The government should issue the stamp for Cheddi Jagan

Dear Editor,

I applaud your editorial titled ‘Stamps’ (SN, Mar 25) in which you deservedly admonished the government for its failure to deliver on a public edict that it would honour Dr Cheddi Jagan with a commemorative stamp. The timing of denying the legendary figure his due on his birth anniversary is most disgraceful and must be condemned by decent minded people. Why are Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Minister Khemraj Ramjattan silent on the issue?

The stamp is supposed to be an issue for celebrating and honouring Jagan. But the government has unnecessarily made the Jagan commemorative stamp a controversial one politicizing it when it should not be; it is not like Jagan is not deserving of a stamp. Even Eusi Kwayana has chastised the government for not delivering on its promise to honour Jagan and for turning it into a political issue.

Clearly the controversy pertaining to the Jagan stamp is one of fits and starts or flip flops; first government announcing it would do it, then changing its mind and then saying it would be done later with other presidents for the sake of equity. This government cannot equate Jagan with Arthur Chung.

A commemorative stamp is a postage stamp, often issued on a significant date such as an anniversary to honour a leading figure or some historic event or place, etc. Dr Cheddi Jagan is a (if not the most) historic figure of our nation and the centenary of his birth is most worthy of a commemorative stamp.

March 22, 2018 was the centenary of the birth of Cheddi Jagan. His contributions to the nation and his achievements as an individual are being commemorated in the diaspora. Programmes were planned to honour a man who fought against the colonial masters for the dignity of Guyanese people. They were all done to pay homage to a great leader. There were photo exhibitions in New York City. Stories of valour were told in Trinidad and New York celebrating his life, legacy and family. I spoke at events in Trinidad last week. And I am invited to speak on the legacy of Jagan at a lecture in New Delhi later this month.

The withdrawal of the stamp came across as politically motivated and vindictive. Moreover, the reason for its non-issuance (equating Jagan with other presidents) is nonsensical. One cannot equate Jagan with other presidents. Jagan was a (if not the) founding father of the nation. He was a liberation figure. He is worthy of a stamp all by himself issued separately from others and much more – a monument, buildings and streets named after him, as is the case with Mahatma Gandhi in India, Martin Luther King in USA, and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. A memorial and a stamp to honour a man who has fought for the nation’s sovereignty is long overdue.

There should not only have been a standalone commemorative stamp for Jagan on his birth centenary but a standalone memorial (bust) to commemorate the sacrifices of this great leader of the independence movement. This government has found itself thrust into the heart of a narrative that goes against Jagan (his Research Centre, the party he founded, and his supporters, Jaganism, among other institutions).

I urge the government to issue the stamp belated as it is. It is better late than never. The stamp will help Guyanese at home and in the diaspora as well as the world to remember a man who did so much for his nation and the world. It will also guide the younger generation into research to understand how hard-fought our freedom from Britain was. And the stamp will help to make money for the country. The sales will outdo the cost.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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