Speeches made at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre
Presentation by Professor Clive Thomas
(The following was delivered at a Symposium at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, Kingston, Georgetown on March 6, 2002 on the occasion of the 5th Anniversary of the passing of Cheddi Jagan)
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, Honourable Ministers of the Government, distinguished friends and colleagues of the Trade Union Movement and other special invitees.
It is indeed a particular honour of mine to have been asked to make this presentation today.
I would like, with the permission of the Chair, to approach this in a rather unusual way. I have never, since Dr. Jagan died, called him Cheddi if you don't mind. I have also never been engaged in any public or private reflection about my relationship with him.
I would like to use this opportunity to do so in order to illustrate the very issue that you have asked me to discuss here today, his role as a Trade Unionist and his contribution as a patriot in the development of Guyana.
I know that there would be many social, economic and political analyses of a structured kind, of the role that he has played in the development of Guyana, how much he contributed and so forth.
Other people will do that. I, myself perhaps, can claim to be particularly well-equipped to do that because I participated with Cheddi Jagan for much of this period as a member both of the four-member Union grouping that struggled for Trade Union reform, but was also engaged in the other struggles for restoration of democracy and the holding of free and fair elections here in Guyana. So from that experience maybe, I am now well-equipped to speak on the broader structural issues that engaged him and the contribution he made to the development of Guyana.
But l want to make my presentation a little more personal, in that it hinges around three phases of my relationship with him - when 1 first met him, the long middle period and then the last engagement I had with him – a conversation I had with him before he died.
This morning visiting Professor Sharma, who is here and I acknowledge his presence, a distinguished young academic who has contributed a great deal to the study of African and Asian- Pacific development, referred to Dr. Jagan as a Mahatma, and he made an important point, I thought, because the nature of a Mahatma is not a reflection upon, or someone who is being simply deified; it really is a notion of a recognition of people with noble ideals.
And he put Dr Jagan in that category because he remembered that when Mandela was doing his first public visit, I think to India. On arrival there, one of his most famous comments was that "you sent us Mohandas Gandhi and we sent you back Mahatma Gandhi". In doing that he was symbolizing the transformation that had occurred from the visit of Mohandas Gandhi to Africa and the concept of the Mahatma.
In many ways, I think that captures the essence of what I would like to talk about tonight. My first immediate contact with Cheddi Jagan had occurred as a very young graduate of the University of the West Indies when he came to make arrangements for himself to speak and to meet with different political persons at the University. He stayed at my house and for the duration of the time in staying there, we had a "camp" outside of my house, a couple of plain-clothes security persons who stayed there twenty-four hours a day, watched every vehicle that went in, took the numbers down and remained there as a permanent part of their establishment of the area. But it gives you the idea of the type of pressure and difficult circumstances under which Cheddi lived his life. We had engaged in a lot of discussions at that time on the basis of friendship which lasted until his death.
Many of you would not know that that friendship was exceptionally forged in some ways. We had a bond which I felt was very important to my own personal development and he and I talked about a lot of things. The subjects were several – the struggle for independence and the full flowering of the entire Third World, as we called it then, and a lot of the ideas that we engaged in seemed to be in strong opposition to what was happening in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. I remembered when he left after that first visit he forgot his umbrella with me. It was an exceptionally colourful "parasol".
To get an idea of the time he lived in. I struggled hard to find someone who was going back to Guyana and who would take that umbrella to Dr. Jagan. Not many students from Guyana at the University of the West Indies would take the umbrella back to Guyana for me; it gives you an idea as to how difficult the circumstances were. In the end, I managed to get Harold Lutchman who was up there for some business or the other at the time - to bring back the umbrella to Guyana. He was a graduate at the University of the West Indies.
This was the symbol of the difficult circumstances under which he lived and which he would have to tolerate throughout his life.
The longest period that I will talk about is the middle period.
From the time I came back to Guyana - and I was forced to return because in 1969 I visited Guyana from Jamaica where I was a young researcher at the University then - and I was banned from re-entering Jamaica and among the many reasons, of course, was my association with Cheddi Jagan. That was a time of the heightened Cold War atmosphere and there was a lot of snooping and banning of persons and that was the basis for treating them as unwanted persons in many territories in the Caribbean.
I was declared persona non grata and could not return to Jamaica and I decided to stay here at the University of Guyana, to teach.
Much of what followed here is history. Over that long period, we had to engage in a programme to restore democracy to Guyana. At that point in time, the orthodox social view was that election was of a bourgeois manifestation that there was just a rule that took the working-class and we had to develop ideas that made the struggle for free and fair elections integral to the struggle for socialism and develop the notion of bread and justice. One of the heartening things that I found is that even though this gentleman and the People's Progressive Party were part of the broader movement that had an active socialist movement in the Soviet Union, who readily embraced these ideas, we never had any significant ideological conflict or turmoil none that I can remember of any note; about whether through fair elections the struggle for representative democracy was in fact inconsistent with socialism and the domination of the working class which was what he had hoped to establish in a new working-class oriented state.
I think the reason for this was that Dr. Jagan came to realize that much of the struggle in Guyana was the struggle for personal liberty, the struggle for the emancipation of slaves, the struggle to end the indentured system. All of these were part of the struggle for the liberation of people; not in the abstract sense but in a very concrete sense of the individual communities and their families and the households in which they lived. Therefore, for us, free and fair elections, representative institutions and democracy are not merely an idea. In fact we consider ourselves much more. I think a representative of those ideas which many of the people espoused, exposed him at the time to particularly in the United States and when the history of this period is written maybe some twenty to thirty years from now, it's going to be noted that Guyana played an exceptional role in that particular period in view of the few countries where all the broad-based forces at that time embraced democracy as an essential pre-condition for the liberation of people and bringing to an end colonial and imperial domination. I’ll say that I am very heartened that in that place we had no ideological differences on that. I remember The Journal - Monthly Review- had its 35th anniversary publication to put out and they had asked me to write a contribution to that Journal. I wrote an article "Bread and Justice" which in Guyana and very often, Cheddi would quote from that reflection, it even departed very much more from what was the orthodox thinking at the time; that the concrete reality of Guyana showed that we cannot advance to social order unless you allow people to form representative institutions, representative bodies, and have the right to free and openly choose their Government. And that accounted for the long period.
That is the main dialogue that Cheddi and I were engaged in at the time. We discussed other things, for example, whether or not we still needed more nationalization. We didn’t disagree on that. Whether the economic model that was being pursued at that time by the PNC Government, that calling itself a Socialist, "Cooperative Socialism" was a genuine model and we both agreed that it would not work, simply because of fundamental root causes. It did not allow a proper expectation and control and adoption of that programme and that still remains my position onto today. There was a very important period before winning the 1992 elections and a Government was actually formed.
