Janet Jagan, the last Immigrant, a news feature by Enrico M Woolford aired on WRHM Capitol News on Monday March 30, 2009
In the early forties in then British Guiana when Mrs Janet Jagan as a young bride of a young Guianese Dentist came to this colony of migrant workers as it then was, she was in fact an immigrant from the United States. Mrs. Jagan had arrived in a country that had desperately poor people who were children for the most part of forced migration. In this crucible the young politically sensitive and culturally aware Janet Jagan began to forge with her energetic and conscientious husband Dr. Cheddi Jagan a political movement that not only changed Guyana but created a national political consciousness that later resulted in both a power struggle and independence.
The struggle for political organization and consciousness began in earnest when Dr Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan, Joycelyn Hubbard and Ashton Chase formed the Political Affairs Committee, the PAC sixty three years ago. All the founders have now passed except Ashton Chase. The Political Affairs Committee through its work gave rise to the formation of People’s Progressive Party.
Mrs. Jagan was instrumental in the organization of that committee and one of the first things that the PAC did was to publish a bulletin. Long before the internet, the organizers of Guyana’s first mass based party, including Mrs Jagan realized that to reach the masses one had to reach their minds. She largely kept the message of the PPP alive in the long years while the party was in opposition through her involvement with the official organ Thunder and the party’s newspaper the Mirror.
Former Minister of Information Moses Nagamootoo recalled that she had a legend that reads “never knowingly tell a lie”. He noted that as Editor of the Mirror she would vet the stories and use the old and tested guide “In doubt, Find Out”.
The early forties saw the then young political leader use her influence too as a woman to reach out to women in Guyana. As an immigrant woman from a developed society and a world power after World War two it bothered her that women were not actively involved in politics on the scale that they ought to have been. According to historian Hazel Woolford “Women’s growing involvement in politics received a major impetus in 1946 when on July 9th the first women’s political organization. The Women’s political and Economic Organisation was formed”. Of course the leader was Janet Jagan.
A party colleague from the Women’s movement and former Minister Indra Chandarpal reflected role in “breaking the glass ceiling”. Mrs Chanderpal stated that when “we look at JJ’s (as she was fondly called) contribution from then to now, we can say that she started out fighting for and taking up the issue for women, it has been a reality, she has seen it in her own lifetime becoming Prime Minister and President.”
The early years according to historians and some who are still around to reflect and recall through both partisan and non partisan perspectives were not easy for the American immigrant woman who along with her husband attempted to raise the political consciousness of Guyanese. The rough and tumble of politics led to attacks and bitterness. However as history has proven Mrs Janet Jagan survived and dominated the political landscape for nearly three score and ten years and that is a lifetime!