GUYANA – Former First Lady Varshnie Singh on Sunday, said her nine-year marriage to President

February 2, 2009

The couple were married according to Hindu rites in 1998 and Singh told reporters that there were at least three attempts to register the marriage. She said on the first two occasions the President said he had lost the forms. By the time the third attempt was made, he had assumed the presidency and had informed her that he could not be subjected to court proceedings and with that in mind she took the decision not to sign any legal documents.

Meanwhile, President Jagdeo on Monday, refused to respond to the allegation that the nine-year marriage was never registered, stating that all he wanted to say on the issue was contained in a statement he released after Singh went public last week accusing him of, among other things, ‘high-tech’ domestic violence. Singh said that initially she did not think there was a wilful attempt to stall the process but admitted harboring doubts in retrospect. Singh does not have a lawyer but is considering engaging a local firm to represent her. However, she noted, that the law stipulates that in the division of property, a woman in a commonlaw marriage is entitled to a share of the property acquired during the marriage. She said she was a housewife during the years in the marriage before she began work with the children’s charity, the Kids First Fund.

The couple split in 2007 and have been working on a settlement since then. But
last Tuesday Singh went public with complaints she did not receive proper maintenance or care during the marriage after she had been locked out of State House on the instructions of the President. Singh will return to the UK to conduct fundraising activities for the Kids First Fund. She will return to the country in April. She said her decision to go public was a last resort and emphasized that she is a “private person” but she did not see any other way. “I didn’t want to do what I ended up having to do,” she explained. “It wasn’t a joyful thing to bare your soul to the nation.”

Asked to react to critics who might say she participated in a “sham” by remaining in the union, she said, “I would say guilty as charged, but I didn’t know what else I could do. She added that she tried every single year of the marriage to get the President to agree “to call it a day” and agree to a settlement. She dismissed the suggestion that the union was a marriage of convenience, arranged to enhance the then junior minister’s candidacy to assume the presidency.

She recounted that she first saw Jagdeo when he was still Finance Minister and Varshnie Singh Bharrat Jagdeo made his first budget presentation to the National Assembly. They met the next year at a party fundraiser in the UK and a friendship subsequently developed, she said, noting that they had similar ideas about the development of the country. She admitted that Jagdeo was “anxious” for marriage, noting that although she had suggested an engagement he insisted on marriage. “…They say women drag men up the aisle – it was the other way around,” she said, adding that she was convinced the relationship was sincere: “I thought we were in love… It was a normal relationship.” She said the first week into the marriage she was locked out of the couple’s bedroom. She could not explain the President’s behavior, saying he was angry and she did not know why. Singh noted that she had returned to UK in 1999, a year after the couple were married, to further her studies. She said she had resolved not to return but had been asked by Jagdeo to attend his swearing in when he assumed the presidency that year. She recalled a kind of “pressure,” with the elections having been dubbed by the opposition as rigged. Singh agreed to attend and arrived on the morning of the swearing in, traveling directly from the airport to the ceremony. Explaining the decision to remove Singh from State House, President Jagdeo in a statement said it was expected that she would have left State House when they announced their separation.
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