I write to dispute the letter which appeared in KN of Sunday 6th August from a ‘Guyanese Nationalist’, entitled “Jagdeo lost a great opportunity to move this country forward”, and the same letter in another newspaper of the same date, under a different title, “Where Does The PPP Go From Here” signed ‘Concerned’. This letter distorting our recent history does great injustice to our Former President Jagdeo and the PPP.
Firstly, our people and country took great strides forward during the 23 years that the PPP/C was in office with Mr. Jagdeo as Finance Minister initially then as our President for more than half of the time. Secondly, be assured that the PPP will continue to work its way towards one Guyanese People, one Guyanese Country and One Common Guyanese Destiny on the background of, ‘A New Global Human Order’ – the World being one and us all being members of one Human Race.
True, there are the challenges of comprehensively and explicitly coming to terms with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the passing of our founders, Comrades Cheddi and Janet; and yes there have been tensions, contentions, contradictions, differences and departures, but the basic vision still holds the overwhelming majority together and continues to attract new young citizens to its fold. The future and the way forward is seldom clear and undisputed: contradictions are testimony of evolving situations and the basis for further evolution. The PPP will always be there as the Champion for the less able.
Former President Jagdeo carrying on in the changed direction for our country, initiated by Former President Cheddi Jagan, changed the face of Georgetown and Guyana for the better and our People and Country moved remarkably forward from where we had been, really getting on with the tasks and anticipated rewards of our Independence.
Editor, when before did we have regular minibus service to Mahdia and to Lethem? and regular annual safaris from Georgetown to Orinduik passing through and linking some twenty Amerindian villages across the North Pakarimas? 24 x 7 electricity service to Lethem/St Ignatius, Mahdia/Campbeltown, and Port Kaituma? and photovoltaic solar home systems providing electric lights to 20,000 homes across our hinterland?
When before did we have the second East Coast Road (Railway Embankment); and the bridge across the Berbice river, eliminating hours even days waiting to cross on a steamer? And when did we have two RO-RO steamers crossing between Parika and the Essequibo coast with potential of a ten-fold increase in commerce and travel? When did we have the Ogle crop-dusting airstrip grown to the centre for scheduled domestic flights and become the Eugene F Correia Regional Airport?
The then still young Former President Jagdeo made himself a champion for establishing the new and future IT economy in Guyana, to provide new and better jobs as jobs were lost in the old traditional sectors. When before did we have a second competing telephone service and mobile and internet service rapidly available all across our country? You can be sure that there was much encouragement and patient nurturing to attract and hold and initiate the new IT sector inclusive of Qualfon, Teleperformance, the unsuccessful medical transcription venture and the local Nand Persaud operations.
When did Guyana and we the Guyanese people deliver on that bold commitment of Former President Burnham in 1973 to provide a headquarters building for Caricom? As a member of Cabinet I saw Former President Jagdeo laying out a vision for the development of that area, that saw the construction of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, the Caricom Headquarters, the Aquatic Centre, and the allocation of lands for private developments – the Giftland Mall, Movie Town now nearing the end of construction, one or two hotels and lands for up-scale housing and offices. Our Present President may well consider renaming the area ‘Jagdeo Square’ perhaps with an eye to naming the Caricom Headquarters the ‘L F S Burnham’ building.
Georgetown and Guyana were changed in so many ways by the overwhelming number of Guyanese leaving their earlier disillusionment, downcast psyche and hopelessness behind them. The large numbers of new and improved homes and the surge in the number of vehicle owners all across our country provide the solid evidence. For the majority of us, Former President Jagdeo delivered on the hope and enthusiasm generated with his coming to office.
Editor, I am ready to argue that NICIL was not lawless and was good for Guyana; that the only fiasco about Amaila was the then opposition withdrawing its support and scuttling the development of a waterfall which had been identified in an internationally supported programme of the mid 1970s as one of the best to match our domestic needs; and that the major embarrassment in Guyana must be the inability of this Coalition Government to find anything substantial to support its allegations of corruptions of hundreds of billions of dollars in annual budget expenditures whilst the PPP/C was in office.
In the unwarranted, unjustified attack on Former President Janet Jagan that letter writer displayed his alarming prejudice and beliefs generated by the hostile propaganda of the 1950s and 1960s. Though she was not born a Guyanese, she was a Guyanese of greater faith than many born here.
It was Former President Janet with her understanding of how badly many Afro-Guyanese felt about losing elections one after another to the PPP, who, after our 1997 elections, despite the sense of unhappiness throughout her party about accepting another injustice, signed that Herdmanston Accord, which provided for Constitutional amendments to put limitations on the powers of the President and the Executive and brought forward our next elections by two years. Former President Janet Jagan signed the Agreement and it was Former President Jagdeo who assented to the ensuing amendments. However, as he once quipped, one amendment he wouldn’t assent to would be an amendment that said that the PPP shouldn’t win an election!
The letter writer must have been carried away with his jaundiced views in bringing up the name of Roger Khan. An unprejudiced review of our media from the months preceding our 1997 elections unto today, would reveal that a criminal fringe of mainly Afro-Guyanese men took over Buxton and styling themselves as ‘Freedom Fighters’ launched attacks on mainly Indo-Guyanese, at the same time ‘disciplining’ Blacks who did not meet their pleasure.
With our security forces being remarkably unsuccessful in apprehending them, Roger Khan – a man with contacts in almost all circles in Guyana – took on himself and some associates, the task of apprehending them. It was a period when Guyanese and Guyana were put to a severe test – maybe it is still too early for a true and complete telling. Suffice it to say that it was a troubled time, a period when a President could have become very protective of himself and party.
I want to assure the writer and the public that we value excellence no less, but excellence must be judged in context. A major plank of us the PPP and PPP/C is to prefer policies and programmes which would entrain and benefit the larger number and provide for growth upwards from the widest base. We are wary of trickle down approaches. The CCJ would rule on a Former two-term President running again for office, then, if so, the Guyanese electorate will have its say.
Whatever the case, we are free to reconsider whatever we intended. There are many countries which allow Former Presidents to run again after an absence of one or two terms. Former President Jagdeo would now be eligible to be President again in perhaps every country of the world save for the USA, and what appears to be the evolving practice in China.
Samuel A. A. Hinds
Former Prime Minister and Former President
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