Lis Harper’s role in the victimisation of Varshnie Jagdeo

When former First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo spoke out in 2009 about what she called hi-tech domestic violence, she spoke of her fears and insecurities living in a country where her oppressor had his hand in every facet of the day to day functioning of the country. This put Varshnie in a precarious position that she could not escape.

That was 6 years ago. Yesterday, I came across a blog entry from Blogger Mark Jacobs titled Jagdeo’s abused former “wife” attended PPP Kitty Rally #guyana. Jacobs recalled an account from the former First Lady where she documented, in great detail, her decade-long experience.

I reblogged that piece with a small note saying: “This is the story of how Guyana’s former First Lady endured countless acts of domestic violence and state victimisation while living with a shameless beast who was elected to serve and protect the people of Guyana. Former President Jagdeo’s treatment of his wife is an extension of his treatment to all Guyanese who dared oppose him. There are many who turn a blind eye to this coward, they praise him for what he has done, but I can’t shake the idea that if a man could be so cruel to his wife for what he believed was opposing him, think of how cruel he could be to an average citizen to whom he had no attachment or no obligation.”

With all that said, it was the role of then Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elisabeth Harper, now PPP/C Prime Ministerial Candidate, in the victimisation of the former First Lady that has me baffled…

Varshnie wrote in 2009:

“When I would go overseas to do Kids First work the Guyana Officials there would be told by Office of the President that my trip was not official, Kids First was my hobby and not to afford me the “official” courtesies one might expect anywhere else in the world. Sometimes I was “officially” First Lady other times I was not according to Office of the President.”

“In September 2008, we planned to hold a food fair fundraiser at the Guyana High Commission [in London] which would have raised ₤5,000-₤6,000, it was stopped because the High Commissioner received a letter from the Director General (Lis Harper), which stated on the instruction of the President, Kids First Fund is no longer to have access or use of the building.”

These statements from 2009, brought forward to the 2015 context baffle me for two reasons.

1. Harper herself, as she said in an interview after the announcement of her PM candidacy, was a victim of domestic violence. Harper spoke about her first marriage in a recent interview with Olive Gopaul:

“He is still the father of my children but the marriage didn’t last… because he didn’t respect my decision… he didn’t support my decision to further my career at the University… my education… and he became abusive also and I just felt that that wasn’t right for me to subject myself to that or my children to that treatment or that environment. It was very unhealthy… it was physical abuse. 


2. Harper’s platform as PPP/C Prime Ministerial Candidate is against domestic violence, yet she allowed Bharrat Jagdeo to indirectly place a noose around the neck of Varshnie Jagdeo. Harper spoke at a rally of the PPP/C where she was sharing the stage with former President Bharrat Jagdeo. She said:

“Domestic violence destroys a woman’s self-confidence, it destroys the family, it destroys everything about who we are as a society. And we want the men to partner with us as we move forward to fight this scourge.” 

At this point, I feel hurt for both Lis and Varshnie having both survived their tortures. Especially considering these events have a tendency to end in the worst case scenario as I identified in one of my previous posts on Domestic Violence, but in the game of Politics, there are certain grandstanding declarations that should not be made. The logic of sharing the stage with Jagdeo and speaking against domestic violence is like fetching water from the Demerara River with a strainer.

This photo was originally taken from the blog of Mark Jacobs and features former First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo attending a rally of the People's Progressive Party/Civic where Jagdeo was speaking.
This photo was originally taken from the blog of Mark Jacobs and features former First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo attending a rally of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic where Jagdeo was speaking.

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