About the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre
The Cheddi Jagan Bursary at the University of Guyana Berbice Campus.
The late Dr. Cheddi Jagan was passionately committed to the ideal of universal education. In 1963 he established the University of Guyana.
The Cheddi Jagan Research Centre was established to further the ideals cherished by Dr. Jagan and, it is therefore, similarly committed to the universal quest for education. As part of its mission, the Centre will be offering a bursary tenable at the University of Guyana, Berbice Campus.
The Bursary will cover the cost of tuition for two years. The extension of the Bursary will be determined by satisfactory performance; i.e., an overall GPA of not less than 3 points.
· Candidates must be Guyanese resident in Guyana
· The Bursary is open to students who wish to pursue undergraduate studies in the field
of Agriculture, Natural Sciences, Education or one of the Social Sciences (Politics, Government, Economics, Management) at the Berbice Campus.
· Candidates must possess outstanding overall academic performance.
· Candidates must have been accepted for undergraduate study at the Berbice Campus.
Mrs. Janet Jagan presents tuition cheque to Bibi Osman
The winner of the University of Guyana Berbice Campus Scholarship (UGBC) Ms. Bibi Nafiza Nisha Osman, in September 2002 received a cheque from the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre in High Street Kingston Georgetown, to cover the cost of her tuition for 2 years.
The beneficiary, a trained teacher, expressed gratitude to the Centre, and pledged to continue dedicating her time and service to the moulding of the nation's children.
Student scholarship 2008
The winner of the Cheddi Jagan University of Guyana Berbice Campus scholarship Ms. Seema Poonam Singh, received a cheque from the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre to cover her tuition for September 2008-2009.
She is pursuing studies in Agricultural Science and hopes to graduate in 2010.
Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Essay Competition
The Cheddi Jagan Research Centre is commemorating the 45th Anniversary of Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s book the “West on Trial”. We are pleased to announce an essay competition in two categories.
Topic: Analyse the relevance of the West on Trial to the 21st century.
Essays must be clearly written, in Standard English, and must be the original work of the contestant.
Submission can be either legibly hand written or typed doubled space, 12pt font with 1 inch margins on either side of the page.
Each contestant may enter only one essay.
An essay not more than 1,500 words
1st Prize: $50,000, 2nd Prize: $25,000, 3rd Prize: $15,000
All final entries must be submitted in neat legible handwriting or printed , to reach Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (Red House) 65-67 High Street, Kingston, Georgetown by 30th June, 2011.
The Contributions of Dr Cheddi Jagan in the Struggle for the Liberation of Guyana
by Mohamed Fazloor Yasin
(winner of the First Prize in the Essay contest sponsored by the
Cheddi Jagan Research Centre)
“A great injustice was done to Dr Cheddi Jagan,” American historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. noted in an article on US political meddling in British Guiana during the Cold War era. Not long after that article, in October 1992, Dr Jagan re-emerged as leader of his country via free and fair national elections.
Once more in Guyana the ballot box became a noble icon of democracy rather than a contemptible tool of tyranny. Under Dr Jagan fundamental rights were reinvigorated. Freedom of expression sprouted new wings as television stations mushroomed nationwide. The Internet and the World Wide Web took root. But for the country to change and be free and open again, Dr Jagan had to endure a Homeric twenty-eight years of struggle in Guyana’s political ground zero.
In the 1950s Dr Jagan and his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) fought for self government under British colonialism. That was when Dr Jagan’s struggle for the liberation of Guyana had really begun.
In April 1953 the PPP gained high political office, but was booted out after only 133 days in office. The British Guiana Constitution was suspended. The British and Americans feared a communist threat under the People’s Progressive Party. Several party members were deemed communists and jailed. Dr Jagan and his wife were sentenced to six months’ jail; Dr Jagan for defying a British colonial order restricting freedom of movement in the country.
Mr Burnham, who was a member of the PPP, later broke away from the mainstream PPP and formed his own faction, later named the People’s National Congress.
Jagan’s party won convincing electoral victories in 1957 and 1961, when the country moved to internal self-government from Britain. Dr Jagan clamoured for Guyana’s independence.
In February 1962 strikes and political violence crippled Guyana at a time when Dr Jagan was preparing for his country’s independence from Great Britain. The British government dispatched military forces to Guyana, but they did not assist the civil government. In 1963 strikes and racial disturbances rocked Guyana. In a system known as proportional representation, Dr Jagan’s PPP won the most votes in the 1964 elections, but Mr Burnham formed a coalition with the United Force and became Prime Minister.
Under Burnham’s PNC, independence from Great Britain came in 1966, but fundamental civic freedoms were being eroded and soon the leaden boots of totalitarianism moved Guyana from an envisioned “bread basket” of the Caribbean to the “beggar-barrel” economy.
Dr Cheddi Jagan contributed to the liberation struggles in Guyana through the power of his pen. He wrote an impressive list of books, articles and pamphlets. His publications include his magnum opus, The West on Trial, Forbidden Freedom and the USA in South America. His articulate writings helped in drawing public awareness to the historic exploitations of Guyana and denial of Guyanese to freely pursue self-determination. Dr Jagan’s books were also mirrors of the complex political, cultural, ideological and historical forces shaping Guyanese society.