Then I talked for the first time about Cheddi wavering in his confidence in me at that point in time. There was a situation, which had emerged that if we had entered into an alliance with the PNC, that is the WPA, we would have been able to create a majority for the WPA/PNC in Parliament, even though Cheddi had won the Presidency. But we took an unambiguous position that, given what we had struggled for, the restoration of free and fair elections, we could never ever entertain that, and, Cheddi did not have to give us a quid pro quo for our commitment along this line. We went into an arrangement where the Regional voting allowed the PPP majority in Parliament. In other words, we sided with the PPP in Region 8, to give the majority that was needed in Parliament. After that, Cheddi and I maintained a relationship in that very often he would call me, I will say maybe no less than once a fortnight and we spent a lot of time on the phone, maybe talking more than listening because l struggled very hard to get a few words in realizing that he was using me as sounding board for different things that were bothering him. But there were three broad sets of issues that dominated our convocations. Let me give you an idea as to how important they were.
First, it was the old notion of the gelling of ideas. He realized that there was no policy that anyone could offer that is ideology free. He realized that the IMF, the World Bank and other financial institutions that came here bearing economic policies have ideologies like "the queen-of-the-gods" ideology. He also recognized that he could not really be successful if he could not mobilize and promote an ideology of development so that we could struggle for an alternative path to which he could take Guyana. This was the basis of his idea – to struggle for "A New Human Order".
He really was struggling to try to create a concept or notional vision of a different path to development that look into account the realities of Guyana and also took into account the realities even if we did not have own independent path, we would become tossed in the winds and currents of what was taking place at the Global, international level. I still remain committed to that point of view. I think that you cannot have an alternative development model, alternative policy, unless it is rooted in an explicit recognition that you have to challenge with dominant ideas. This is where the challenge could be made.
We needed to develop automatic alternative visions about development, alternative positions for people in the field of development. We also, in recognizing this, need to understand that this kind of mobilization could never take place if Guyana remained divided and I would tell you, even though I may be talking out of turn, that he was very preoccupied with the issue of the fundamental division of Guyana and I would hope, that part of his legacy would be a considerable lessening of that division in Guyana.
We cannot take the country forward if we remain fundamentally divided. He and I tried to look about to move Guyana beyond what it achieved in 1992, and we spent in many, many conversations exploring this one idea which I think I had managed to convince him about and I think it is very important to obtain success, was that he needed to take a first hand look at the Opposition that had come out after 1992.
I told him that both he and I were victims of PNC oppression; Walter Rodney was killed and he was aware of that. He was also aware of the type of authoritarian State that existed. Then I wrote a book about it, so my commitment to this struggle against the authoritarian tendency in the PNC remains forever embedded in history But I also tried to convince him about, and I thought that he recognized it, that in allowing the transfer of power, there was in fact a historical transformation and he immediately began to rethink the quality of the opposition that he was faced with. I know it is politically expedient, and it was very tempting and important for you to maintain the pressure on the PNC about "the twenty eight years". I think that it is absolutely essential because you don’t want a regression. But it is also, I think, very important to recognize that if you have a constructive future alternative, you have to take into account the realities that stay in existence after 1992 and we came up with what we thought was a novel idea. He said to me that he was going to raise the question of establishing a Human Development Commission and he asked me to co-chair it. I thought that it was unusual and I told him that he was the President, so how could I co-chair with him. I mean I could be made an alterative when he was not there. He said no. He wanted it so because what he wanted to do was to create a mechanism which would allow him to speak to all the social forces in this country and he recognized that given the historical legacy, it may not be easy for him as President or for him as Leader of the PPP, to be able to do so, It would be easy for him to speak to the civil forces because we joined in common cause for the struggle for free and fair elections, but he did not feel that he had a bridge into the thinking to a transformed PNC which would have made possible development out of 1992, and this idea of the Human Development Commission floated around from time to time. The very last conversation that I had with him was the conversation about whether or not we could take some practical steps to get the Commission going. I did not know that he was as ill as he was, although I had heard some words to that affect some months or so after this conversation. I never took it very seriously but I mentioned all that to show that Cheddi Jagan was not only a Leader but a Leader who was always searching for a vision for this country to achieve its fullest potential.
Even if it meant doing some very, very uncomfortable things. We've always been searching for an alternative. And I think that is a reflection of where we stated because, recognizing that the struggle for sovereignty and the pursuit of independence really demanded great unity, I think he was recognizing also that in the continuation of that struggle to take Guyana beyond its greatness, he also thought of great unity. Now, that unity is not a one-sided phenomenon; one side can’t do it but we also have to hope that transformation takes place in the opposition sphere. I did state that, in all due respect, the Government had a greater responsibility than an opposition, simply because you are the Government and have the vehicles of power and if I ever had to make it as to whether or not we ever came up with a programme that took us anywhere, it was the freedom to engage in ideas that might appear, in purpose, to be theoretical and to have serious dialogue about it really. I think its a measure of, I hoped, the confidence he had in me because I never betrayed his confidence. It was also a measure of his own willingness to pursue as many different ways as possible; a vision that could take Guyana to where we are now, in this new millennium, with all the prospects of development and all of the real opportunities that he sought to bring forward this.
I will say, from those personal reflections, that I have no doubt whatsoever that Cheddi Jagan was an exceptional patriot, an exceptional trade unionist with a heart readily committed to the working-class people and the working class interests.
There was never any fault in his ideology. It was always, always, always a constant struggle and those sessions that I held with him have convinced me that he never stopped thinking. He never stopped searching for new ideas and new approaches. He could always show generosity of spirit and generosity of intellect, I think, in recognizing that he had to engage in dialogue if we had to move ourselves forward in this society. So I am grateful for this particular opportunity you have given me. I have never discussed these things, as I said, in public before, nor have I spoken of them to people in private. Many people did not even know, I don’t think anybody in Guyana now really knows how I first met him.
The last conversation we had no one really knows about that, except at the time of the launching of the Human Development Report, the mention of the Human Development Commission, a sustainable Human Development Commission that he wanted to appoint. He himself did make mention of it when he held the Conference at Sophia on the New International Human Order and I feel that his legacy is best remembered and could be best sought for, if we can struggle to remember at all times that he lived in a world where concepts of ideas are, in fact, noble ideas and that we are not going to have development unless we recognize those ideas and we recognize that we are engaged in a concept of those ideas, The concept will take many forms and many different ways but there is no economic policy, no economic prescription, no social policy, no social programme that is not infused with a full level of ideology and some commitment of vision and of some sort of order, and if we are going to have our own order, we have to be able to develop our own ideas.
