Kaieteur News – 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 was done 10 years ago by Time Magazine.
The inclusion of Mrs. Jagan as one of history’s greatest rebels was not likely to have gone down well with everyone in Guyana. Even onto now, long after she has passed, there is a fair degree of resentment towards Janet Jagan.
These feelings can be traced to the divisions within our country and the fact that local politics continue to result in us not appreciating the good and great persons within our midst.
There are many good people in our country. 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.
But in great measure we need to ask what Guyana would have been like had she not laid the foundations for the anti-colonial struggle when she came to this country along with her husband, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, who was the country’s first premier and was also later to become the President of Guyana. We do not know how history would have panned out. What we do know was that Mrs Jagan was in the forefront of the struggle for Guyana’s Independence.
However as a practitioner in domestic politics she ultimately attracted detractors. 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 disliked 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.
Some of the criticisms of her came from unforeseen quarters. One PPP leader once put her down as a ‘private citizen’. Yet it was this same ‘private citizen’ who was credited with his political stardom.
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 naturalised citizen of Guyana.
I have known of no political leader throughout history who has been so scandalised and demonised as Mrs. Jagan. 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.
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 demonised.
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 views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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