Charlotte Brontë, the author of Jane Eyre wrote, “Prejudices, it is well known are the most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones”. This quote reflects the thinking of Hamilton Green when one reflects on his letter in Stabroek News (‘PPP has had history of unparliamentary behaviour’, November 17) and his reference to Dr Jagan regarding an old event in the ʼ60s. He deliberately chose not to mention a more contemporary event, ‘Pandemonium in Parliament’ on January 14, 1992, when the Speaker refused a debate on the controversial Constitution (Amendment) Bill 1991 seeking to extend the life of the Fifth Parliament and postpone general elections. This dastardly act forced an agitated Dr Jagan to take matters into his own hands in this acrimonious National Assembly. The narrative of this unprecedented event in Parliament was beautifully captured by Indranie Deolall’s article in Stabroek News a few weeks ago on November 9, ‘Fear for this fair land’, and was again featured by the Stabroek News as part of its 30th anniversary celebration.
The Fifth Parliament presided over by Speaker Sase Narine and Hamilton Green as leader of government business in the House could be considered the most acrimonious with a sense of deep ill feeling. Opposition motions were not debated; their time was restricted to the bare minimum and interruptions of their speeches were the order of the day. These glaring and notorious acts in the National Assembly could have only been exposed by Dr Jagan taking his protest action to the next level.
Apart from widespread publicity in the private and regional media, a very astute Joseph Pollydore made a very calculated and clever reference to Dr Jagan’s protest action in the National Assembly. At a May Day Rally in the National Park, Mr Pollydore tasked with the responsibility of introducing Dr Jagan as one of the main speakers remarked that “I have the task of introducing Dr Jagan to you, however I don’t need to since Cheddi is a man capable of creating his own headlines.” He continued: “You think I am going to talk about what happened the other day in Parliament? No, it was he who created the University of Guyana.” This brought laughter and clapping from the workers at the rally. Mr Pollydore further remarked that at this rally “Dr Jagan will be given unlimited time to speak,” in stark contrast to not being given the right to speak in Parliament for more than two years.
Dr Jagan returned as President to address the ceremonial opening of the Sixth Parliament on 17th December 1992 with former Speaker Sase Narine, now a beleaguered MP on the PNC benches. His speech was magnanimous, forcefully recognizing a multi-party system in Guyana and promising that opposition parties will not be treated with the arrogant disdain of the past. He expressed his concern for inequality, especially low pensions.
Dr Henry Jeffrey’s article in Stabroek News ‘Right is only in question between equals’ in March 2013, argued that by any historical standard the (1992-1997) Cheddi Jagan regime was the most productive period for legislation intended to protect the working people of Guyana. The process involved not only consensus with opposition parties but broad and meaningful consultations with the trade union movement and the private sector.
Finally, Dr Jagan, one of the longest serving parliamentarians in the Western hemisphere was just a few months short of five decades of a rich legacy of parliamentary struggle for a better Guyana. The late Ranji Chandisingh stated that Dr Jagan brought Parliament to the people and the people to Parliament. The richness of his parliamentary struggle is second to none, while his sincerity of purpose is written in the stars, something that is far beyond the reach of Hamilton Green.
(Name and address provided)