I hope coming out of this seminar we may be engaged in some more thinking along the lines that Cheddi Jagan opened for us. I thank you much.
Presentation by Komal Chand, President of GAWU
(The following was delivered at a public Symposium at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, Kingston, Georgetown on March 6, 2002 on the occasion of the 5th Anniversary of the passing of Cheddi Jagan)
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) is proud to organize this activity under the theme "Cheddi Jagan – Patriot and Trade Unionist:" I wish to take the opportunity to thank Dr Clive Thomas and Cde Grantley Culbard for accepting the Union’s invitation to share in the panel discussion on this distinguished personality at this appropriate venue – The Cheddi Jagan Research Centre. Also, our appreciation to Dr. N.K. Gopaul who agreed to be our Moderator for this activity.
Five years ago, this day, Cheddi Jagan breathed his last. He departed this life after he made such a colossal contribution to the Guyanese people’s struggle for freedom, justice and social progress. His contributions to end colonial rule in our country and to uplift our people from the vestiges of slavery, indentureship and colonialism itself to a new life in an independent Guyana is especially noteworthy. He distinguished himself as a Guyanese patriot; never flinched in his resolve to bring independence to Guyana; never succumbed to pressures nor temptation in his commitment to the Guyanese working people.
On Dr Jagan’s return to Guyana in 1943 after qualifying as a dentist in the United States of America, it did not take him long to take up the cudgel of the workers and the downtrodden.
His experiences in America in many ways served a great lesson to him. He became intimately acquainted with life of the workingman and had first-hand knowledge of their living conditions – of slums, poverty, segregation, discrimination etc. In America too he began to read many books that expanded his intellectual horizons and inspire his interest in politics. In the West on Trial he said: "I had become more and more interested in politics" and had a peep into socialism. Karl Mark’s capital was later to open up a whole new horizons."
Cde Ashton Chase, in a recent lecture here at this Cheddi Jagan Research Centre referred to the three major strikes in the 1940’s in Guyana. A strike of the Bauxite workers at Mac Kenzie from April 13 to June 16, 1947; a four-day strike of the Transport Workers’ Union in April 1948 and the sugar workers strike from April to June 1948.
He traced Dr Jagan’s involvement in those strikes. Chase referring to Dr Jagan said "Both he and his wife Janet played an important role in all three major strikes. They as part of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) played a key role in assisting the bauxite workers during their strike, in the subsequent presentation to the Committee of Enquiry and in directional and propaganda work, and helped in the TUC sensitizing workers elsewhere and mobilizing their support for the bauxite workers".
Dr Jagan’s assistance to the strikers and their Unions on those major strikes brings home clearly his fighting spirit and activist character which was seen repeatedly throughout his life.
The GIWU’s strike in 1948 witnessed Dr Jagan and his wife, Janet Jagan collecting money to operate "soup kitchens" for the strikers and their families and also spent time preparing and distributing propaganda leaflets to explain, and agitate for the workers’ cause.
With regards to the struggle of the sugar workers, Dr Jagan tried to influence changes in the Man-Power Citizen’s Association. In 1945 he became the Treasurer of that Union. He did not manage to change the Union from within. He alluded in the West on Trial that he was removed from office after the end of one year due to two main factors – his objection to the high expense allowance enjoyed by the big boys in the Union and the tendency of the Union leaders to collaborate with the sugar planters and to set the Union on the course of becoming company dominated.
It was after his sojourn in the MPCA that he actively assisted in establishing the Guyana Industrial Workers Union (GIWU) the predecessor of the present Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) of which he was the Honorary President for many years.
Dr Jagan was elected President of the Sawmill Workers Union in 1949. That Union was later called the Sawmill and Forest Workers’ Union. He served that Union for many years and led many delegations advocating higher wages and better conditions of work for sawmill workers.
In 1955 he was precluded from attending the Union’s Conference in Bartica as a result of the restriction that was imposed on him following the declaration of a state of emergency in October 1953 when the British Government suspended the Constitution and removed his democratically elected Government.
Dr Jagan’s entry in the legislative Council in November 1947 as a representative for the East Demerara Electoral District provided the workers with a voice in the Legislative Council. He initiated labour friendly motions although he did not get the support of members of the Council to pass them. There was one calling for reduction in the normal hours of work of shop assistants and Hotel workers from 56 hours per week to 48 hours per week as well as that for an additional half-day on Sunday.
In the "History of Trade Unionism in Guyana" now Senior Counsel; Ashton Chase OE, recorded the following:-
"In Dr. Jagan, the workers found an outstanding champion of their rights. The solemnity of the Legislative Council was rudely shaken by his vigorous advocacy of the cause of workers. He had a passion for statistics. He used these in his pungent and forceful arguments to expose reaction and to lay bare before the workers, the vicious system that exploited them. At sitting after sitting, he assaulted the vaunted privileges of the capitalists. On many occasions, single handedly, but nevertheless most heroically and inspiringly he fought for the workers’ rights".
Outside the Legislature he continued his active work supporting the struggle of the workers. He attended a rally organized by the Federation of Unions of Government Employees (FUGE) at the Parade Ground in March 1952 to protest the dumping of milk by the Government. No other legislator attended. On the invitation of the Union’s President, Andrew Jackson he addressed the gathering giving his full support.
A major event which contributed to the workers’ struggle at the time was the formation of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) the fore-runner of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). The founding members being Dr Jagan, Cde Janet Jagan, Cde Ashton Chase and Cde H.J.M Hubbard. It is to be noted at that time, Hubbard was the General Secretary of the of the TUC and also Secretary of the British Guiana Clerks Association now the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union and Chase was the Assistant General Secretary of the British Guyana Labour Union. Here you see the active representatives of the workers playing a paramount role in the formation of the P.A.C.
It is not strange, therefore, that apart from the three major strikes referred to earlier there were several others involving the Mental Hospital workers, Boat Builders, Shipwrights, Cinema Operators, Match Factory workers, Postmen, Printers and Bus Operators.
Cde. Chase pointed out: "The P.A.C supportive role in these struggles and its role in articulating public opinion in support were crucial factors in this era."
As a legislator during the 1947-1953 period Dr Jagan became convinced that a new Party should be formed. Thus, in January 1950 the PPP was founded to promote the interest of the working class. On its banner the principles of scientific socialism were set out and its main goals were independence for British Guiana and transformation of the economy to benefit the working people of Guyana.
In April 1953 the PPP, with its base support from the united working class, obtained 18 out of 24 seats at the General Election - the first election under universal adult suffrage. A new government took office with Dr Jagan at the head. The Government aggressively got down to business and began to address many issues although its activities were limited. Regarding Labour the House of Assembly passed the Government’s Labour Relations Bill which was intended to make it compulsory for employers to negotiate with the Trade union enjoying majority support.
