A UNIQUE political event is scheduled to take place in Guyana on Friday night at the Providence National Stadium—a venue best known regionally and internationally for cricket.
It is being promoted as a “night of appreciation” for the country’s Head of State and Government, President Bharrat Jagdeo.
[President Bharrat Jagdeo]
President Bharrat Jagdeo
And the uniqueness of the occasion resides in the fact that in the political history of Guyana, this will be the first time a celebratory event has been organised to bid farewell to a Head of Government prior to his departure from office.
Home of the CARICOM Secretariat and a founding member of the Community, Guyana’s constitutional governance system is quite different in some critical areas from those of its partners. For a start, it is a republic with an Executive President endowed with enormous powers. There is also the difference in its electoral system of proportional representation (PR), in comparison to the first-past-the-post, or “winner-takes—all” model.
So far as the President is concerned, he/she is restricted to only two consecutive five-year terms in office. And this, basically, explains why non-government organizations, private sector enterprises and the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) are involved--(at no cost to the state, I have been told)-with Friday’s “night of appreciation” . Tributes will be paid to the “outstanding achievements” of President Jagdeo who would actually have served a dozen years when he demits that office, possibly in November, when new parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled.
The extra two years, beyond the constitutional two consecutive five-year terms, requires a bit of explanation. He was first sworn in as President, in August 1999, then just 35 years, following the resignation of President Janet Jagan, widow of the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan, who died in office in March 1997.
Cheddi Jagan, who returned to government at the October 1992 general elections, was the second Executive President to die in office, the first being Forbes Burnham, architect of the republican constitution.
For Jagdeo, a development economist and former Finance Minister, his first and second five-year terms were achieved by decisive electoral victories for the PPP. He was to lead a steady path to social and economic development with the international financial institutions and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), pointing to consistent growth rates over recent years, the latest being a unique five percent for the region in the first half of 2011.
His domestic political opponents are, understandably, anxious to see his back and have precious little, if any positive things, to say about him. But even Jagdeo’s most strident critics would find it difficult to ignore his crusading zeal and commitment to Guyana’s social and economic transformation that has been taking place—with a mix of political blunders and natural disasters—over his 12-year tenure as President. Current dispassionate assessments of Guyana’s social and economic progress by the international financial institutions may perhaps better be appreciated when contrasted with 24 years of controversial rule by the now main opposition People’s National Congress (PNC).
That the “appreciation night” for President Jagdeo will take place amid near completion of arrangements for the coming parliamentary and presidential elections will not be ignored by his opponents. It has to take place before the official elections campaign is announced. What would, however, be relevant for those involved in organising Friday’s “appreciation” event is how far Guyana has progressed in socio-economic and cultural advancement, with Jagdeo, first as Finance Minister, and then for 12 years as President. In relation to visionary economic projects, Jagdeo may have effectively stamped his leadership on Guyana’s high-profile initiatives to preserve the country’s forest resources within the framework of the current challenging international issue of climate change. He is regarded as the primary architect of the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
An official blurb on his presidency reminds that “from being one of the most indebted countries per capita in the world, Guyana has, under President Jagdeo’s prudent and visionary leadership, been restored to the path of debt sustainability and international creditworthiness…..”
However, perhaps his more outstanding legacy could be his sustained efforts to heal the bewildering ethnic/social divisions that have, for too long, plagued Guyana, and, consequently blunting somewhat the full impact of achievements across the coastland and hinterland regions over the 19 years of governments by the PPP
Excerpts from the Guyana Chronicle