His persuasive oratory contributed to the struggle for the liberation of Guyana. People of all ethnic groups and classes were moved by the conviction of Dr Jagan’s rhetoric and the dedication and enthusiasm he displayed in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
His ability to organize and mobilize people was another of his sterling contributions to the liberation struggles of Guyana. Before he returned to power in 1992, Dr Jagan engaged civic elements of Guyanese society to help in the fight against autocracy. The PPP became the PPP/Civic. Dr Jagan’s premier political goal was always the fostering of national unity. He mobilized the grassroot masses, artistes, entertainers and trusted foreign contacts to rally for his cause. In his struggle, Dr Jagan had astutely employed a modern tactic: the politics of the pressure group.
Dr Jagan led by example. He fought for all the people of Guyana and preached ethnic equality. When in power, he included Guyanese of all races in his government. He never forgot the indigenous people of Guyana. He sent party activists into the jungles of Guyana to woo the Amerindians and when he came to power, he ensured that their rights were respected.
Women were also not forgotten by Dr Jagan. His party had a women’s arm and operated on the principle of equality for women. Females were always included in Dr Jagan’s Cabinet. This was another way in which he contributed towards the liberation of all Guyanese.
Youths, their health, welfare and future was another area which Dr Jagan emphasized in his struggle for the liberation of Guyanese. He focused on youth education by negotiating for them scholarships in medicine, science and technology, and he founded the University of Guyana. Highest kudos to Dr Cheddi Jagan for recognizing the vital role of youths in all areas of Guyana’s development.
As President of Guyana from 1992 to 1997, Dr Jagan saw the need for all Guyanese to have their own homes. He released state lands for people of every income bracket to acquire land to build their homes. Dr Jagan most likely recognized that ownership of property was a powerful incentive for people to liberate their minds from the manacles of a bondage mentality.
Dr Jagan knew that economic self-sufficiency was critical in the liberation of a people. He stressed agricultural production for food security and he invited foreign investment on terms favourable to the Guyanese national interest. He believed that a mixed economy was the best way to go for Guyana’s progress and development.
Freedom of a people also includes their physical and mental health. Dr Jagan helped to provide free health care by garnering the assistance of the Cuban government in the provision of competent and qualified doctors in all fields of medicine. At the same time, young Guyanese were granted scholarships to study medicine in Cuba.
In his foreign policy, Dr Jagan embraced multilateral diplomacy based on mutual respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations. At the same time, he attempted to strengthen bilateral relations with his neighbouring states. He believed in CARICOM and wanted to expand cooperation with this regional movement for the benefit of Guyanese so that market access for their products would be widened. Also, Guyanese could freely travel and work in sister Caribbean states with dignity. His action in this direction helped in the struggle for emancipating the psyche of his people.
So as to guarantee Guyana’s freedom and sovereignty over its land from frontier countries that claim parts of its bordering territory, Dr Jagan knew that the wisest strategy for a militarily weak state like Guyana to deal with the issues was through dialogue and peaceful negotiations with those countries under the auspices of the United Nations and other international bodies. He also maintained and staffed boundary commissions with qualified and experienced personnel. Guyana’s territorial integrity was absolutely essential to Dr Jagan’s vision for a free and truly independent country.
When Dr Jagan acceded to power in 1992, Guyana’s external debt had reached surreal proportions. He vowed to release Guyanese and future generations of Guyanese from the fetters of foreign indebtedness. His government started negotiating debt write-offs and to service Guyana’s liabilities.
A frugal lifestyle was one of the hall marks of Dr Jagan’s tenure as President of Guyana. He preached fiscal responsibility. What could contribute more to a nation’s freedom and independence in the larger sense than encouragement to be personally debt-free and to have their own money to spend in times of need and distress?
Dr Jagan hated all forms of corruption. He required government officials to be transparent in their handling of public business. He also urged civic responsibility. His critics called him idealistic and utopian, but he wanted Guyanese to take pride in themselves and their environment, to respect law and order, so Guyanese could be redeemed in the eyes of the world as a free and conscientious people. To help in the preservation of internal peace and stability, Dr Jagan exhorted the state apparatus: the army, the police and the public service to be efficient and professional in their duties.
Violence was not a political tool, expedient or tactic for Dr Cheddi Jagan. He demonstrated that unflagging peaceful protests, demonstrations, rallies, effective use of the mass media and dynamic public relations can help promote a noble cause and topple even the most despotic of regimes. Prior to the 1992 elections, on public television, a medium fairly new to Guyana at the time, Dr Jagan projected an image of grace, vigour and optimism for his country’s future. Across the nation’s broad demographics, his captivating smile and trademark fillip of his thumb for emphasis contributed to his instant recognition.
Many people refer to Dr Jagan as the “Father of the Nation.” In his book, The West on Trial, he asserted that from the inception of his struggles for Guyana’s liberation, any victory he achieved was a victory for the people.