However, the Bill, passed in the House of Assembly on October 08, 1953 did not see the light of the day. The Constitution was suspended by the British Government on October 09, 1953. Dr Jagan was restricted to the city of Georgetown and on breaking the restrictions; he was jailed for six (6) months.
The TUC also, suffered. The united and militant T.U.C was disbanded after the suspension of the constitution. A new T.U.C formed in December 1953, unfortunately was not able to uphold the militancy and progressive character of the former T.U.C.
Despite the manipulations of the British colonialists, Dr Jagan and his People’s Progressive Party went on to win the elections held in 1957 and 1961. Under his Premiership, Britain denied to grant Independence to Guyana. Instead, intent on removing him from Office, they shamelessly resorted to changing the electoral system to one of Proportional Representation which resulted in the PPP losing office in 1964.
His attempts to pass the progressive Labour Relations Bill in 1963 was met with stiff opposition, sadly, even by the then leadership of the TUC, political forces and the CIA and British Intelligence.
But, whether in Government or in opposition Dr Jagan remained committed to the struggles of the Guyanese people. He tried tirelessly to heal the division of workers, which had followed the suspension of the Constitution in 1953 by the British Colonialist.
In 1975, since it was not possible to get the law in place to facilitate the recognition of trade unions of the workers’ choice he began to provide active guidance to the Union. In recognizing the profound commitment of workers to advance the struggle for the recognition of GAWU, Dr Jagan guided the Union to take strike action. For 13 weeks in 1975 the workers struck forcing the Government, at last, to agree to take a poll, which was won by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union with 98 per cent support of the votes cast on December 31, 1975.
Dr Jagan had a number of strengths which distinguished him. Above all, he had a brilliant analytical mind and a capacity to retain facts and figures. He used this effectively to make explicit his ideas and arguments. In one of his Straight Talk articles referring to control of the TUC by the ruling PNC Party at the time he wrote: "Control is exercised through trade union rigging and an undemocratic system of apportionment of delegates. Delegates to the GTUC Annual Conference are selected on a sliding scales and not on a proportional representation basis – 3 delegates for union with up to 200 members, 2 delegates for the next 300 members, and 1 delegate for every 500 members thereafter.
This system gives weightage to the PNC-controlled small unions, like the Association of Masters and Mistresses (AMM). It also leads to the registration and affiliation of miniscule unions such as unions for Bank workers. The result of delegates’ allocation for example is as follows: GAWU-1 for 442 members; AMM-1 for 60; the Guyana National Cooperative Bank Staff Association with a total of 40 members – 1 for 13.
All attempts to reform this unfair system have been resisted by the then ruling party and TUC. As a consequence, the Union in the 2 major industries, sugar and bauxite, were manipulated out of the GTUC Executive Committee at the 1982 Annual Delegates Conference".
In that article Dr Jagan explained that five (5) Unions with a total or 1,424 members of 1.8 per cent of the TUC’s total membership, had 23 per cent membership of the GTUC Executive Committee, while GAWU with 15,037 members or 20 per cent of the total membership of the TUC had no representation.
Dr Jagan was also a formidable tactician, a democrat and was sensitive and respectful to his comrades-in-arms and workers in general. I was able to see these qualities clearly demonstrated, once again, in the controversy over the ending of the Strike in May, 1989 which was supported by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).
Those of us who worked alongside with him at the Trade Union level know well that Dr Jagan was never tired of repeating that the Union must always consult with its members, must always involve the workers’ representatives in the course of making representations to the employers whether to redress a grievance or at bargaining over an agreement. This is an important lesson he left with GAWU which is very much respected and which today serves as a source of strength to the Union.
After the elections of October 1992 Dr Jagan as, Executive President continued to embrace the workers’ cause and support their interest.
The number of labour friendly legislations passed in the National Assembly testified to this.
Reference is made to the Trade Union Recognition Act, the Prevent of Discrimination Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Holidays with Pay Act (All workers are now covered; previously only certain categories of workers enjoyed this benefit) and Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act.
Dr Jagan memory remains fresh with us. He was a steadfast champion of the working people and a true son of Guyana. He was a leader who stood undeviatingly to his lofty principles and a leader who inspired us in battles and in periods of calm. From him we have learnt that progress will come only from our united and principled struggles. To my mind this lesson is among the legacy he left us.
(Text of a Lecture by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, Georgetown, Guyana on March 14, 2002.)
Your Excellency, President Bharrat Jagdeo, Honourable Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Mrs. Janet Jagan, Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today we meet at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre not only commemorate the death anniversary of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, but also to celebrate the life of this great Guyanese internationalist. We are reminded that he died five years ago during the month of March. He was also born 84 years ago during this very month.
I want to speak today on Cheddi Jagan's role as an internationalist. This is normally the title we give to a leader who establishes links with international movements, with other political leaders who espouse similar beliefs, and even with some who may have diverging views. The internationalist draws strength through the solidarity and exchange of ideas with these contacts, and is able to learn and gain from the experience of other political leaders with whom contact is maintained.
In my presentation, I will take you on a hopscotch across history to show you instances of how Dr. Jagan utilized his international connections to promote Guyana, to win support for the independence struggle, to wage a battle for human rights and democracy, and to promote ideas for regional and international integration.
I will, first of all, take you back to the period of the late 1950s and early 1960s when the struggle for independence was gaining momentum. Learning from the experience of the leaders of the Indian independence movement, and of a number of countries in West Africa, Dr. Jagan felt that international support, particularly from leaders of the then emerging third world, would help to push the British Government to grant independence to Guyana. He also believed that such support would help to change the positions of local opposition leaders who were not willing at that period to support the demand for independence.
So, on December 30, 1959 Dr. Jagan wrote a letter to political parties, trade union leaders and various organizations the world over soliciting support for, and solidarity with, Guyana's fight for independence. In this letter he quoted the following words of President Tubman of Liberia as his creed: "We insist upon the inherent and natural rights of all men to be free. We insist that the process should be speeded up and that the time will come, and not too far distant, when all nations shall gear themselves to the proposition that each is the other's brother without regard to geographical locality, racial affinity or religious concepts."
He explained this situation of the times: "We are about to go to London for constitutional talks. We are demanding that our country should become and independent sovereign state. We are prepared to maintain our link with the British Commonwealth, and for the next four years to share responsibility with the British Government on matters relating to defence and foreign affairs."
And in concluding his appeal, he stated: "I take the liberty of soliciting from you a Declaration of Solidarity for our cause. If it becomes necessary for us to approach the United Nations, we shall be very grateful for whatever assistance you and your organization can render us."
