More US-based Guyanese back President Jagdeo By Tara Singh
Guyana Chronicle
June 27, 2004

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WITH the blessings of the Guruji, Shri Prakash Gossai, as well as, with those of Pt. Chunelall Narine of the Trimurti Bhavan, and Imaam Haiji Zakir of the Jama Masjid, President Jagdeo's visit to New York in mid-June turned out to be a huge moral and political booster.

Even the bitterest critics of the President were forced to recognise the depth of his knowledge and political passion that he exudes as Guyana's Leader. Everywhere the President visited, whether in the Afro-Guyanese or the Indo-Guyanese community, he was greeted with unparalleled warmth and enthusiasm, which would have been the envy of previous Guyanese leaders.

Mr. Jagdeo rejected the intimidating presence of the US Secret Service, and embraced instead, his people unimpeded with an unmatchable fervor. Neither the Gajraj affair nor the intransigence of the PNC/R could have detracted from Jagdeo's June glory.

After weeks of planning, the President's goodwill tour to overseas Guyanese communities in New York and elsewhere had ended with greater understanding and commitment on the part of overseas Guyanese towards the PPP/C administration's relentless struggle for peace, equality, and progress. But the moments the President shared with overseas Guyanese and others will never be over.

"It's no exaggeration to say that President Jagdeo has assured for himself a place in history," observed Krishna.

The consensus of opinion is that never before in the history of our community, had Guyanese experienced the generation of such electrifying moments in just a few days. Young and old, Afro and Indo as well as Other Guyanese ethnics, infirm and healthy, women and men, the educated and the no-so-educated, labourer and executive, skeptics and conformists, priests and laity, all were overwhelmed by the occasion, and could not, therefore, restrain their unbridled emotions, even within the solemn ambience of a Church, a Mandir or a Masjid.

While June 12th turned out to be a memorable day for President Jagdeo and worshipers of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Brooklyn, June 13th had a similar effect on the President, as well as members and supporters of the popular Jama Masjid in Queens, New York. No one, not even the wily political pundit, could have forecast the staggering impact of the President's visit on the overseas Guyanese communities. What can I say; in life great things sometimes just happen.

At the Jama Masjid, President Jagdeo and his team (of Community Leaders Kawall Totaram, Dr. Rajendra Singh, Bhola Ramsundar, and Consul General Bretnol Evans) were greeted by Imaam Haiji Zakir, his executive, and a beautiful array of children adorned in colourful cultural outfits. There were over 600 people, who listened attentively to the President's call for greater tolerance, and the need for Guyanese not to turn away from their country.

Despite some nagging problems, the President noted the huge progress that Guyana has made under the PPP/C administration. He warned people not to be misled by false and malicious information. "Read the news, but verify its accuracy."

The President also mentioned that since 9/11 there had been unfair attacks on the Muslim community. Why Muslims are being singled out for attacks? There are Christian terrorists; there are Hindu terrorists; and there are Muslim terrorists. Islam does not preach hatred nor violence; that's the message of only a few Islamic extremists. He challenged Muslims to defend their religion from those vitriolic assaults.

It was a great pleasure to see that not only children, but also, adults lining up to garland the President at the Jama Masjid, and to take individual and family pictures. The President stayed at the Masjid for over two hours to accommodate a litany of requests. Scenes of jubilation elsewhere were also replicated at the Jama Masjid. People just couldn't get enough of the President.

The Spiritual Leader, Imaam Haiji Zakir, had organised the President's visit as part of a bigger programme to celebrate the Masjid's first anniversary at 94-17 102 Street, Ozone Park, 11416. I had the honour to introduce Imaam Zakir, who is a stalwart in promoting unity within our community.

"I know of no one else who has been able to build bridges between Hindus and Muslims than Imaam Haiji Zakir." Pt. Ramesh of the Sudama Mandir also praised Haiji Zakir for his efforts in stimulating community cohesion. Mr. Brentnol Evans, Guyana Consul General, also spoke briefly about the overwhelming response to the President's visit in Brooklyn and in Queens.

The outspoken Imaam Haiji Zakir, understanding the mood and sensitivity of his people, promised that he will, in the future, verify the news before reading it on his popular weekly radio programme. That remark provoked some laughter, in an otherwise serene atmosphere, where everyone was still marveling at the President's visit to their Masjid.

The President moved freely, and had dinner at the Masjid. Imaam Zakir believes that his programme was the best for the day. It's difficult to compare events, as the experiences and outcomes may be different. One thing is certain, though, all the organisations that played host to the President had become big winners.

Community leaders have taken one step forward. They recognise that love, compassion, and flowery rhetoric alone cannot change this world. It's necessary to complement these with purposeful human action. Thus, they have pledged to fully support the country and the President in the enduring struggle to make Guyana a better place for all Guyanese. They also share an abiding concern with the President in the dire need for tolerance.