‘100 Years Under British Rule rather than one year under Jagan’, a slogan waved aloft by the Opposition to the People’s Progressive Party in British Guiana, gives a keyhole look at what is behind the conflict in the small South American Colony seeking independence. The United Force, representing the moneyed, right-wing Catholic interests, prefers British or American control of the country rather than government by the ppp which has a declared socialist policy. And to achieve its end it has started a John Birch-type hysteria to the effect that every act of the ppp brings the country closer to ‘Soviet slavery’. The control of two daily newspapers has made their task easier.

Also making their task easier has been the covert collusion with the United Force of the People’s National Congress, the Party led by Forbes Burnham, onetime Chairman of the ppp. Professing a socialist policy and, on occasion, using the socially accepted phraseology ranging from ‘democratic socialism’ to ‘to each according to his needs’, Burnham cleanses himself periodically by uttering statements like the following at press conferences in New York. Last year he played up to anti-Cuban hysteria in the us by declaring that there were 1,000 Cubans in British Guiana, many having come in secretly through the borders. (There was actually one Cuban in the country when he made his announcement.) This year, in New York, he told the press that he was the champion of the battle against communism in the Caribbean. He is reported in the Pittsburg Courier as charging Dr Jagan with leading the country into the ‘Soviet Sphere’ and receiving $5.5 million from the Soviet Union.

When the ppp carried a picket line around Government House last year demanding independence and accusing British Colonial policy of prolonging the stagnation of the economy and creating the unemployment problem, Burnham s pnc men attacked the picket line. ‘We don’t want independence’ members of the pnc shouted at me on the picket line. And basically, this is one of the problems in British Guiana. There has been no united call for independence. In fact, the Opposition parties in British Guiana have clearly indicated that they do not want independence if the People’s Progressive Party is at the helm. This strange, colonial outlook has been nurtured and fed by conservative and reactionary interests in the United States of America, United Kingdom and in British Guiana.

The results of the October London Conference confirm that the slogan of ‘no independence under Jagan’ has been supported in full by the Colonial Office. Every possible stop-gap has been used to prevent the ppp from being in office when the British are finally ready to transfer power in British Guiana.

In the three elections that have been held in British Guiana since the formation of political parties and the introduction of adult suffrage, the People’s Progressive Party has won each time. In 1953, the British Government suspended the Constitution and removed the ppp Ministers from office after 4 1/2*** months. A handpicked, puppet Government headed by the British appointed Governor ruled the country up to 1957. With endless restrictions and curtailment of civil liberties which would cause even the segregationists in the American South a gasp of horror, they planned the political death of the ppp. Added to restrictions on movement, arrests, jailing without trial, a split in the ppp was engineered and a decapitation of the Trade Union Council achieved. Thus, with all the cards in their favour, the British Colonial Office allowed another election, but not before making sure that the constituency boundaries were fixed against any possible ppp victory. A total upset took place. The ppp won nine out of fourteen elected seats. So fraudulent were the ‘gerrymandered’ constituency boundaries, that the leader of the ppp Dr Jagan, polled more votes from his constituency than did the five winning candidates of the Opposition.

In 1961, elections were held. This time constituency boundaries were again manipulated by a British boundary commissioner. The ppp alone protested vehemently against the decisions of the boundary commission. But the protests were ignored and elections were held, with the British Colonial Secretary fully in charge of the conduct of the elections. In other words, the rules of the game and the umpire were set and controlled by the British. This is important to note, because Sandys has subtly sniped at the ppp in saying that an electoral commission must conduct the next elections in order to keep a balance and prevent fraud. The attitude of the Colonial Secretary is strange because in the three elections in which the ppp has won, the British have been fully in charge of every single bit of machinery, and no one has accused the ppp of winning by corrupt methods.

All the parties went into the 1961 elections with the understanding that independence would come shortly after elections. The pnc, certain of its own victory, had agreed that the next elected Government would be the government in office when the transfer of power took place. It said that independence would follow in a few months and fixed May 31st, 1962 as the date of independence. But having lost the elections, it started a new campaign under the slogan ‘no independence under Jagan’.