Kaieteur News – The following column is being republished, in an edited form, in honour of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Janet Jagan, former President of Guyana.
We should have been dancing in the streets. On International Women’s Day 2011, Guyana received one of its greatest honours ever with the naming of Mrs. Janet Jagan as one of history’s most rebellious women.
Never in our history has such a tribute been paid to any woman in Guyana, as that year’s listing by Time Magazine of the former President of Guyana as among the sixteen foremost rebels in history.
That a person who lived most of her life on our soil could have been recognized as one of the outstanding women in history, even as a rebel, is the best news this country has ever had on any International Women’s Day. And to have been part of a list which includes the likes of Aung San Suu Kyi, Angela Davis, Vilma Espin and Nadizhda Krupshaya, shows the high regard in which Mrs. Jagan is held internationally.
Of those on the list, Mrs. Jagan would have identified with only two, Angela Davis and the Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi who was under house arrest for fifteen years. Mrs. Jagan was the lone voice in Guyana calling for Suu Kyi’s release. The Burmese authorities catapulted last November and freed her from house arrest. Mrs. Jagan unfortunately was not alive to see that great event. Nor did she live to see the atrocities which Suu Kyi committed a few years back.
The inclusion of Mrs. Jagan as one of history’s greatest rebels was not expected to go down well with everyone in Guyana. Instead of nationwide celebrations, there was likely to be a fair degree of resentment within certain quarters in the country that she could be so honoured. Instead of being proud that a woman who lived most of her life in Guyana has been named among the great rebels of history, there is going to be divided opinions about this selection.
It goes right back to the divisions within our country and the fact that local politics continue to result in us not appreciating the special persons within our midst.
There are many good people in our country. There are many good people in the government. There are many good people within the Opposition. But given the divisions within the society, judgment is often based on a person’s political persuasion. Often we fail to appreciate how highly persons outside of these shores respect our citizens, some of whom we revile and spend a great deal of time putting down.
Like most of the other women on the list, this rebel of Guyana, was disliked by many at home purely because of the side of politics on which she stood.
As a practitioner in domestic politics she ultimately attracted detractors. Once you are engaged in domestic politics you will have your enemies. Mrs. Janet Jagan was no exception. She, like many others, was a victim of partisan assessments, a victim of the smear campaign and hatred that is often the product of political frustration by her detractors. Ugly things were said about her and done to her, and there is still a great deal of that around even after her death.
Not that she was without her shortcomings. She was a rebel who did not yield easily to opposition. She believed strongly that it was her duty to preserve the party she helped formed and in the process, she ruffled a great deal of feathers. Those with whom she did not see eye to eye came away bitter and bruised. She is still reviled by many. But she is also loved and respected by tens of thousands in Guyana, and as is now evident, she is also highly regarded in history.
Perhaps now that she has been named among history’s most rebellious women, a fairer assessment of her contribution to Guyana will be forthcoming.
Mrs. Janet Jagan has had her fair share of criticism. But having been listed as one of the all-time rebels of history, she deserves to be honoured as an outstanding citizen of Guyana. Despite being born outside of these shores, she has lived long enough within it to be considered a Guyanese. And she is a naturalized citizen of Guyana.
It would be fitting if she is given the recognition that is due to her. Not from outside but from within.
(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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