Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Letter did not do justice to the argument

Letter did not do justice to the argument

Posted By Stabroek staff On May 19, 2009 @ 5:03 am In Letters | 1 Comment

Dear Editor,
Gitanjali Persaud in a long letter in the Sunday Stabroek (‘The article on Janet Jagan in the Guyana Review had subtle distortions,’ May 17)) failed to do justice to her argument. First, she did not elucidate on the distortions she claimed existed in the Guyana Review piece. I read that assessment and thought it was fine scholarship. I couldn’t see the faults Ms Persaud saw. But I guess it depends on your perspectives on Janet Jagan. On the passing of Mrs Jagan, the same Ms Persaud wrote a short letter eulogizing Janet Jagan.
There is nothing wrong with that. Throughout history bad leaders have had their warm sides. Adolph Hitler’s secretary, Traudl Junge who died a few years ago had some nice things to say about Hitler in her autobiography. Mr Burnham’s daughter, Ulele wrote that she was proud to be Burnham’s daughter. In assessing the Jagans and Burnham, one should concentrate on their political life. This is where they rise and fall, not on how many bouquets of flowers they shared out. Secondly, Ms Persaud defeats her own intentions. She set out to praise Mrs Jagan but ended up leaving us with thoughts that make us feel that Mrs Jagan committed enormous sins

About democratic centralism, she wrote: “For me, that is a euphemism for dictatorship… will we ever see two PPP presidential candidates facing off in public for popular support?” If democratic centralism is a euphemism for dictatorship, how then can Mrs Jagan come out untouched in any objective account of the PPP’s destructive role in Guyanese politics? For over sixty years Mrs Jagan was one of the preservers (to use Ms Persaud’s own word) of dictatorship. Surely, Ms Persaud cannot be that na├»ve to think that over sixty years of dictatorship inside the PPP did not hurt Guyana. On the contrary, it helped to destroy this nation. Surely, Ms Persaud must know that Mrs Jagan presided over a party that has been in power since 1992. What role has democratic centralism played in those years?

Ms. Persaud tells us she is…”left to wonder if taking advantage of the strike on the sugar estates may have been a temporary act of insanity on the part of the PPP, given that any clashes would only redound to the detriment of its East Indian supporters.” Unfortunately, Ms Persaud attributes an irrationality to Dr and Mrs Jagan. She calls it insanity. But if she researches the history of these two politicians, she will see that they were far from insane or irrational. Dr and Mrs Jagan did what they thought was best for the party and its ideology. The consequences for their supporters never figured in their scheme of things. That is why Dr Jagan’s government was harassed in the sixties. That is why he spent 28 years in the political wilderness.

Ms Persaud should ask herself the question if that was the only temporary act of insanity. What about ‘Critical support’ in 1976? What about the plan for a joint slate with the PNC in the 1985 elections? What about the shameless dumping of its courageous ally the WPA after 1992? Ms Persaud conveniently quotes from Hugh Tinker’s book about a violent statement from Mr Burnham on the race question. I hope she is aware that there are books that indict Dr and Mrs Jagan for racial incitement. In particular, she should read the Rupert Roopnaraine interview in Frank Birbalsingh, The PPP of Guyana, 1950 -1992: An Oral History. It is a fine piece of analysis.

Finally, she refers to American documents on the 1964 intrigue against the Jagan government that are yet to be released. We have seen a majority of those declassified materials. What we will never see are such papers from the Cuban archives. Researchers are yet to tap the Russian archives. One wonders what will happen to the image of the Jagans when we see those documents. Dr Jagan was crying wolf about American destabilization of his government while he wilfully participated in the Cold War which India carefully avoided. The same victim in British Guiana was happy to applaud Soviet destabilization of Czechoslovakia. Ms Persaud should do some more research!
Yours faithfully,
Frederick Kissoon
1 Comment (Open | Close)

1 Comment To "Letter did not do justice to the argument"

#1 Comment By Gitanjali Persaud On May 19, 2009 @ 6:09 am

Mr Kissoon

I did not set out to praise Mrs Jagan as you so claimed. Rather, my argument (seems it was not clear enough) is that her legacy is associated with the full political history of Guyana and not specific events. Taking such a view of history will distort her legacy. I couldn’t care less, whether the full history makes her legacy Machiavellian. Let the facts speak for themselves without us colouring it with our biases and without us giving selective treatment to contextless specific events to render a preconceived image.

Even if the full truth makes her Machiavelli, this cannot mean that I cannot admire her tenacity in fighting for political freedom for Guyana. It means that I am not blind to her faults and blunderings but I am willing to acknowledge her positive contribution as well.

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