Kaieteur News – Janet Jagan was the former President of Guyana. She died on March 28, 2009. This tribute is made in her honour. As we approach International Women’s Day. She was one of the most outstanding female political figures of the 20th century.
I am still to find the perfect politician. I know of a great many good, decent and honest leaders, but I am yet to meet someone without faults, someone that is loved equally by all and sundry.
Guyanese demand too much of its leaders. Guyanese must begin to take the good with the bad or alternatively to ourselves mirror the perfection, which it seeks in its leaders.
I believe that if we begin to judge our leaders much in the same way as we judge our own failures and successes, this country would be a living paradise. Unfortunately, we tend to do just the opposite; we tend to judge ourselves fairly but are extremely harsh on our political leaders.
There is no political leader I know who has been, as harshly and unfairly judged as the former President of Guyana, Mrs. Janet Jagan. I have known of no political leader throughout history who has been so scandalized and demonised by his or her own people, as Mrs. Jagan.
Mr. Jagan had a strong chin. There was only one person who she complained publicly about the manner in which he treated her. That person was Llewellyn John, who died recently, and whom she said spoke to her in most disrespectful and rough manner. Ironically, years later, he would go on television to defend her right as President.
This country will for a long time bear that shame for the terrible things that have been said of and done to Mrs. Janet Jagan in this country.
Here is a woman who gave her entire life to serve this country. Here is someone who endured a great deal of nasty remarks and ostracism from her own people, because of her dedication to Guyana’s fight for independence.
Here was someone who broke social taboos in this country that had held back women and the poor. Here was a White woman who came to the Black Caribbean, fought for the freedom from colonial oppression and domination and yet when she herself became President of Guyana she was demonized.
Here was someone who has lived in Guyana and has been a citizen of this country longer than most of us who were born here. Yet when she became President, the fact that she was White became one of the pretexts for forcing her out of office.
What was done to Mrs. Janet Jagan in the streets of this country from December 1997 to August 1999 will forever be a mark of shame on Guyana’s political history. It was terrible that someone who has done so much, at such great personal sacrifice, could be treated so cruelly by the very people who enjoyed the freedom for which she gave so much.
The struggle for Guyana’s freedom may have begun centuries ago. But by the time the 1940s came, that struggle had come to a halt. The vested interests from the middle class that was making token appeals for self-rule and independence did not have the mass support to press the British to concede what the British did not wish to concede.
Had independence come under this opportunistic political class, it would have been much later and Guyana would have been doomed to become another banana republic.
The persons that radicalized the independence struggles in this country, the persons that gave fresh impetus to that movement, the persons that reignited the torch of freedom for Guyana were Mr. and Mrs. Jagan. No amount of political revisionism about the two persons can change that fact.
Had it not been for the Jagans, Guyana would have been granted independence when the British would have emptied this country of all of its wealth.
I hope that when the authentic history of this country is written, that there will be a more sympathetic treatment of Mrs. Janet Jagan, whose role in the fight for independence is gravely underestimated.
Yet, interestingly, her influence over Cheddi is grossly exaggerated.
Cheddi Jagan has always been the ideologue within the PPP. This is why the PPP is in such a mess. This is why the bourgeoisie class has so penetrated the government – because of the sterility of the ideological process within the party.
Mrs. Jagan has in the past been unfairly accused of being the one who had the greatest ideological influence on Cheddi. She has been accused of the main influence on him becoming a communist.
Nothing could be further than the truth. Mrs. Jagan herself and her politics have been more humanistic than ideological. She can be deemed as stubborn, unbending and a hardliner but not a profound ideologue. She acted out of a sense of what was right or wrong and what was in the interest of the party and the government, which it has formed.
Sometimes the two things collided. And this caused some misunderstanding of her. But she was someone with a solid pair of shoulders and generally a good heart. She helped a lot of poor people in her time and was always freehanded and generous with her money.
She deserved a more sympathetic treatment. She was a victim of racist attacks. Instead of condemning the way she was treated it seems as if greater convenience is found in turning the victim into the aggressor.
She was not perfect. Neither are those who attacked her. But let it be understood that no woman in this country has done more, has endured more than Mrs. Janet Jagan for the cause of freedom.
Respect must be given where it is due. Such respect must be showered at the feet of one of the world’s leading female rebels, Mrs. Janet Jagan.
(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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