(Courtesy of the Guyana Chronicle - March 13, 1997)
Executive member of the People's Progressive Party, Mr. Ralph Ramkarran yesterday touched on the remarkable life of Dr. Cheddi Jagan at the cremation of the late President in his home village of Port Mourant. In place of our regular editorial, we today publish the text of his remarks.
"Dr. Cheddi Jagan's journey through life has now come to an end. As we return his body to the winds of his native village and weep his passing, we try to understand what combination of elements created such a life as his and what forces determined his unerring but uncharted course in service of his people.
Revolutionaries believed that no struggle is ever in vain. If this is so then the soil of Port Mourant would have absorbed the battle sounds and revolutionary spirit of resisting slave and indentured labourers.
And as young Cheddi roamed the fields of Port Mourant in childhood abandon, he must have subconsciously heard the cries of pain of his people rising up form the fields in which he worked and played.
Dr. Jagan himself remarked about the importance of his early life. Shortly after the election of the People's Progressive Party/Civic in October 1992, he addressed a series of rallies to thank the Guyanese people for the trust and confidence they reposed in him. I attended the rally in Kitty, in Demerara and listened to it with rapt attention and I recall his moving recollection of his father and his childhood years in Port Mourant.
It was clear and even though Cheddi Jagan had physically left Port Mourant in 1936 at the age of 18 and had already spent several years in school in Georgetown, the lessons of his childhood which helped to shape his dreams and ideals were among the most powerful and enduring.
Yet his childhood was as ordinary as any at that time. As he grew older and became more knowledgeable and experienced, as adult life taught him the realities of deprivation, discrimination and struggle, he began to understand the exploitation of labour and the anguish of class destruction which he experience as a child but the significance of which he did not then grasp.
As we reflect on his life and work, we try to seek out those lessons of his childhood that helped to create this mighty warrior with a warm heart and a gentle spirit.
His restless energy and powerful intellect drove him on and on, to seek answers to the problems of injustice, exploitation and poverty. No matter what others felt, he did not believe that such conditions of life were an inevitable consequence of our existence or that they were ordained by any superior force. He believed that they were man made and capable of being resolved here and now by the actions of men and women.
His sensitivity to social, economic and political injustice and his amazing capacity to summon up and focus his entire being for his entire life after he graduated from University, must have been qualities which he inherited from his parents.
From what he spoke about his parents we gather that he took his drive form his father, whom he clearly admired, and deep and profound hatred of colonialism from the realisation that this system of exploitation was responsible for keeping his mother and millions of mothers around the world in bondage and servitude. He alluded directly to all of these matters in his writings.
Early in his life, Cheddi Jagan determined that not only will he not subscribe to British rule in British Guyana but that he will actively confront the might of the British Empire in Guyana and wherever else it existed.
His journey from Port Mourant took him to Georgetown then to the United States where he saw and experienced racism in practice, where he learnt about the independence struggles in India, where the heroic resistance of the International Brigade to Spanish fascism was being played out, where the triumphant march of socialism stood its ground against the German Nazis in the Second World War.
These lesson triggered his childhood experienced and supplemented by his lifelong thirst for knowledge which he acquired by reading, he led the way in the establishment of Political Affairs Committee in 1946 along with his life partner Janet Jagan, Ashton Chase and H.J.M. Hubbard, before he was 30 years old.
He won a seat in the Legislative Assembly in 1947 and joined in the struggle of the Enmore sugar workers in 1948. When the Enmore Martyrs gave their lives for our freedom, his pledge was made, his life's course was set, there was no turning back.
He took the lessons of Port Mourant with him for the next 50 years and this humble village will forever mark the life of this patriot as the place from which he embarked on his extraordinary career. It is most fitting that he should return at the end of his eventful journey which took him on a national and international crusade against poverty and injustice to become once again a part of the atmosphere which gave him life.
The nation on Monday paid formal tribute to the life and work of our late President, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, freely and fondly referred to as Cheddi by every Guyanese man, woman and child.
We heard of his great qualities and achievements and the devoted service he gave to the working people of Guyana. We heard that his service to Guyana left it a different place from when he started his journey. We heard how he fearlessly challenged Guyana's powerful opponents without a moment's hesitation, without regard to personal cost or sacrifice. Above all, we heard of his humility, befitting a son of this soil.
We heard the tributes which have been paid to him by distinguished Guyanese personalities and politicians. We heard the sentiments expressed by foreign governments.
Above all, we heard the footsteps of the largest numbers of Guyanese ever to come together in our history, putting aside all differences, united at last in sad but warm embrace of Cheddi Jagan and his message of peace and unity.
No greater tribute could have been paid to this simple, unassuming man than the time taken by so many to set their eyes on him in a final glimpse as he lay at rest or as he went on his way in his final journey to this place.
And so we send him on, forever grateful that he touched our lives and showed us that we do not have to accept a destiny for ourselves which is determined by others, that our own actions can make a difference to our lives.
Our entire nation is grateful to Port Mourant for sending us this son. We ask you to receive him back with our thanks."