After Mr Burnham’s death in 1986, Mr Hugh Desmond Hoyte ascended the PNC ladder and was sworn in as President of Guyana. He peremptorily continued the electoral fraud that had kept his party in power for over two decades. Dr Jagan’s public relations machinery kicked into gear and his overseas networks of loyalty kept the fire burning against rigged elections by lobbying international human rights bodies, including President Carter’s organization, to intervene.
Regarding Dr Jagan’s contribution to free the minds and hearts of Guyanese from the shackles of racial bigotry and parochial party patronage, one must consider his exemplary leadership qualities. He demonstrated that a leader could be charismatic, a firebrand speaker, a prolific writer, a tireless traveller and a person of boundless energy, yet he/she could be humble, approachable, understanding, and above all else, a person of unassailable integrity, a person who embraces all races, all creeds and indeed all humanity. During their epic struggle for South Africa’s freedom from apartheid, Dr Jagan was in total solidarity with Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa.
Dr Jagan believed that a people should be free to choose their own destiny and believed that socialist ideology was a better system for Guyana given the nature of Guyana’s society with such a wide gap between the haves and have-nots. He simply wanted a more equitable distribution of Guyana’s resources in order to reduce poverty.
However, two antagonistic political systems: capitalism and communism, each embraced by the world’s two super powers during the Cold War, competed for ideological superiority and eventually global hegemony through the acquisition of strategic spheres of interest and military and economic supremacy. Given the Soviet influence in Cuba, only 90 miles from the United States, communist paranoia had gripped America. Any further dabbling with communism or socialism in the Caribbean, Latin or South America would not be tolerated. America was fearful of another “Cuba.”
Dr Jagan always claimed he was maneuvered out of power in 1964 through an Anglo-American scheme of political destabilization of the colony by agents of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The people’s interest was closest to Dr Jagan’s heart. When asked, for example, why he had capitulated to the imposition of proportional representation by the British, Dr Jagan reportedly said that if he had held out, he feared the burnings, lootings and murders would have continued. He was thus concerned above all else about the wanton destruction of the property and lives of his people.
Had it not been for Dr Jagan’s unyielding and proactive stance against political crimes, economic degradation and social injustice in Guyana, the situation under a cruel and oppressive dictatorship might have been worse and may have lasted much longer than it did.
Dr Jagan had boycotted Parliament; he had used his party’s media organs to expose abuses by the tyrannical regime, and he had lobbied for overseas support to free Guyana. And he did these things in an ominous atmosphere of threats to his life, since other opposition activists has either been savagely beaten or assassinated.
In more recent times before his death, Dr Jagan railed against what came to be called the neo-colonialism facing developing countries, where the international terms of trade work against their fragile economies. He saw this as another restriction on their right to self-determination and their efforts to alleviate poverty. In short, it was a subtle assault on their political and economic freedom. He proposed a “New Global Human Order” to reduce or eliminate the inequities facing poor Third World countries in the global environment. Sadly, he did not live to bring his proposal to full fruition.
In Dr Jagan, we see the portrait of a man who was not obsessed with power and wealth, but who subordinated his private interests to that of the nation. He cared about his people, and he knew all social classes, ethnic groups and interests were inter-dependent in his country.
Educator from the Guyanese diaspora, Professor Frank Birbalsingh, opined: “Jagan’s birth and upbringing on a plantation are important because they exposed him to conditions of physical hardship and economic exploitation that imbued him with a passion for justice and freedom from oppression.” Dr Jagan, therefore, was not only an intellectual, but also a man of the people.
He developed a lifelong commitment to challenging in Guyanese society what he early perceived as imperial exploitation and colonial collaboration, and later, under independence, excessive political power and supremacy.
Economic, political and social reforms for the common good of all Guyanese were the paramount goals of Dr Jagan’s agenda.
When considering his contributions to the liberation struggle in Guyana, one must note Dr Jagan’s willingness to act while so many others merely looked on as the country suffocated in a miasma of corruption and decadence. He became a beacon, a guiding light for those who would dare buck the trend of what became the standard political normalcies of power and privilege in Guyana.
I have heard Dr Jagan’s detractors claim that his contributions to Guyana’s liberation struggles were not that significant because historical circumstances favoured him. Even if that were the case, I would say to them that it takes a great character to perceive those circumstances and to seize the moment to do what it takes to benefit not just himself, but more significantly his people and country.
Let’s not forget that Cheddi Jagan was an American-qualified doctor of dentistry. He could have migrated for a high-paying job in a developed country, but instead chose to stay throughout the turbulent times to serve his compatriots in the political arena.
Dr Cheddi Jagan, along with other stalwarts like Janet Jagan, Eusi Kwayana and the acclaimed poet, Martin Carter, waged a monumental struggle to free Guyana from colonial domination and from the chokehold of a stubborn dictatorship. Through his political and social activism, Dr Jagan also made valiant attempts to liberate mindsets of his people. His return to office, when the time was right, is compelling testimony to what tenacity, candour and moral authority can do in politics.