Dr. Jagan's struggles recalled
By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
March 25, 2003

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"HE WAS the leader of the times, and the leader of all times."

That is how Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Ms. Gail Teixeira, described the late President of Guyana and Leader of the People's Progressive Party, Dr. Cheddi Jagan during a lecture reflecting on his life at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (Red House) in Georgetown last Thursday.

Ms. Teixeira, who was his personal secretary from 1977-1992, recalled that from her early childhood the presence of Dr. Jagan was always a part of her, noting that when she received a letter inviting her to become his secretary she was overwhelmingly delighted and accepted the invitation without any second thoughts.

Reflecting on his personal characteristics, she said his fundamental personality never changed.

His mental discipline and remarkable memory for facts and figures and peoples' names were incredible, and his sense of pride, dignity and humility were his inner strength and not propelled by egoism, always feeling that he was not superior to any one, she said. His patience was almost infinite and with his charisma he could smile and disarm people, she recalled.

Reminding the audience of an incident that truly demonstrated the mental toughness and discipline of Dr. Jagan, the minister recalled how he continued attending Parliament although being gagged for four years by the then Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Sase Narain and only spoke on one occasion when Deputy Speaker, Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud presided over a sitting.

Unlike many politicians, Dr. Jagan used his special quality for positive purposes devoid of any personal rewards or self-aggrandisement - never having any love for material things, Teixeira noted, adding that he was always caring, doggedly and perseveringly championing the struggle against injustice.

In a determined effort to educate the masses on political and economic issues, Dr. Jagan was able to break down complex economic issues into simple language that could be understood by the ordinary people, she remembered, adding that he was dedicated towards the enlightenment of the masses in his relentless struggle to mobilise and unite the working class in the fight against injustice and undemocratic rule, categorically rejecting any form of racism.

She noted too that it was because of his determination that an election observer mission headed by Lord Avebury came here for the first time during the 1980 elections.

In his quest for a national alliance against undemocratic rule, the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) was born which brought opposition parties together in a front for the struggle, Teixeira pointed out. However, after several years the front fell apart after the other parties insisted that Dr. Jagan should not be the Presidential candidate, and he proposed Dr. Roger Luncheon instead, but he too was rejected on the basis that he is Black but "red", she recalled.

This did not deter Dr. Jagan from continuing his search for a broad alliance and eventually he was able to form one with civic society through the wooing of members from the nascent GUARD movement headed by Mr. Sam Hinds who is now Prime Minister, Teixeira reminded the audience.

He was a "thinker and visionary" and not dogmatic, always open to new thinking and was very much concerned about global peace, international solidarity and a just global human order, in addition to his involvement with the local political struggle, she observed.

She said that he never made decisions by diktat and never imposed his ideas, always using "education and persuasion" instead.

It is in this context that he put forward his proposals for a New Global Human Order to address the unfavourable terms of trade and the growing gap in wealth between the developed and underdeveloped countries, Teixeira noted, pointing out it was well received at the international level which led to the document being adopted by the UN in 2000.

Former High Commissioner to Canada and a former Minister of Government in the 1950s and early 1960s, Mr. Brindley Benn said Dr. Jagan worked tirelessly to raise the political consciousness of the Guyanese people and this resulted in them becoming the most politically educated among the Caribbean people.

The Jagan education initiative was not only "book learning" but becoming acquainted with and knowledgeable about the issues that affected the daily lives of people, he recalled.

In this regard Dr. Jagan kept regular meetings among the working people throughout the country and distributed large volumes of literature on both the local and international struggle.

Bans on several pieces of literature by the British colonial master did not deter him from continuing his educational work among the masses, Benn observed, adding that he was the lone voice of the people in the Legislative Assembly having won a seat as an independent candidate in 1947.

He recalled how Dr. Jagan smuggled articles on toilet paper during his imprisonment in 1953 at the infamous Mazaruni Prison (Sibley Hall) in a determined effort to continue the education of the masses.

It was through this continuous education and political campaign of agitation that Dr. Jagan was able to galvanise the masses in huge freedom marches for independence in all three counties in Guyana, which eventually saw the birth of Guyana's independence movement the People's Progressive Party, its forerunner being the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), Benn told the audience.

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