The Suspension of the British Guiana Constitution - (Declassified British documents)
HOUSTON — Guyana, the tiny English-speaking South American . Industrywide, exploration and production investments are expected to rise. Guyana, a former British colony on the north shore of South America, may soon of , people can expect to net $1 million a day in oil earnings. a border controversy dating back to Guyana's days as a British colony. The P.P.P. know that Great Britain takes her colonial responsibilities . In this present despatch I have the honour to try to bring the picture to date, and to give.
They are not always experienced or practical or objective in their ideas. They would be in many more difficulties without the frank and impartial comments, the help and advice of the officials. In Executive Council their have been a number of exhausting differences of opinion; but no malice remains afterwards; both sides have been eager to avoid major crises. In the Ministers' favour it must be recorded that they work very long hours both in their offices and public duties and in explaining Government and party policy and actions throughout the length of the coastlands.
That this working partnership is being maintained in the face of all the criticism and suspicions is a considerable achievement. I very much admire my senior officials. It has been shown that it is not impossible to carry on the administration in association with Jaganism under a Constitution of this type.
It has yet to be proved whether it would be equally possible if a far greater measure of self-government were given. Jagan himself with is insistent wife at his elbow dominates his party. Major decisions are made to his dictation in an inner council usually consisting of himself, his wife, Mr. The party executive is then required to endorse these decisions. Those who are brave enough to resist or question are discredited among the rest of the party. Beharry alone gained some position as a dissident but has not the strength to lead a major break-away.
The leaders' preoccupation with Ministerial duties has led to a marking time in party organisation and the spread of Communist teaching. But the party organisation, particularly in the rural areas, is a very long way ahead of its rivals. There is no change in Dr. He fills his head with Marxist politico-economic theories.
They seem to mean more to him than present realities. Perhaps he has faith that world Communism will triumph even in this hemisphere early enough for him to try out his theories. But with all his theories and arguments, and with all his obsessions and conceits, he has not insisted on any action which seems calculated purposefully to disrupt the present economy and way of life.
The minor pinpricks have been all in keeping with much publicised past party manifestos. It has been noticeable that although the local economy is still buoyant, and all existing projects have been continued, since he came to power there has been no new major investment in the country.
It is still difficult to say however whether this return to a previous rate in commercial and industrial development after the sudden flowering of alumina and manganese and oil exploration is due to the uncertainties of investors about Dr. Jagan's policies and abilities and long-term intentions, or merely to the general North American recession or the non-discovery of sufficiently favourable opportunities.
He has learnt something about development finance; his visit to the United Kingdom and the United States and the subsequent visit here of a World Bank official have taught him that neither threats nor charm will bring money without sound plans, and that the scale of his dreams has little relation to the amount of development capital likely to be available and supportable in this country. He was a bit thrown off balance by his complete failure to frighten Her Majesty's Government into disproportionate financial help.
And he was further shaken by the outright rejection of his subsequent call for coalition to "demand" more financial help and constitutional advance to internal self-government. He has not been so easy to work with since. But his economic theories and the economic vicissitudes of the country take a second place in his thinking. Self-government and the end of colonialism will always come first.
It is for that reason that however difficult the finances and economics, however unfair and disconcerting the political opposition, however seemingly unaccommodating the Colonial Office and local officials, he does not want to give up office.
He cannot let anybody else lead the national struggle for independence. Jagan is feeling the strain of his position. He has ages ten years since the election. He will not accept without suspicion unwelcome advice, even professional advice of those outside his own way of thinking, however distinguished; he has almost nobody inside his party with the ability to help him to resolve his suspicions. He follows his star. He is forced to carry almost the whole intellectual burden himself.
Instead of getting ahead with practical action he causes delays and frustration by his opinions and antagonisms by his dialectics and theorising. Examples of such delays concern the future of rice milling and the marketing of rice, the generation of electricity by nuclear reactors or conventional plant, taxation and development policy, the encouragement of trade unionism and the choice of economic advisers.
He is losing popularity and he knows it but puts it behind him. The opposition to him in the urban and African areas is open and abusive. He must be worried that the latest split in his party executive is no longer led by African Left-wing intellectuals who find it impossible to work with him, but by Mr. Beharry, an East Indian and a popular member of the Government who has gained a slightly spurious reputation for getting things done.
