Last Sunday, on our way to the Whim APNU+AFC rally, our group stopped at Babu John, Corentyne for the benefit of those who had not previously visited the gravesites of Dr Cheddi and Mrs Janet Jagan. The site was well kept and we were encouraged by a goatherd watching his flock to shed our deference and enter the enclosure.
While Dr Jagan’s place in Guyana’s independence and anti-colonial struggle cannot be disputed, not everyone accepts him as the Father of the Nation. Neither the National Assembly nor the constitution, the voice of the people, grants such a unique accolade to anyone, and it is hardly up to a political party to make such a determination for inscription on his tombstone. But our visit also revealed issues that were beyond opinion or truth.
The tombstone of Dr Jagan describes him as the Founder of the PPP in 1950 and that of Mrs Jagan describes her as the Founder of the PPP in 1951. They cannot both be right! Indeed, they are both wrong.
The founding of the PPP was preceded by the setting up in 1946 of the Political Affairs Committee, credit for the founding of which is attributed by Dr Jagan in the West on Trial to himself, Mrs Jagan, Ashton Chase and Mr HJM Hubbard. That committee began political work around the country and soon, nationalists like Martin Carter and Eusi Kwayana (then Sydney King), were actively involved.
Two parallel developments at the time were the formation of two Discussion Circles, one in Buxton chaired by Kwayana and the other in Kitty chaired by Dr Jagan. Among the leading personalities in the Buxton Circle were Byron Lewis and Edmond Forde, who still lives in Buxton, Sewe Sankar Sanjogee (Sadhu) and Rampersaud Sawh, both of Vigilance. The two circles met on different evenings of the week (Friday and Sunday respectively) and Jagan and Kwayana occasionally exchanged visits on behalf of their respective circles.
It was the Buxton Circle, at a meeting chaired by Kwayana, which passed a resolution that a political party be formed to represent the workers and the peasants of Guyana. A similar resolution was later passed by the Kitty Circle at its meeting chaired by Dr Jagan.
In the meantime, additional persons had joined the PAC, including Martin Carter, ‘Boysie’ Ram Karran and Kwayana. In January 1950, approximately twenty persons comprising members of the PAC, members of the two Discussion Circles and other persons, including IVO Cendrecourt and Frank Van Sertima, gathered at the Progressive High School in Regent Street and formed the PPP. There was no single founder as both headstones erroneously claim.
I am sure that the conflicting and misleading headstones were not intended to rewrite history. But even innocent errors must be corrected, since juxtaposed, they make nonsense.
Two other points were noted by the group I was in. If this is intended to be a national site then for the nation’s sake, replace the colours of the PPP with those of the country. The second is the awful and backward state of the sanitary facilities. There are only pit latrines, some of which are still under “construction”, and none of which has running water. Using them sickens the stomach. The only source of water is the ubiquitous black tank located to the northern side of the platform about fifty yards away from the latrines.
The PPP encourages diplomats, international visitors, persons from around the country, and most of all ladies, to mark the death anniversary of Dr Jagan at Babu John. It is a disgrace, embarrassment and insult to expose them to such unhygienic and undignified conditions. It is too, an insult to the memory of Dr and Mrs Jagan, and conveys an impression of Berbicians that is wholly undeserved. Something has to be done to fix this grave indecency.
I made a bet with two members of the group that once the matters are raised publicly, the General Secretary of the party will quickly take action to fix both the historical errors and the physical [in]conveniences. He may even seek a more embracing solution by facilitating the establishment of a Jagan Foundation, one of the functions of which can be the management of Babu John (Mr Nandlall, please note, and stop the revisionist attempt in relation to the spelling).