Of importance to note is that Dr. Jagan saw the importance of links with Latin America, and a Spanish text of his letter was sent to sixty organizations, prominent individuals, parties, trade unions, and universities in all the countries of the Latin American region.
Scores of leaders, including leaders of Governments in the emerging Athird world" sent messages of solidity and support for Dr. Jagan and the struggle waged for independence by his party and Government.
This letter showed Dr. Jagan's belief in the significance of international solidarity. We live in a world where millions of people have similar problems as ours. They understand our plight, as we understand theirs. This international solidarity provides strength for people struggling for a cause, for it makes those who carry out the struggle understand that people across the word appreciate and support what they are fighting for.
This growing influence of international solidarity, particularly for the independence struggle in colonial territories in the Americas, Asia and Africa grew in strength from the early 1960s. Guyanese sympathized with South Africans struggling against apartheid, and the apartheid fighters provided the solidarity and support that Guyanese needed. In a letter written to the PPP on the occasion of its eighth congress in April 1960, 30 South Africans standing trial in the famous "Treason Trial" in South Africa signed a letter congratulating the party and supporting its struggle for independence. The letter written in March 1960 at the time when the constitutional conference was taking place in London, stated, inter alia: "The present London constitutional conference between your delegation and the Colonial Secretary is, in our opinion, a striking illustration of inability of the British Government to resist the growing demand for self-government in your country. By opposing foreign domination and striving for independence, your countrymen have vindicated their honour and served the cause of democracy all over the world."
Among those who signed that historical letter were Nelson Mandela, the banned President of the African National Congress and Walter Sisulu, the banned Secretary General of the organization.
I am of the opinion that all Guyanese should be made aware of these early links between the African National Congress of South Africa and the party of Cheddi Jagan.
Let us now go back to the early period when Dr. Jagan began his political career.
Almost immediately after Dr. Jagan returned to Guyana after completing his studies in the United States in the early 1940s, he plunged himself into trade unionism and politics. Both of these areas overlapped since many of the trade union leaders were also involved in politics. The influence of international events were also being felt in Guyana. World War II was in full swing, and Guyanese were facing economic hardships particularly since the economy was closely tied to that of Great Britain. And the populace keenly faced every day to hear the news of the war being waged in Europe, North Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
Dr. Jagan, even from his student days, followed international affairs very closely, and as he developed his political stature, he saw how international situations heavily influenced political and economic events in Guyana and other developing countries. From the 1940s onwards his analysis of local political and economic situations always previewed the international situation to show how that had a link with what was happening in Guyana.
Dr. Jagan's command of facts and figures became legend even in those early years as a political leader, and already his views were being reported in the international press, and even in the British Parliamentary debates. His mass political leadership which emerged during the days of the 1948 sugar workers strike, culminating in the Enmore massacre in June of that year, also catapulted him into international prominence. In 1950 the PPP was established and its political demands attracted the attention of the British Government, which at that time probably regarded the new party as a band of rabble rousers who could not make any heavy impact on the electorate.
Remember, at that time, the franchise was very limited, but especially through the strong representation of the PPP, the British Government agreed to an open franchise by granting all persons 21 years and over the right to vote.
As I have mentioned earlier, Dr. Jagan was already attracting international attention. In 1951 he was invited to attend the World Festival of Youth and Students in Berlin. That city was still emerging from the battering it took during the war which ended in 1945. Dr. Jagan participated with thousands of others youthful internationalists in helping to clear rubble and to plant trees in parts if the city, thus assisting in the rebuilding of the German capital.
I need not go into details as to what happened after the 1953 elections. As you know, the British Government suspended the constitution in October 1953 claiming that the PPP administration - the freely-elected PPP - was about to set up a communist dictatorship. This was at a time when the elected members had almost no administrative power, and the British Governor had total control of the police and army. With the British Government setting up a nominated puppet government, Dr. Jagan and Forbes Burnham together travelled to England and later to India to seek international solidarity. They met with prominent political and religious leaders who condemned the British actions, and Dr. Jagan was invited by Prime Minister Nehru to address the Lok Sabha, the Indian Parliament.
The international press wrote detailed reports of this period. Dr. Jagan and other leaders of the PPP also appealed for international support and solidarity, and expressions of support and solidarity came from all over the world. Even organizations which avoided commenting on political events were moved to condemn the overthrow of the PPP administration and to sharply criticize the imprisonment of PPP leaders including Dr. Jagan, Mrs. Jagan, Martin Carter, and others. For example, the Jehovah Witnesses' international magazine, Awake, carried a lengthy article detailing the events of 1953 and the aftermath, and sharply criticized the actions of the British Government.
From as far back as the early 1940s, Dr. Jagan was very interested in issues of Caribbean integration. He firmly believed in Caribbean unity. As a young progressive trade unionist, Dr. Jagan expressed full support of the 1943 Montego Bay Conference for a West Indian Federation. That Conference attended by then West Indian leaders and representatives of the British Government, agreed that the proposed West Indian Federation would have dominion status (like Canada and Australia) and internal self-government for each unit territory. The support for this type of federation was later expressed by the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), founded by Dr. Jagan and other progressives in 1946. The PPP which grew out of the PAC in 1950 immediately adopted this stand.
I need to explain clearly Dr. Jagan's position on the West Indian Federation since from time to time we hear some gross misrepresentations of his position by some commentators.
Just before the 1953 election, the PPP expanded its position by insisting that Guyana should first be granted full independence and after a decision by a referendum, the country should then join the federation. This referendum formula was then adopted by the Party in order to take the controversial issue of Federation out of the general election, because the PPP leadership was being attacked by racists from two sides. The British Guiana East Indian Association was at that time stating that Jagan was selling out to the African, Forbes Burnham, and that the Indians in Guyana would be swamped in a predominantly African federation. The League of Coloured Peoples, on the other hand was stating that Burnham was selling out to the Indian, Cheddi Jagan.
Following the overthrow of the PPP Government by the British in October 1953, the West Indian leadership existing at that period, loudly praised the conservative British Government for removing the PPP by military force. When Jagan and Burnham were travelling to London to present the PPP position, the Governments of Trinidad and Barbados refused to allow them to pass through their airports. Naturally, such action soured the relationships between the PPP and the West Indian leaders, but it did not make Dr. Jagan and the PPP become opponents of the idea of federation. (There are some commentators who have expressed the unsubstantiated view that the action of the West Indian leaders turned Dr. Jagan into a staunch opponent of the proposed federation).
