On his deathbed, Cheddi Jagan had an epiphany. He signed a note saying that he would like his wife to take over from him.
It was so unlike Cheddi. He, after all, had once said at a political walkabout in Lethem that he was not bothered about what would happen after he left politics. He stated that there were others capable of leading the party and pointed to a party leader who was with him at the time as an example of someone who could take over.
He did not, as has been so mischievously and opportunistically suggested, identify that particular individual as his successor. He merely pointed to that individual as an example of the individuals within the party who were capable of succeeding him.
On his deathbed, he made his final choice. Cheddi was always interested in internal democracy within the party. But he had tremendous influence over the party because of who he was: the man who led the Independence struggle in Guyana after the end of the Second World War.
The party did not have to agree with Cheddi’s choice but they were all outfoxed by a skilful manoeuvre by Mrs. Janet Jagan who inveigled the party to pick her as Cheddi’s successor. With the wishes of Cheddi on pen and paper who would dare oppose?
Why did Cheddi on his deathbed hand over the party to his wife? Human nature is not always rational or logical. She had been a loyal partner and ally in the political struggle. She was definitely the most senior party leader. She had founded the PPP and was the longest serving member within the leadership. She was always therefore going to be a frontrunner to take over from Cheddi.
There were other reasons why Cheddi would have wanted her to succeed him. He would have had close to four years to observe the other leaders within the party. He did not like some of the things he saw, including rank opportunism.
It must also be recalled that Cheddi never had the crème of the crop when it came to his party’s leaders. When he was in opposition, he was abandoned by many people. The middle class in particular had not joined ranks with him in opposing the brutal PNC regime. As such, Cheddi had to be contented with those who were within the leadership.
The fact that so many of these leaders stayed with him while more able and qualified persons disassociated themselves from the PPP had a stirring effect on the PPP’s decision to go it alone after it comprehensively defeated the PNC in the 1992 elections.
Hoyte, the defeated PNC candidate, was a grouchy old man. He was never going to enter into any power sharing talks with Cheddi. He had publicly expressed his dislike for Cheddi and had gone to the extent of saying that he was dedicating his life towards ensuring that Cheddi never regained power.
During a television interview in the run up to the 1992 elections, he kept beating an old Cold war drum by demanding to know whether Cheddi was still a communist. Cheddi turned to him and asked him whether he beat his wife. It was Cheddi ‘s way of saying, “I do not enquire into your personal business so why are you peeping into mine?”
Given the long years of loyalty to Cheddi by the leaders of the party at the time of the 1992 elections, it would have been difficult for Cheddi not to have rewarded them with Cabinet positions. His wife, Mrs. Jagan, was also believed to be viciously opposed to him sharing power with too many others outside of the party.
The issue of the WPA needs clarification because it is being misrepresented. There was a falling out between the PPP and the WPA after the mischief that was weaved in the PCD during the WPA’s attempt to deny the PPP the presidential candidate of the PCD. But Cheddi was a man who harboured no bitterness. He was definitely keen on having Clive Thomas as a Minister of Planning and Development.
He was already committed to having the then top official in the Jamaica Central Bank, Mr. Asgar Ally as his Minister of Finance. This was part of an arrangement to appease the business class in the country who wanted a non-communist as Minister of Finance.
Cheddi however wanted to have the expertise of Clive Thomas within the government. He wanted him as his Minister of Planning. A major difference arose with the WPA over this issue. The WPA did not want Cheddi to decide who he wanted. They wanted him to negotiate with them on their involvement and they would decide who would participate. Having only won one seat, the WPA seemed to have been adopting a too inflexible position.
With time being of the essence in naming the Cabinet, Cheddi had to abandon the idea of having Thomas as a Minister of Planning and Development. The WPA felt miffed. After this, there was never again any possibility of the WPA being involved in the post 1992 PPP government.
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