The late Minister of Education, Dr. Dale Bisnauth, told me that Cheddi Jagan was one of the world’s most modest leaders. If I can remember well, he said, “the most.” Bisnauth said he admired Jagan deeply for that trait. He went on to tell me that of all the leaders in the world, Jagan didn’t really care about having a sense of humour.
Bisnauth gave me an example of Jagan’s phenomenal modesty and his muted sense of humour. The year was 1994. President Jagan paid a three day trip to Region 7 with Finance Minister Asgar Ally and Bisnauth himself. He spent overnight at Kamarang where he stayed at an ordinary house and eat what the guest offered.
President Jagan’s plane was late by two hours and the delegation waited under a benab where conversations flew non-stop with President Jagan hardly speaking but listening. Bisnauth said while others were cracking up with the jokes, and amusing situations he, Bisnauth described, Jagan hardly showed any humour.
In the first week of August, President Granger spent four hours in Kamarang. He went to Region 7 to open the annual football tournament held at Jawalla in the Upper Mazaruni. On Granger’s visit, all the hotels and restaurants were booked two days in advance by the government. Two days before the arrival of the president, his family and extended family members, a full plane load of bodyguards were in Kamarang.
In the morning, at 9.30 hours, before the arrival of the president, a plane landed with state media personnel. The president’s aircraft touched down at 10. 40 hours. There were an additional 8 bodyguards that came with Mr. Granger. My source counted in total, 18 armed security ranks.
I contacted one of the longest serving businessmen in Kamarang, Reginald Sookram, to confirm the description of the facts of the President’s visit to Region 7. Mr. Sookram wanted to know who gave me the “facts” but I could not reveal that information to him and he understood.
Mr. Sookram told me that the person who gave me the information got it from him, Sookram. He said that he can verify all the details and he stands by it and even informed me that a fuller description of President Granger’s presence in Region 7 is on his Facebook account. I told him I couldn’t access that since I am not a social media participant.
Life has strange coincidences. Sookram said he met President Jagan when he visited Kamarang in 1994. He said he was a young man then and was part of the local welcoming committee and was in fact at the benab with the presidential delegation waiting for take-off back to Georgetown. Sookram said something that I found difficult to accept. He told me Jagan didn’t have bodyguards with him. I informed him that was protocol in all governments.
President Jagan had to have security details with him but maybe it was just one or two and they didn’t demonstrate their presence. Sookram, however, insisted that the aircraft that came to take President Jagan back didn’t have anyone in it except a pilot and an assistant. For the record, I did ask Sookram if he was willing to be named and he said he has no problem whatsoever.
There are those who have justified the large security cordons that characterize the president’s visits in Georgetown since the Pegasus Hotel incident two weeks ago. I wrote this column here for two reasons. I intentionally wanted to show the modesty of Dr. Jagan. Secondly, it was motivated by the politics of ostentatious displays in the APNU+AFC regime. This is not confined to President Granger but to the total political leadership of APNU+AFC.
The Region 7 visit came long before the Pegasus incident so one cannot use it to justify those kinds of security configurations we saw in Region 7 in August. The security overkill is bad advice by President Granger’s people if it is not the idea of Granger himself.
For example, on Monday, the Toshaos conference opened at the Arthur Chung Centre on Railway Embankment. The police stopped east bound traffic from Sheriff Street to UG road and west bound traffic from UG Road. No one could access Giftland Mall and the Aquatic Centre. Many CARICOM officials ended up arguing with the police ranks. A driver told the police he lived at Demerara Estates, back of Giftland but he was refused. Here is the chorus of one of my favourite reggae songs by the group, Steel Pulse. Listen to the entire song. It is interesting.
“Bodyguard I wouldn’t like your job
Snakes in the grass say they know not God
Polytricksters drinking human blood
Concrete heart can hold no love.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper
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