Mrs. Jagan championed democracy, women’s rights and the working class – President Ali
– Says the Government and PPP committed to the causes to which she devoted her life
His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali remembered the late former President Janet Jagan OE as a bastion in the fight to restore democracy to Guyana and as a champion of the working class and women.
These attributes, President Ali asserted, are wedded to the ideals of his Government and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) – of which she was a founding member.
He made the statement while reflecting on the life and work of Mrs Jagan at Red House on Thursday. The event was in honour of the 102nd anniversary of her birth.
“Janet Jagan was a phenomenal woman. She was a bastion in the fight for the restoration of democracy; a champion of the working class, and one of Guyana’s foremost advocates for women’s rights and freedoms.”
The President praised Mrs Jagan for her contributions to not only the PPP but the entire country. He said her name is etched in Guyana’s history, and her achievements can never be erased.
“She was part of the historic struggle for our Independence. She was in the political vanguard in our country’s epic campaign for the restoration of democracy and later for its consolidation after 1992.”
President Ali said the political giant will remain a timeless figure in the country and the party’s history.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS ADVOCATE
He elucidated on Jagan’s role as a “constant and consistent” campaigner for women’s rights. He said that a mere year after arriving in Guyana, she took up the challenge in support of women’s rights.
“The Political Affairs Committee (PAC) and the Women’s Political and Economic Organisation (WPEO), which she founded, lent strident and sustained agitation for universal adult suffrage and for women’s rights and empowerment. She linked the struggle for universal adult suffrage to the rights of women since, at that time, the majority of women were disenfranchised from voting because of property considerations. For Janet, the suffrage was not only about the right to vote but also about empowering women politically.”
The President noted that Jagan helped to pilot and support legislation that secured better conditions for women. Specifically, he explained that during her tenure as a Minister with responsibility for health, labour and housing, she promulgated legislation that reduced work hours for store workers—most of whom were women.
“Recognising the difficulties women and their families faced as a result of landlordism and poor living conditions, she established housing for working-class families. Janet Jagan expanded our understanding of women’s rights. She saw women’s rights as going beyond something that is enacted in law and the Constitution. For her, women’s rights were not ‘paper rights’ but must have social and economic dimensions.”
Her philosophy and ideology, the President stated, were far ahead of her time, especially as it relates to her support for women’s rights and women empowerment.
WORKING CLASS RIGHTS ADVOCATE
The Head of State also emphasised that politics for Jagan was practical and hands-on. He said she believed and insisted on going out into the communities to meet, listen, learn and organise.
“This experience allowed her to have a first-hand grasp and understanding of the struggles of ordinary people. When she spoke, whether it was in the legislature or at party meetings, she spoke from experience. She understood the reality on the ground, and she identified with the suffering of the working class. Her approach to politics was a practical approach.”
Mrs Jagan was praised as the “unfaltering champion of the working class”. The President said that while her commitment to the working class may have been influenced by her ideological stance, no one can dispute that she was a profound humanitarian.
“She was a fervent defender of the poor and powerless. Janet Jagan worked relentlessly to improve their well-being. It was through her exertions that the party was able to build its support base at the grassroots. She was one of the ablest party organisers. Her ability to connect with the ordinary citizen endeared the public to her and to the PPP.”
President Ali emphasised that “we who stand on the shoulders of the achievements of these iconic leaders” continue to walk in their footsteps and remain committed to their working-class ideals.
“When we invest in better education for our children, we are fulfilling the legacy of Janet Jagan. When we improve health care, we are imitating her concern for the well-being of the poor. Our massive housing drive draws inspiration from her tremendous efforts in providing homes for working-class families. When we provide support for children, the elderly and the disabled, we are continuing the mission of serving the most vulnerable.”