I refer to Mr. Rashleigh Jackson’s letter of December 12, 2009, a response to what I wrote “The 1964 Elections: A Betrayal of trust.”
I express no surprise at Mr. Jackson’s letter because of what it is! And I can say the same things of his note: his “formulations and assertions are, on occasions, tendentious, incorrect, misleading and not always reflective of the “whole truth”; but let me not traverse that road that would lead to nothingness.
The focus of my piece was to show the British and American grand designs for Guyana that gained mileage way back in the 1950s; consider Sir Alfred Savage’s Report on Guyana in September 1953 where he clearly alluded to the extremism of the PPP leaders and expressions of an uneasy concern with a PPP Government. And note that the early 1950s in the U.S. witnessed the McCarthy witch-hunt against Communism, and the beginnings of the Cold War with a rhetorically running battle between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.
And, perhaps, Mr. Jackson believes that his undue concerns with the term ‘perceived’ will create some paradigm shift to place some political leaders in a good light vis-à-vis the early British and American machinations, culminating in the removal of the PPP Government. The issue of ‘perceived’ is irrelevant because if the colonial authorities concluded that the PPP was communist, then in its first term in office in 1953, its legislative actions erased those colonial conclusions.
Timothy Luke in a letter to Phillip Rodgers at the Colonial Office in September 1953 clearly identified and justified the possible use of Mr. Burnham and affiliates as a way to restore the glory days of the plantocracy vis-à-vis a communist conspiracy to remove the ‘bad boys’ – those clearly resistant to any further consolidation of the plantation system. U.S. Declassified Documents make numerous references to Mr. Burnham and affiliates as possible political surrogates in the absence of a Jagan and a PPP.
The first PPP Administration in 1953 introduced several Bills: to repeal the Undesirable Publications Ordinance; lifting the ban on entry of West Indian trade unionists and politicians, the Rice Farmers (Security of Tenure) Bill; and the Labour relations Bill; the British classified these Bills as communist measures; in fact, these were all working-class bills to improve the lot of workers.
But what is very damaging to whoever the cap fits, was the 1964 election results; I present them again for the schoolchildren to assimilate; but you know, we should include adults here, too, even the so-called intellectual ones.
The PPP secured the most votes and it was the only Party that increased its percentage share of the votes over the 1961 election.
And here was the other bone of contention that Jackson misunderstood. With such a majority, British conventions would allow Dr. Cheddi Jagan to form the government as the leader of the Party with the majority of votes. Instead, the Governor, through a constitutional amendment, called on Mr. Burnham of the People’s National Congress (PNC) to establish a government with the assistance of the UF (United Force), creating the short-lived PNC-UF Coalition.
Here is a note from Colonial secretary Anthony Greenwood to Premier Cheddi Jagan: “The Governor has told me that in the course of discussions about the election result you have expressed serious doubts about whether you and your Government should resign forthwith. I do not think that you can seriously maintain that you could get a majority in the new Assembly and I want desperately – as I am sure you do – to see stability in British Guiana. Apart from anything else I am afraid that continued uncertainty may lead to further bloodshed and unhappiness. I do ask you most earnestly to take this into account and to enable the new Government to be formed. We have no wish to resort to Constitutional amendment. But we should have no alternative if you obstructed the formation of a new Government. This is very urgent. That is why I am making this personal approach. Anthony Greenwood”.
The amendment happened because Dr. Jagan refused to resign as Premier; the amendment fully consummated made way for the formation of a new government.
And Jackson is wrong about the PR system was an imposition by invitation. Whether or not it was PR or whatever electoral system, the American and British authorities were intent upon removing the PPP from the political scene. The whole thing about the invitation was a charade to demonstrate that inputs for the new electoral arrangement came from local political leaders; in point of fact, these external aggressors were the mastermind behind this new electoral system.
I wrote this piece on December 7, 2009, to mark 45 years of the infamous 1964 Election Day in the then British Guiana. And to show that the December 1964 elections brought a temporary conclusion to the battle between a capitalist and anti-plantocracy orientation in Guyana; leaving the problem of class, race and ethnicity in a state of flux, precisely what the foreign interventionists desired.
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