Enmore Residents Pay Last Respects to President Jagan

by: Robert Bazil

(Courtesy of the Guyana Chronicle - March 11, 1997)

Hundreds of sugar workers left the production line at Enmore Sugar Estate yesterday and, with many other residents, lined the East Coast Demerara Public Road to pay homage to a man who fought tirelessly for the cause of those in the sugar belt.

Among those in the crowd were relatives of the five Enmore Martyrs who were gunned down in 1948 by colonial sugar barons during a peaceful strike at the same estate.

Yesterday, they waited, and waited behind a row of police barricades thrown up to control the huge crowds.

Earlier, the procession left Public Buildings after a State Ceremony which lasted for over three hours, passed through Robb Street in front of the PPP/Civic Headquarters, Freedom House, before heading to the East Coast Demerara.

The cortege was originally scheduled to stop briefly at the Enmore Martyrs Monument before making its way up to Rosignol for the Berbice River crossing to Port Mourant. But it was later decided that the procession would stop only briefly at the Enmore Public Road.

Enmore was a special place for the President and consequently, the operations of the estate ground to a halt as the truck bearing his body, passed the village.

All the workers turned out in full force to show their appreciation and to express their sorrow at his passing.

The estate's security force joined policemen in ensuring proper crown control.

Commissioner of Police, Laurie Lewis, who traveled ahead of the procession, arrived at the Enmore Public Road at about 1:15 p.m. to ensure the smooth passage of the convoy.

At about 1:30 p.m., two police escorts appeared in the distance, prompting a flurry of activity from the crowd.

Then came two Police cars, followed by four other escorts and another car.

And finally, the truck stopped at Enmore.

Residents shouted words of praise for the President's work in the sugar belt, as well as the struggle of the Guyanese people generally.

Those in the crowd shed no tears, seeming to indicate confidence in the now popular slogan "Don't worry, be happy. Everything will be alright."

Mrs. Janet Jagan, her daughter Nadira, son-in-law Mark and other members of the family came out of the car and greeted residents. They also met relatives of the Enmore Martyrs.

A delegation from the Enmore PPP group also sympathised with the Jagan family during the brief stop.

Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) Communications Manager, Mr. Abraham Poole, who was at the sugar producing village, said: "We could have anticipated that it would be the natural response that there would be such an outpouring of grief and that production would be halted (or) slowed tremendously."

Poole stated that the Port Mourant/Albion Estate on the Corentyne, Berbice is expected to be in a similar situation today.

Dr. Jagan's body will lie in state at the Albion Sports Complex, Corentyne form 6 a.m. to noon.

"The estate, certainly, in anticipation of this has taken the measures...this is what we expect...this is what we knew would happen," Pooled added.

Bisnaught Surujbally whose father was one of the martyrs, said he was a baby at the time of his father's death and never knew him. But President Jagan, whom he met on several occasions, helped him to understand the sacrifice his father made for the sugar industry.

The slaying of the Enmore sugar workers was among the things which motivated Dr. Jagan to pick up the struggles of the sugar workers.

And, Mr. Mohonhar Bhari, the younger brother of another martyr, Rambarran, recalled that he was at school at the time when he learnt that his brother was fatally shot.

Latchmin Narine said her husband, Harry Narine was shot in the heel, but managed to survive the 1948 attack on the sugar workers. He died in 1971.

Latchmin, who had a 12-day-old baby at the time, was forced to work after the incident.

Meanwhile, retired sugar worker, Ramalingum, who received a Medal of Service award in 1992, remembered getting shot in his thigh, from the back, as he was running away from the bullets.

"When I heard about the death of the President, I could hardly describe it...it was a lost feeling...I could not see or hear for some moments, because it was a shock to me," he recalled.

Ramalingum remembered spending 21 days in the Georgetown Hospital after being shot.

"I was working on the estate and there was a strike after they changed the system from cut and drop to cut and load which meant that some people would have lost their jobs," he said.

According to him, the MCPA union had signed an agreement with the company without the knowledge of the workers.

"I was in the factory in the area of the punt slip at the time trying to run out," he said, adding that since then, he has never left the estate.