Looking back… at Cheddi

At the commemoration of Dr Cheddi Jagan’s 105th birthday, his daughter Nadira gave a very poignant account of the great man as a father. It was a view from within that offered another perspective on this great Guyanese patriot, who many believe is the “father of the nation”.  The fact that “Cheddi” was never called anything but that name by young and old signals his refusal to “big up” himself to ordinary folks. He was, of course, a country boy – all the way from Port Mourant on the Corentyne – who came to town as a teenager to complete his high school education at Queen’s College.
While he then went away to college in the US for five years, it’s clear from Nadira’s account that he never lost the simplicity of the villager origin he described so well in his book “The West on Trial”! Fishing and swimming in the estate canals! Playing Phagwah!! He still retained in Bel Air – where he finally built a house in 1966 – the gardening skills he’d inculcated as a boy assisting his mother to supplement the family’s income! So, while he was in the city – he was not OF the city, and could relate directly with the concerns of his mainly rural supporters. His frugality was legendary…he insisted on mending his clothes, and refused new clothes or shoes that he regarded as “extravagant”!!
But some will say that his personal life had nothing to do with his politics – which affected the country’s well-being. And your Eyewitness will say that’s a very shallow and superficial conclusion. As explained above, Cheddi’s concern for the “working class” didn’t come out from the pages of a book; it came out of what’s nowadays called his “lived experience”. Growing up on a sugar plantation in the 1920s and 30s, Cheddi experienced the living conditions that Jock Campbell – later to be the Chairman of Bookers – epitomised when describing the stables of the estate mules as better than the logies of the sugar workers. In the words of his mother – which he quoted – “Bhaiya, life prappa hard”.
At Queen’s, like Burnham, he experienced the intersectional snobbery of the whites, coloureds and Africans, as an Indian, a rural “coolie” and a Hindu pagan. All these factors had to’ve played a role in the ideology he adopted and worked towards –  a utopia where the motto’d be “from each according to his ability – to each according to his need”. But, unlike Burnham, he didn’t nurse any grudges for the day he’d be able to take revenge.
No, as in his family life, Cheddi strove to create a society where we’d all be our brothers’ keepers. We’d all be “One Guyana”!!

…at flying out
Back in the day, British Airways (BA) – which just resumed flying here – had a strong presence. But pedantically, it was only in 1974 that it was created through the merger of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airlines (BEA). Before that, it was BOAC that was flying out the last of the British Colonials “home” – and thousands of Guyanese “British Subjects” flying to the “Mother Country’. Only to find that we natives weren’t even considered “stepchildren”!!
But as Burnham destroyed the economy after nationalising 80% of the economy – and running the country as his personal fiefdom, to indulge his various peccadillos – BA threw in the towel, and hasn’t flown here for the past 42 years!! So, what caused them to return?? We don’t really have to guess, do we?? And it certainly has nothing to do with making up for the two hundred years of treating us like dirt!! It’s all about our oil, baby!!
Mother wants a piece of the action!!

…at old violence
Hamilton Green said it was the PNC in 1964 that ended the murders, madness and mayhem that characterised the 1960s. But that’s because – as Burnham said – “Who owns the dog can call off the dog”!!