The Babu Jaan address

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ON Sunday, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) held a memorial event at Babu Jaan, Port Mourant, to mark the 22nd death anniversary of the party’s Founder Leader, Dr. Cheddi Jagan. Events to honour the deceased, and someone of Dr. Jagan’s stature, would usually see speakers revisiting their contributions to society, the things they stood for and probably how those contributions would relate to the present.

When the party’s leader, General Secretary Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo took to the podium. his were the usual crass attacks on his opponents; this time even inciting those gathered there to “chase” government ministers and even the President and Prime Minister if they visit their communities after March 21. The Government has since condemned the remarks by Jagdeo, deeming them “irresponsible”, while noting that Mr. Jagdeo’s “inciting can result in a breach of the law, and must be condemned as unacceptable, malicious and mischievous.” The statement went on to say that Jagdeo has a history of wanton utterances, and his most recent at Babu Jaan “has serious implications on peace, race relations and national security, particularly in an election year.”

“The government notes that any call to violence or a breach of public order must be deplored. All Guyanese can be assured that law enforcement agencies will take action against anyone who engages in unlawful behaviour, and any attempts to “chase” the president, prime minister or ministers of the government out of any region of Guyana.”
Back in February, amid concerns that his rhetoric can lead to serious instability, Jagdeo had threatened that there would be no business as usual if his party’s demand for elections by March 19 this year was not met. Jagdeo had made similar threats when President David Granger found his nominees for the post of chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission ‘not fit and proper.’

Many would argue that this was the usual style of the former president, but this should not be countenanced as normal, coming from someone who held the highest office of this country. What was also evident at this event as is the case in the previous ones was the coded language of race appeal.

Jagdeo, in speaking to what is happening in sugar, though none should fault him for having interest, dealt with the industry and company’s future in a manner unbecoming of the seriousness they deserve. Where he feels that the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government is moving to destroy sugar–where a significant amount comprises the PPP/C’s support base — he did not see it worthy to remind the audience of the role he played, which has contributed to sugar’s current state.

During Mr. Jagdeo’s presidency, the sugar industry was not only allowed to slide, but the nation’s largest investment in any State company was made in the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). The Skeldon Sugar factory, which he touted would have been the saviour for sugar, cost taxpayers more than US$200M. This factory never functioned based on expectation, as more money was thrown behind it to do modifications. Skeldon is not only a white elephant, but remains an albatross around the neck of every Guyanese.

It is unfortunate that during his presidency, and as sugar continued to decline, he never brought its problems to the National Assembly to have them debated and decisions made. Sugar workers, supporters of the PPP/C and every Guyanese should be concerned about whether his language of indignation at Babu Jaan was that of sincerity, or seeing the political expediency to be had at Dr. Jagan’s expense.

If Mr. Jadgeo is concerned about the viability of the industry as Leader of the Opposition, he should have had the PPP/C appear before the 2015 Commission of Inquiry into GuySuCo and submit its ideas, including recommendations. The Sub-Committee established to look into sugar invited the participation of the PPP/C, but the party failed to submit a proposal to improve GuySuCo’s performance. Condemning efforts by the APNU+AFC government in dealing with sugar- -and this is not to say that these are perfect–when failing as Leader of Opposition and PPP/C to propose an alternative, the blame for the state of sugar deservedly lies with Mr. Jagdeo.

Asking citizens to resist the government is tantamount to inciting violence against public officials, and Jagdeo must be roundly condemned for this. Society will not forget that this very Jagdeo had showed great intolerance for dissent while he was president. This society is fraught with stories of the agony of those who dared to stand up and resist during his government. A water-cannon, considered a most repressive form of crowd control tool, was purchased to douse those that dared to stand up and resist.

The growth and development of Guyana requires the input of all. The Leader of the Opposition is being paid to also propose ideas to build Guyana and create the opportunities for all to work in peace and harmony. It is therefore not unreasonable to encourage him to take heed of these expectations of him.