There is the story I heard that President Forbes Burnham once demanded that high judicial officials participate in weed-cleaning at Hope Estate. The response of one of the judges was that it was not a task to which he should be assigned. He let the President know that. The President sent to call him. The judge thought that Mr. Burnham should visit him instead.
Burnham was a strange man. He went. He was completely shocked at the judge’s bravery. From thereon, Burnham never had another word with that judicial figure throughout his presidency.
I have heard umpteen intrigues like this one about Burnham. People told me that then Guysuco head, Harold Davis, would tell Burnham that if he, Burnham, wanted to run the sugar industry then why have him, Davis, there? It worked in Davis’s favour because Burnham threaded carefully with Davis from thereon.
My point is that Burnham seemed to have had an innate recognition for talent and unless a learned person committed treason, Burnham was prepared to employ him in the pursuit of national development. After I won the President’s Medal at UG, he sent to call me to work for him.
As the evaluations of Mrs. Janet Jagan go on, I recall this incident because in assessing her politics, this was a trait in politics I never saw in her. It was her biggest failing and it undid her party, the country and her, as a person.
In the March 29 edition of this newspaper there is an interesting line about Mrs. Jagan that is appropriate to cite for the purpose of the argument in this essay. In a news item on the investigation of fraud at GWI and the future of its Chief Executive Officer, Karan Singh, the paper stated; “…There is no telling how Cabinet will react given the death of former President Janet Jagan who was said to be instrumental in having Singh returned to the water sector after being accused of mismanagement in the same sector in the past.”
There is no doubt in my mind that she facilitated this appointment. The interventions weren’t in the hundreds, they were in the thousands. Mrs. Jagan was interested in the essential being of a person and more on where they stood in relation to her ideology and her party.
It was an unphilosophical way of looking at human relationships. Look what and where this kind of politics has brought us to. In a country like Guyana, that kind of politics will cause disaster. It has and the result is a tragic land where hopes are fast receding and people are fast leaving.
How ironic that at a time when there is so much talk about elected dictatorship in Guyana, the person who heads the governing process was literally handpicked by Janet Jagan. It is the story of Dr. Jagan and Mrs. Jagan. They chose people, not for the finer qualities, that inhere in their character but out of party devotion.
Large numbers of citizens pay tribute to prominent citizens on the passing of the physical presence on earth but we must never be oblivious to history because in so doing we repeat the mistakes of the past. The errors of the past are still with us and one of them was just referred to in the case of GWI.
One wonders what goes through the mind of the victim of rulers who didn’t perform so wonderfully in the pursuit of bringing happiness to their subjects and when they die we hear of their phenomenal endeavours to make people freer.
What is it going to be like when Castro passes on? They are thousands of wives and children who have lost their husbands and fathers to this dictator who offered The Promised Land when he overthrew the Batista Government in 1953. Today, look at the state of freedom in Cuba.
The enduring love of Cuba by Mrs. Jagan and her lack of admiration for the United States is subject for another article. She has died leaving Guyana at the crossroads. It will not be easy trying to paint the canvas with flowers only. There were indeed good and solid contributions to this land by Mrs. Jagan.
There were uninspiring moments too. Her own son formed a political party and sermonised against his mother’s own organisation at a time when his mother was in full control of the PPP.
That defection tells a lot about the politics of the PPP. But it also tells the tale, the tall tale of this ideologically committed Guyanese politician whose loyalty, like her husband, was to what she deeply felt in her philosophical soul – her ideology rather than the reality that her people lived with.
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