In his own East Indian rural areas Dr. Jagan is perhaps no longer a Messiah. His followers will now discuss and criticise his Government actions.
But he has only to speak to them to win them back. They have certainly not yet reached the stage when they would vote for anybody else. Under our present franchise he would in my opinion undoubtedly still carry the P. His Government does not know how to win friends.
It does not seem to want to win friends. It will take on anybody. Let them all come! It has the courage of its convictions. But its convictions are too often irrational obsessions. I am sure that there is not yet an alternative elected Government.
Jagan's resignation at present would be a disaster.
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Burnham is the only alternative leader of national size. He is not an attractive character like Dr. The West Indies do not respect him so much and he will never attract the world Press in the same way.
He is cynical, superficial, unreliable, prejudiced and irrational. But he is the man who appeals to the African masses, and with his wit and cleverness he shows no signs of losing his leadership.
In Legislative Council he sneeringly and unscrupulously attacks the Government without regard to the running of the country. He dominates the scene like a favourite pupil more than the Speaker should allow and frequently behaves more like a cross-examining counsel than a Parliamentary debater.
Jagan of the elected Ministers has the authority to stand up to him and Dr. Jagan, with his stubborn confidence in his own opinions, has only minor interest in Parliamentary matters and seldom bestirs himself. But for all his unpleasantness Mr.
Burnham seems to be growing and if his turn comes he is perhaps no longer unthinkable as a chief Minister or Premier however difficult and untrustworthy a colleague he might be.
During the year, he has brought off on his terms rather than theirs the essential merger of his party with the more moderate African and commercial opinion represented by the United Democratic Party. The City Council by majority vote have elected him Mayor of Georgetown. He has established a considerable liaison between his party, the People's National Congress and Dr.
Williams' party in Trinidad, the People's National Movement. He has still to succeed in attracting the non-Jaganite East Indians to his party and making it the Guianese Nationalist Party which might be able to challenge the P. Some people doubt whether he sincerely wishes to have East Indians with him.
But he has come out openly against Communism and declared himself clearly for democratic Socialism within the Commonwealth and the Western world. He is taking more advice and of better quality and may even as Mayor learn that with and cleverness are not a substitute for thoroughness and hard work.
He has no love for Great Britain. He is as rabid an anti-colonialist as Dr. Jagan and will never allow himself to be outdistanced by the P. He believes that Dr. Jagan's power in the land will be almost impossible to break while he can put the responsibility for shortcomings and failures on to the Governor and the Colonial Office.
Burnham would wish to see complete self-government given to British Guiana with some checks and balances but without effective reserve powers because he is sure that Dr. Jagan would smash himself when he could no longer shift the responsibility on to somebody else. He is not so realistic about the economic disaster which might afflict the country in the process. There has been no advance indeed none was expected in converting Dr. Jagan from his Marxist and Communist theorising.
There continues to be the greatest doubt whether Dr. Jagan while retaining his beliefs may ever become consciously willing to compromise with realities and to try produce policies and procedures which will work in our economic and geographical situation.
He is devoted to his own vision of the new world. On the other hand his intentions though very Left wing do not appear to be revolutionary. Hi continuance in power may lead to stagnation through incapacity and failure to attract investment, or damage to the economy through his personal obsessions rather than disruption through subversive Communist methods. The success of the year has been in building up a real opposition to Jaganism, Marxism and Communism. The dark edge to this success has been that it has largely been accomplished through racialism.
I think the opposition is real and permanent. If we can widen it from the educated, thinking European-Portuguese-African section of the community to include more of the East Indian shopkeepers and landowners and professional men, whether or not they will join political parties, I think we shall have something with sufficient force and following to stand against any of Dr. Jagan's theories or longer-term intentions. Once we have got such a Guianese body of opinion, convinced in their own minds and not just to toady to officialdom, then I think that, even if his rural vote keeps Dr.
Jagan in power, so far as major Communist disruption is concerned "he couldn't do it here. If we wish to bring his rule to an end, thee may be ways of convincing Dr.