The British Government, using its colonial tactics of divide and rule, persuaded Burnham in 1955 to split the PPP with the hope of getting rid of the strong leftist section of the Party. Burnham's right-wing group had originally supported the PPP position of a referendum to decide entry into the Federation after the granting of independence. But after the split, Burnham's group played down the subject of Federation and never made it an issue in the 1957 election which was eventually won by the PPP.
Conservative elements in Guyana, particularly rich influential anti-communist Indians who opposed the PPP federation policy, had in 1956 persuaded the anti-communist Lionel Luckhoo, a member of the British-imposed interim Government, to form the National Labour Front. This anti-independence front organization was aimed at the PPP support C it was to operate on an anti-federation platform in the rural areas where the PPP had overwhelming support and where most of the Indians were living. Despite the large amounts of money the National Labour Front spent in the election campaign, it was totally rejected by the people in the 1957 elections.
In 1957, the West Indian leaders abandoned the Montego Bay agreement for a federation with dominion status and accepted one with a crown colony constitution. The federation was finally established in January 1958. It was after this back-sliding by the conservative West Indian leaders that Burnham in a complete somersault of his views moved a motion in the Legislative Council by which he demanded that Guyana should unconditionally enter the federation without first being independent and without the sanction of a referendum. Naturally, such an unprincipled motion was rejected by the PPP majority.
It was because of the rejection of Burnham's motion that opponents of Dr. Jagan and the PPP began to propagandize the claim that the PPP opposed federation and was not interested in Caribbean unity. Burnham's motion must be placed in proper perspective. The federation question was not an issue in the 1957 election. The PPP's policy of national independence and a referendum before entry into any federation was well known. Election in the country was not due for another three years, and it was clear that Burnham and his new party, the People's National Congress (PNC) was seeking to sneak Guyana into a federation, which had a colonial status, without determining the wishes of the people. It was also definitely an attempt to play down the independence struggle in the country, a cause which only the PPP was championing at that time.
Actually, there was a strong move afoot by the British colonial authorities and a number of reactionary Caribbean leaders, many of whom were later to hold leading positions in the federal Government, to get Guyana by any means into the West Indian Federation. The aim behind this plan was to suppress the progressive ideas and policies of the PPP which stood alone against a multitude of Caribbean reactionary elements who were continuously supporting colonialism and seeing every fighter for independence as a communist.
At the same time, Burnham was aiming at achieving a leading position in the federation, and then to win power in Guyana with the support of the reactionary West Indian leaders, all of whom had turned their backs on him and Dr. Jagan in 1953. However, despite the fact that his motion was rejected (in 1958), he earned the undying gratitude of the reactionary West Indian leadership which was to give tacit support to the British and American Governments in their joint plot to remove the PPP Government in 1964 and for the formation of a pro-imperialist PNC-led coalition Government. The reactionary West Indian leadership embraced Burnham and the PNC so closely that it refused to condemn the PNC's successive rigging of elections in Guyana from 1968 to 1985.
As we know, the West Indian leadership of 1958 attacked the PPP for keeping Guyana out of the West Indian Federation. Strangely, the leaders of British Honduras (now Belize) and the Bahamas, both of which did not enter the federation, never came under attack for staying out.
It must be added that Burnham showed his pro-federation stance at the British Guiana Constitutional Conference in London in March 1960 when he supported only internal self-government rather than outright independence for the country. He stated then that he would support independence for Guyana only within the West Indian Federation.
But history has proven that the PPP was right in the position it took on the Federation issue. In the first place, nearly two-thirds of the registered voters in the Federal territories did not vote in the 1958 federal elections, thus showing that they were apathetic and even non-supportive of the colonial status of the Federal constitution. Secondly, the problem of insularity was paramount, and this played an influencing role in the break-up of the Federation in 1962. Thirdly, Jamaica eventually in 1962, agreed to an extent with the position of the PPP and held a referendum which agreed that it must withdraw from the Federation and seek national independence. Fourthly, Eric Williams of Trinidad denounced the Federation Government and called it a "stooge of the Colonial Office". Even Grantley Adams of Barbados, the Prime Minister of the Federation, in February 1960 had to concede that Dr. Jagan and the PPP were right in their approach towards the view of the Federation. (A report of Adams' statement was published in the then PPP newspaper, Thunder, on 19 March 1960).
Recall the PPP's principal view of the Federation - that it could only serve the interest of the Colonial Office as long as it remained colonial. The PPP was not interested in joining that type of federation to become "a stooge of the Colonial Office". Many persons who dabble in history have deliberately avoided a very important fact C the fact that even Burnham finally agreed that the PPP's position on the West Indies Federation was correct. When squabbles began to erupt in the Federation and that it was clear that the Federation would eventually disintegrate, Burnham changed his position.
During the course of the independence debate on the 3 November, 1961 in the Legislative Assembly, Burnham declared his new position:
...The People's National Congress had felt that in proper circumstances British Guiana should join the West Indies Federation, provided the terms were satisfactory to Guiana and the Guianese people, because we felt that there were severe economic advantages to be gained from being part of a larger political unit. Let us say clearly that facts have proved that at the moment it is neither advisable nor wise for British Guiana to think of acceding to the West Indies Federation. There is no question about that , and so far as we are concerned we are big enough and large enough to admit that subsequent circumstances have intervened, that the future as we saw it then, some time ago, in not the present that exists...
Having cleared up this issue on Dr. Jagan's stance on the West Indian Federation, I will now move on.
Dr. Jagan expanded his contacts with African liberation leaders particularly after 1957. He met many of them at the Ghana independence celebration, and contacts with them were maintained by regular letters and in subsequent visits to Africa. He conversed with many exiled leaders of Southern Africa during his visits to African and socialist European countries. He immediately informed lecture audiences in Guyana of the discussions he held with those leaders, thus educating Guyanese of the struggle for majority rule and the fight against apartheid.
The letter of solidarity from leaders of the African Congress that I referred to earlier stands as testimony to the linkages Cheddi Jagan established with freedom fighters of South Africa.
His firm belief in internationalism caused him to appeal to Kwame Nkrumah, the Prime Minister of Ghana, to help re-unite the PPP in 1957, and later to assist in the formation of a national Government in 1964. I urge you to read the historical accounts relating to this issue, and you will see how Dr. Jagan was willing to compromise to bring about national unity. The other side was not prepared to do so.
Let me digress a bit to point out that during one of his early visits to Ghana, Dr. Jagan brought back with him twelve tilapia fishes in a small plastic container. These fishes were still unknown in Guyana. However six died during the long trip. Dr. Jagan handed over the others to the Agriculture Department which placed them in a pond at the Onverwagt Fish Culture Station in West Berbice, and shortly after they hatched. Not too long after, there was a sustained period of rainfall which flooded the area and the tilapia pond overflowed. In no time, the entire West Coast Berbice canals and swamps were full of tilapia. This is part of our popular history. Later other varieties of tilapia were introduced from Africa, but this little story tells us how the first ones arrived.
