As Guyana grows older as a nation, more facts on its history will become known. It is the same with all countries. There will be more revelations on some of history’s great and not so great personalities as researchers dig deeper and deeper into the fountain of knowledge.
Writers need to revisit the traditional explanations the world has grown accustomed to. There is an unlimited amount of material out there that the world needs to be exposed to.
In Guyana, it is my belief that the greatness of Cheddi Jagan has been exaggerated both by Jagan himself in his autobiography, “The West on Trial” and by his protégés.
I also believe that there is a conspiracy in Guyana and the Diaspora to preserve a picture of Jagan as a hero as a reaction to the facts that are slowly tumbling out that he was an extremely flawed and incompetent political activist.
As Guyana grows older, the negative side and brutally selfish politics of Cheddi Jagan are being researched.
Those who write about the positive legacy of Dr. Jagan, people like Dr. Randy Persaud, Dr. David Dabydeen and recently Jang Singh of Canada, need to cast off their emotional attachment to Jagan and dispassionately examine the growing body of research material that exposes his infamous, myopic and narrow-minded approach to politics.
Four such manuscripts provide valuable insight into the nature of Jagan. I would advise scholars sympathetic to Jagan to read them. They are Clem Seechararan’s “Sweetening Bitter Sugar”; Baytoram Ramharack’s “Against the Grain”; Halim Majeed’s “Forbes Burnham”; and “The Anatomy of Cheddi Jagan’s Marxism” by Seecharran.”
One must also take into account bits of information that have been offered throughout the decades by various individuals who lived in the sixties. Former UG lecturer, Michael Parris wrote that it was Jagan who started the politicization of the public service during his Premiership of British Guiana by deploying a PPP teacher from Queen’s College to become his Permanent Secretary.
Premier Jagan defended his unorthodox move by asserting that a PS must be partial to the government of the day.
It was Jagan in 1992 that took an executive member of the PPP, Dr. Roger Luncheon, and assigned him as Chairman of the NIS. The Stabroek News in an editorial last year described how Dr. Jagan demoted his Permanent Secretary, Arthur Abraham (he was replaced by the Queen’s College teacher).
The consensus of researchers and those that lived in the sixties was that Arthur Abraham was one of the most professional and decent public servants Guyana produced. Abraham’s house was searched, his opposition activist daughter was charged with sedition, and soon after arson took the life of Abraham and six of his children.
Jagan’s son said on CNS- Channel 6 that his father used to meet Burnham on the seawall for friendly chats while the supporters of the two men were locked in violent battles.
It borders on academic dishonesty to argue for a great legacy left by Cheddi Jagan without examining these records.
There are two situations that must be contemplated by those who think Jagan was a heroic contributor to Guyanese social evolution. One is that we tend to be sympathetic to Jagan because the mighty United States harassed him when he led Guyana.
Secondly, we tend to admire Jagan’s perseverance in the light of Burnham’s insane descent into tyranny. What all Jagan researchers must ask themselves is if the Americans didn’t harass him and Burnham didn’t behave so erratically would Jagan have been such an admired person.
We can get a glimpse into the answer by looking at the trenchant way Walter Rodney eclipsed Jagan during the seventies. In the rising prominence of Rodney, Jagan faded.
He couldn’t compete with Rodney for the hearts and minds of Guyanese. We grew up admiring and liking Cheddi Jagan because we hated what the Americans did to him and we hated what Burnham did to Guyana.
It is time scholarship replace emotion and we take a revisionist investigation of the entire career of Cheddi Jagan. We must examine his legacy not on who did him wrong but what constituted the essence of Jagan.
If one examines the policies of Jagan from October 1992 to March 1997 when he died, one will get a picture of the real man.
He refused to rescind the sugar levy. He miniaturized the public sector putting hundreds of poor people out of a daily bread. He took away duty free concession from UG lecturers.
He victimized innocent state managers who worked under the PNC.
He refused to extend an inclusive hand to those who struggled with him over the long decades. Look at the type of politicians he nurtured. Neither Burnham nor Jagan left a good legacy.
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