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Jagan's rural followers that he is not the leader they want without smashing the whole economy of the country. Failure to solve the problems of the rice industry could hasten his downfall if the whole responsibility was put on him. The Opposition is spear-headed by Mr. Burnham with the other non-P. Burnham and his followers of course back it up with considerable ability in his weekly newspaper, The New Nation.
But that is only the beginning. A majority of the members of the Courts was appointed by the Governor; the rest were selected by a College of Kiezers Electors.
The Kiezers were elected, with the restrictive franchise based on property holdings and limited to the larger landowners of the colony. The Courts were dominated in the early centuries by the sugar planters and their representatives.
In the College of Kiezers was abolished in favour of direct election of the elective membership of the Courts. Membership of the Court of Policy became half elected and half appointed, and all of the Financial Representatives became elective positions. The executive functions of the Court of Policy were transferred to a new Executive Council under the control of the Governor.
Property qualifications were significantly relaxed for voters and for candidates to the Courts. In the British Government abolished the Dutch-influenced constitution and replaced it with a Crown colony constitution.
A Legislative Council with an appointed majority was established, and the administrative powers of the Governor were strengthened. These constitutional changes were not popular among the Guyanese, who viewed them as a step backward. The franchise was extended to women. In the West India Royal Commission "The Moyne Commission" was appointed to investigate the economic and social condition of all the British colonies in the Caribbean region after a number of civil and labour disturbances.
Among other changes, the Commission recommended some constitutional reforms. As a result, in a majority of the Legislative Council seats became elective, the property qualifications for voters and for candidates for the Council were lowered, and the bar on women and clergy serving on the Council was abolished.
The Governor retained control of the Executive Council, which had the power to veto or pass laws against the wishes of the Legislative Council. The next round of constitutional reforms came in A bicameral legislatureconsisting of a lower House of Assembly and an upper State Council, was established.
The voting membership of the House of Assembly was entirely elective. The membership of the State Council was appointed by the Governor and the House of Assembly, and possessed limited revisionary powers. A Court of Policy became the executive body, consisting of the Governor and other colonial officials. Universal adult suffrage was instituted, and the property qualifications for office abolished.
The election of 27 April under the new system provoked a serious constitutional crisis. It considered the PPP as too friendly with communist organisations. As a result of its fears of communist influence in the colony, the British Government suspended the constitution, declared a state of emergencyand militarily occupied British Guiana on 9 October Under the direction of the British Colonial Officethe Governor assumed direct rule of the colony under an Interim Government, which continued until On 12 Augustelections were held and the PPP won nine of fourteen elective seats in a new legislature.
A constitutional convention convened in London in March reached agreement on another new legislature, to consist of an elected House of Assembly 35 seats and a nominated Senate 13 seats. In the ensuing election of 21 Augustthe PPP won 20 seats in the House of Assembly, entitling it as the majority party to appoint eight senators. Upon the election, British Guiana also became self-governingexcept as to defence and external matters. The leader of the majority party became Prime Minister, who then named a Council of Ministers, replacing the former Executive Council.
From toriots, strikes and other disturbances stemming from racial, social and economic conflicts delayed full independence for British Guiana. The leaders of the political parties reported to the British Colonial Secretary that they were unable to reach agreement on the remaining details of forming an independent government. The British Colonial Office intervened by imposing its own independence plan, in part requiring another election under a new proportional representation system.
Britain expected that this system would reduce the number of seats won by the PPP and prevent it from obtaining a majority. The December elections for the new legislature gave the PPP In November an independence conference in London quickly reached agreement on an independent constitution; it set the date for independence as 26 May On that date, at 12 midnight, British Guiana became the new nation of Guyana.
British Guiana and its boundary lines, Western boundary with Venezuela[ edit ] Inthe British Government assigned Robert Hermann Schomburgk to survey and mark out the western boundary of British Guiana with newly independent Venezuela. Venezuela did not accept the Schomburgk Linewhich placed the entire Cuyuni River basin within the colony.
Venezuela claimed all lands west of the Essequibo River as its territory see map in this section. The dispute continued on and off for half a century, culminating in the Venezuela Crisis ofin which Venezuela sought to use the United States' Monroe Doctrine to win support for its position.