It was also from this period that Dr. Jagan bravely detailed the overt and covert actions which were being taken to overthrow his Government. There were many persons, particularly those opposing him, who accused him of having a vivid imagination when he mentioned the role of the American Government in these overt and covert operations in supporting the opposition parties. The declassified documents of that period published by the US Government in 1996 prove that Dr. Jagan was right all along.
This appeal to internationalism reached another height when in 1961 he took the case for the independence of Guyana to the UN Committee on De-colonization. It was the first time a leader of a people fighting for independence in any part of the world addressed the UN. Representatives of numerous countries, including many from the Soviet bloc, expressed solidarity with him and the independence cause. The Venezuelan representative supported the demand for independence, but announced that his country was no longer recognizing the Arbitral Award of 1899 which defined the border between Guyana and Venezuela.
As you know, the PPP became the opposition party from December 1964. From the late 1960s to the early 1990s Dr. Jagan galvanized international support for the struggle for democracy. It was through his efforts that international observers reported on elections in 1973, the referendum in 1978, the elections in 1980 and 1985. These observer teams were unofficial in the sense that they were not welcomed by the ruling regime. In 1980 he was physically attacked when he visited a polling booth on the East Coast Demerara. A BBC reporter who was with him at the time was severely mauled. But he never gave up. His consistency caused President Carter to take notice of Guyana, and it was not an easy accomplishment, as some people believe, for the Carter Centre to win permission to observe the electoral process in Guyana. Remember when Carter came to Guyana in 1990? When he raised the issue of the counting of the votes at the place of poll, as the PPP was demanding for a long, long time, he was told that this would be a Alogistical nightmare".
But history has moved on. Democratic changes were won, and the PPP won the elections in 1992. Many people have already forgotten that even then, the PPP had a hard time to take what it rightfully won. There were riots and people were killed. This pattern, as you are aware, continued in 1997 and 2001.
Shortly after Dr. Jagan became President in 1992, he felt it was necessary to tackle the problem of race relations, and he expressed the view that a race relations commission should be established. I make this point because there are some of his critics who are fond of stating that he did not see race relations as a problem in Guyana. The two of us discussed this question on many an occasion in telephone conversations between Georgetown and Washington. He was firm in the opinion that persons associated with Martin Luther King Jr. could share their views with us on how we can get such a commission working. He said that based on their experience in the civil rights movements, they could assist us in detailing various step-by-step measures which could be implemented by the commission in bringing about better relations between the ethnic groups in Guyana.
He then asked me to meet with the King Centre in Atlanta to seek such advice. This I did. I was amazed how many people there knew of Dr. Jagan and of the great esteem in which he was held. I had lengthy discussions in 1996, and reported to Dr. Jagan, and he himself continued the contact, through various exchanges between himself and the King Centre
I have had the enviable opportunity to travel with Dr. Jagan during some of his significant meetings in the United States and Latin America. I recall his address to the OAS in September 1993. The hall was jam-packed with foreign diplomats and other officials. Many persons said they had known about him since their student days, and they had come there to listen to a political legend. And in a flamboyant manner, he did not disappoint them. He dispensed with his notes and held the audience captive with his thesis on Latin American solidarity and the fight against poverty in the hemisphere.
Of interest to note was that he did not just represent Guyanese concerns, but also those of the Caribbean. This was clearly expressed during a meeting at the White House when he and some Caribbean leaders met with President Clinton in 1993. It was he who first stated that the Caribbean formed a "third border" for the United States. He pointed out that the Caribbean countries were protecting that third border by expending scarce resources to police it against drug runners taking their goods to the United States. He expressed the opinion that since the Caribbean was protecting this American third border, then the United States had an obligation to assist the Caribbean countries by helping to train their police and to provide surveillance equipment and other resources to them.
He was a solid believer in Latin American and Caribbean solidarity. I was with him at the Miami Summit in December 1994 to take notes of the proceedings. Because of the forthright manner in which he represented the Caribbean, one newspaper dubbed him the outstanding leader of the Summit. I recall very vividly the negotiations for the final document of that Summit. There were a few pre-Summit meetings before December in the Washington area, but there was a final significant one at Airlie House deep in the countryside of Virginia. It was in late November and it was snowing. On the first day, I made a proposal for the issue of debt and debt relief to be included. Some of the bigger countries felt that such an issue should not be mentioned. I insisted that it must, and called upon Havelock Brewster whom I had taken with me to explain the impact of the debt problem on Guyana. However, that did not cause others to budge very much. We adjourned for that evening with no positive results on this matter. I then called Dr. Jagan, and he told me that I must re-open the discussion on the following morning and not to surrender.
Well, on the following morning, as soon as the meeting resumed, I re-opened the issue. Of course, the evening before we did our lobbying, and it certainly paid off. More and more countries joined in supporting our position, and within an hour we had a paragraph dealing with the debt issue inserted in the document.
At the Summit itself, Dr. Jagan won support for the establishment of an American Corps of Volunteers to function under the White Helmets initiative proposed by Argentina. He envisioned this Corps to be made up of specialist volunteers from the countries of the Americas to function more or less like the US Peace Corps. He felt that volunteers from Latin America and the Caribbean could even be posted to the United States and Canada to work among immigrant youth in those countries. He pointed out that this Corps was essential because of the huge brain drain, administrative incapacity, and the huge costs of consultants and advisers. Unfortunately, we have still not yet seen the implementation of this essential part of the Summit action plan.
It was also at this Summit that he first proposed the establishment of a Regional Integration Fund to assist the smaller economies of the Americas. He pointed out that with the establishment of hemispheric free trade, the smaller economies would be at a disadvantage if their technology, infrastructure and productivity remain far below the levels reached by the larger and stronger economies. The regional fund, established under the umbrella of the FTAA, would assist the smaller economies to improve their technology, infrastructure and productivity and so place them in a better position to compete with the larger economies. This proposal has since been adopted by CARICOM and recently won the unanimous support of the Association of Caribbean States.
I went with Dr. Jagan to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in December 1996 to participate in the Inter-American Summit for Sustainable Development. He was the spokesman for the CARICOM delegations, and the paper he prepared and presented on their behalf is still heavily referenced up to today. Among the suggestions he made at that summit was for the establishment of a Forest Monitoring and Management Training Fund. He explained that this was necessary because, in the case of Guyana, our huge debt payments rob us of the capability to adequately man and equip our Forestry Commission." At this Summit, he represented the Caribbean most profoundly on issues such as the shipment of nuclear waste through the Caribbean Sea and the pressures placed on the banana industry of particularly the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, among other matter.
