ST. VINCENT and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, said last evening that former President and founder member of the People’s Progressive Party, the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, was a leader of extraordinary quality.Delivering the Cheddi Jagan Annual Lecture entitled “Cheddi Jagan: His Nationalism, His Regionalism and His Internationalism”, Dr. Gonsalves said Dr. Jagan’s intellect, honesty, decency, humanity, charisma and commitment in improving the lot of the poor and the working class sets him as a brightness that sparkled and illuminated.
“It was never a brightness which blinds,” he said, alluding to the late leader’s ability to reach out and connect with people from all strata of society.
Describing Dr. Jagan’s contribution to Guyana and the Caribbean as immense, the Vincentian Prime Minister told his audience at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, that leadership is always a complex business, and Dr. Jagan was a man with rare value.
Dr. Jagan’s essence as a leader was to draw out of those whom he led a goodness and nobility which often times, they did not know that they possessed.
Dr. Gonsalves, who told the gathering that the former President was his friend, comrade and mentor, said the distinguished leader had an instinctive capacity to assess the strengths and weaknesses in people.
“His leadership task was centred on enhancing the strengths and possibilities, and reducing as far as practicable the weaknesses and limitations, even to transform these weaknesses and limitations into strengths and possibilities.”
The Prime Minister, who is serving a third term in office, made it clear that his address on the occasion is in no way a support to the ruling party in light of the upcoming elections, but rather he is proud to address the occasion to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Jagan.
And on this point, he praised the PPP/C for keeping the legacy of Dr. Jagan alive, saying that many distinguished persons in several Caribbean countries are today treated as objects of genuflection rather than admiration and genuine love.
“Some of these leaders are treated as veritable deranged uncles… of the very house of luxury which many ungrateful successors have inherited. Often second and third generation successors in politics, state bureaucracy and the private sector, whose elevation are a direct or indirect consequence of the opportunity created by the former leaders. These new arrivants, with such ingratitude, invariable put themselves on an ignobly part of opportunism in the service of a beguiling new colonialism. In time, they will learn the errors of their ways. If they do not, the people will teach them an unforgettable lesson that ingratitude is worse than witchcraft.”
He said Dr. Jagan’s optimism of a better life for the people of Guyana and the Caribbean stemmed not from the sense of the possibilities of divinely prescribed redemption, but from the progressive uplift of people ultimately through struggle, both individually and collectively.
Dr. Gonsalves also acknowledged that the late leader was not without his critics, but many were not fit to wash his feet.
“Cheddi was a finished civilised personality, absolutely devoid of racial colour prejudice. He was anti-racist to the core and called for racial and working people unity and national unity,” he said.
But noted that Dr. Jagan never ignored the existence of racial sentiments in society, but was skillful and sharp enough to put it in the context in which it emerged.
He explained that the founding PPP/C Leader knew that racial division of labour gave rise to racial hostility.
However, the hostility was between the Africans and Whites, not African and Indians, but it started after the Indians began to climb out of their logie environment and compete at the middle class level for jobs and positions.
The racial conflict, he said Dr. Jagan knew and greatly expounded, had its roots in the economics of labour, which was firmly established and supported by the colonial authorities.