improving themselves and their families’ lives after long years of struggle. Dr Cheddi Jagan in the 1960s purchased land and built a simple but lovely house in Bel Air, an area that would become an up and coming middle class area by the 1970s. No one ever begrudged him his comfort nor questioned his integrity. Thousands of people, including PPP leaders, benefited from the national housing programme started by President Jagan in 1994 coupled with the improvement in the economy facilitated people acquiring land, borrowing loans and building houses.
As my colleague and PPP leader, Dr Luncheon wrote in 2014 in the Preface to the volumes of Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s Speeches in the National Assembly, 1947-1992, “Cheddi emphasised good governance, economic planning and a tripartite economy. He exposed excesses and wrong-doings during the colonial regime and under the PNC Government and fought tirelessly in Parliament to support the victims of colonialism and PNC misrule. For him, democratic Government needed to address issues of economic justice, for the sake of global security. The unnecessary and cruel wastage of human talent was his major concern. As he once declared: ‘Democracy can only prosper in an environment of economic, social and ecological development. Poverty atrophies the vigour and initiative of the individual and deprives the society of incalculable human resources. If left unattended, the expansion of poverty with hunger and the hopelessness it engenders will undermine the fabric of our civilisation and the security of the democratic state, thus threatening world peace.’ He was equally passionate in the cause of environmental protection, recognising an intimate linkage with human economic development but also the human spiritual hunger for beauty. He put it memorably thus : ‘… the natural resources of our planet must be utilised for the benefit of mankind in such a way that they remain available for future generations, and that in the process of utilisation, fullest measures are taken to prevent environmental degradation. Sustainable development is an all-embracing process which is centred on human development. There are two major needs which have to be satisfied. One is to use natural resources for the material and spiritual upliftment of all people. The other is to maintain the delicate balance in nature reflected in the various eco systems adorning our planet.”
Relevant then and now, a philosophical world view and values held up to today by the PPP and its leaders and put into operation by successive PPPC administrations.
Whether Joey and others like it or not, the golden era of the PPPC in government was the 2006-2011 period where finally after the post-electoral violence of the earlier periods and the heavy conditionalities of the international financial institutions to reduce the debt inherited from PNC rule, the government could recommence its national developmental agenda. With prudent financial management, difficult choices and priorities in spending, attracting investors, and diversifying the economy, Guyana was literally taking off… it was the most dynamic period with “cautious optimism” for the future. And it occurred in the midst of the global economic and financial crisis and the global fuel crisis… And guess who was the President? Joey’s nemesis… Bharrat Jagdeo!
Bharrat Jagdeo is the product of the Jagan’s PPP, of a different generation, a different style , a different methodology, but nevertheless he and his PPPC government furthered Jagan’s vision of Guyana – reduction of debt to manageable proportions; positive economic growth; diversification of the economy; expansion of the agricultural base; more equitable access to the delivery of government services in water, health, education, housing, for the poor and vulnerable; the Low Carbon Development Strategy an innovative and indigenously Guyanese approach to development with the active involvement of people across the country; one of the first countries to trade carbon services (something Cheddi wrote about in the late 1980s), and radical constitutional reform premised on good and inclusive governance, reducing the powers of the President and including a power sharing mechanism for key constitutional appointments. This was Jagan’s legacy and the PPP’s.
The PPP leadership has been buffeted for decades by the PNC that has held back this country’s progress, in and out of government. It has been criticized by some in the last 10 years who claim to be Jaganites who have appointed themselves the custodians of Cheddi Jagan’s legacy.With all our human flaws and foibles, the custodians of Cheddi Jagan’s legacy are those in the PPP who ever day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade withstand and bravely hold the party together no matter what challenges are placed in its way, who remain loyal to the PPP’s values of equality, justice, democracy and progress.
No attempt to orchestrate a horribly inaccurate historical analogy with the Roman Empire will do the trick!
And the PPP will continue to fight for the restoration of democracy and struggle for free and fair elections in 2020 as it did under Dr. Cheddi Jagan from 1968-1992, and, the PPP will be vindicated and will win by popular demand once again and put Guyana back on track.
I am unequivocal in my loyalty to Cheddi and Janet Jagan’s legacy and the PPP’s vision for Guyana.
Which side of history does Joey want to be on? Or will he continue to flip flop all over the place with no grounding and no home? The choice is simple: the side of the PPP or the side of Mr Granger?
Gail Teixeira, MP
One of many leaders of the PPP