While Dr. Jagan believed very firmly in Caribbean unity, he also saw a continental destiny for Guyana. He always reminded us that while we are part of the Caribbean, we are also South American. On many an occasion he stated that Guyana traditionally looked for markets in the Caribbean and North America, but we must also look southwards C to Brazil, Argentina, Chile. He was firm on the point that we must become bilingual. We had lengthy discussions on this issue, and he encouraged me to write an article in 1995 on why we must approach Spanish language learning to promote trade and cultural understanding and make our young people bilingual within a period of ten years. The Chronicle carried this article, I believe, in August 1995.
He was also concerned about attracting investments from the United States. Investments were hampered by the withdrawal of political risk insurance for Guyana by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) even before the PPP/Civic Government was elected in October 1992. From the Embassy in Washington we mounted a campaign to get OPIC to re-open its support for investments to Guyana. It took some time to get all the lobbying efforts together and also to settle some financial agreements with one company which was insured by OPIC. But in the end we succeeded in 2000, and I eventually signed a document at OPIC headquarters in Washington by which that institution agreed to provide political risk insurance to American companies investing in Guyana.
OPIC support for investments in Guyana is extremely important and must be capitalized upon by the Government of Guyana. GOINVEST packages, for example, must carry this information as a priority item.
As all are aware, Dr. Jagan saw the debt burden as a fundamental issue. I remember ever since the 1970 in lectures on this issue, he always took large charts with bar, line and pie graphs to explain to the public how this problem affected the economy. As Guyana's debts mounted in the late 1980s, he not only complained about it, but also offered solutions to this growing financial epidemic. As far back as 1988, he suggested that the IMF could help in easing the debt problem by gradually selling off some of its gold reserves to bail out the most indebted poor countries. No one took him seriously, but when President Clinton went to Africa in 2000 and said the same thing, everyone felt it was a great suggestion. However, the large gold producing countries like South Africa and the United States, among others, were not totally supportive of this idea since they felt that large scale sale of gold could depress gold prices and affect the economies of countries which depend heavily on their gold industry.
He championed the cause of debt relief all over the world and met personally with world leaders including the Pope to support this cause. Today it is now fashionable for world leaders to speak in support of debt relief. But, as Dr. Jagan would have said, we have had enough words; now we want more action.
I always like to point out that Shakespeare told the story of the Merchant of Venice who made a bond to pay back his debt with a pound of flesh. But the creditor was forced by the law not to take this repayment because the debtor would also lose his blood, which was not part of the original bargain. Today, the debt-ridden countries are paying back their pound of flesh, but unfortunately their life blood is also being taken away from them in the form of hundreds of thousands of little children who die year after year of hunger, disease and malnutrition. This is because poor countries use their financial resources to service the debt, when it could have been used to provide food and medicine to save these innocent lives and also to foster economic growth and social development.
We must remember that the debt that the current governments of developing countries have to pay pack was not created by them, but by previous regimes, many of which were never democratically elected by the people. In those periods, some of them were dictatorships which were heavily funded by the multilateral financial institutions (MFIs) and the developed world. These repressive regimes used those funds to tighten security measures to repress their citizens and thus stifling democracy. However, by constant struggle, the repressed people were able to win democracy and replace most of those regimes by democratically elected governments.
The irony is that the democratic governments are being forced to pay back the debts they never created. And because they have to do so, they generally do not have enough resources to meet the economic and social developmental needs of their citizens. Thus the cycle of poverty continues. And some anti-democratic and unscrupulous groups take advantage of this situation and try to destabilize the society in a variety of ways, including the use of terrorism to achieve their ends in removing the democratically elected government.
The slow pace of debt relief by the MFIs, and the developed world (which attach a great deal of conditionalities on the debt-ridden countries) is not helping at all to promote and defend democracy. The MFIs made some bad loans to bad regimes, but they are demanding that current successor democratic governments service these debts despite the detriment they cause to their economies.
An finally, I must say something about Dr. Jagan's campaign for the New Global Human Order. We have publicized this proposal very widely outside Guyana, and items listed in the proposal are generally widely known. Some of these include debt relief, debt servicing to be limited to 10 percent of revenues, the application of the peace dividend to development, and the application of the so-called Tobin tax to raise development funds for the UN. Unfortunately, the New Global Human Order proposal, in my opinion, is not known very well in Guyana. While we have academics at foreign universities participating in discussions on issues raised in the proposal, I do not see this being done at our own University and other centres of higher education.
The New Global Human Order is very relevant in these times. Everything in the proposal cannot be achieved at one time. Dr. Jagan saw it being developed incrementally C in other words, each item or sub-proposal can be implemented separately over a particular period of time. Also, while some countries may be struggling for debt relief, others can wage a campaign for the 10 percent ceiling, and so on. With reference to the Tobin tax, international financial institutions, the United Nations and the international media are all now examining it very seriously.
Already, the UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution on the New Global Human Order in November 2000. It was proposed by Guyana and supported by scores of other countries. Based on this resolution, Iran is now proposing what it calls a Dialogue of Civilizations which I feel is a further positive development of the concept proposed by Cheddi Jagan. Also two years ago in Canada, the OAS General Assembly held wide-ranging discussions on a Canadian proposal on "Human Security" which took into consideration many of the ideas of the New Global Human Order.
These few instances I have dealt with today provide evidence of the role of Cheddi Jagan as an internationalist. I can go on to talk about the significant role he played as a Vice-President of the World Peace Council in the 1970s and 1980s, and of his numerous lectures he gave at universities all over the world. But that may form a lecture topic by someone else in the future.
Dr. Jagan pursued this philosophy of internationalism with great passion. He did so ever since he plunged into the political arena in the 1940s when in his early writings he supported the independence movement in India and the activities of Gandhi in pursuing peaceful resistance. This belief in peaceful resistance he maintained throughout his entire life. In the 1970s and 1980s when the struggle for democracy was intensifying, there were some in the struggle outside of the PPP who criticized him for not advocating non-peaceful resistance and sneeringly referred to him as Guyana's Gandhi.
Even when he was fighting for his life at the Walter Reed Hospital in late February and early March 1997, his faith in international friendship remained paramount. Unable to speak, he could still scribble a on a notepad a short note asking about the welfare of his friend the Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien When he died on March 6, the world paid tribute to him, and President Clinton saluted him saying that he was a man who always fought for the poor. Indeed, he did so not only for those in Guyana, but for all the poor people struggling for bread, justice and human liberty all over the world. That was his obligation as a true internationalist.