INEQUALITY AND JUSTICE IN GUYANA
In every corner of the world there is non-peace...much of it has to do with the inequalities caused by capitalism and greed......resulting in irreversible INEQUALITY and incredible social unrest.
Many want their own to rule them and to live by themselves....suggesting the global cultural integration process has also failed because of the inequalities of capitalism.....Guyana has its own problems.....inequalities abound because of the same reasons and the global source of racism in a egregious winner-take-all system.In 2011, I wrote an article for the UN International Day of Peace......its attached below........can the past be reversed......On Father's Day......as I reflected on what legacy we should leave our children.......for my children.....its the hope they will always fight for justice and for equal rights......and that they should never be silent on these issues....regardless of the consequences.......SPEECH…2011 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE
September 21 was the United Nations International Day of Peace and it is of special importance to Guyanese because the theme “Peace and Democracy : make your voice heard” offers us an opportunity to reflect deeply on the non-peace that exists in our society and the ramifications of this non-peace as we face National elections in late November or early December. It also offers individuals; especially our forgotten, silenced and marginalized Youth; the Private Sector; the Fourth estate or Media….. to create an “Act of Peace’ for Guyana as we blindly rush towards non-peace and National tensions in the election months ahead.
To help me on this journey of discussion, I call on some of the moral and intellectual giants of Mankind to lend us their words, thoughts and humanity.
First, I start with the inspirational Buddhist philosopher, peace builder, educator, author and poet, Daisaku Ikeda, who has said:
“Peace is not simply the absence of war; it is a state in which people come together in mutual trust and live with joy, energy, and hope. This is the polar opposite of war—where people live plagued by hatred and the fear of death”.
Daisaku Ikeda is a staunch proponent of dialogue as the foundation of peace.
The Great books of Humanity have given us the recipe for “peace and justice” .We euphemistically call it the Golden Rule….. “do unto others as you want them to do unto you”.
Most people do not realize that this concept appears in at least 12 belief systems, namely and in alphabetical order: The Baha'i Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American, Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.
The central theme of “do unto others” is Peace with Justice. There cannot be Peace without Justice as Justice is the Foundation of Peace.
From this International Day of Peace therefore, the theme of Peace and Democracy can be interpreted as”Justice and Democracy: make your voice heard”.
In Guyana, we have a crisis of indifference to justice and therefore a crisis of non-peace confronting us over the next few months and beyond.
The Court case has shown us there is deep racism practiced in these lands called Guyana.
One of the definitions of racism as coined by Kean Gibson is: “racism is itself a political system, a particular power structure of formal and informal rule, socioeconomic privilege, and norms for the differential distribution of material wealth and opportunities, benefits and burdens, rights and duties”.
The current Court case has shown us that ‘there has been an unprecedented transfer of Guyanese State wealth to one racial group”.
This transfer, on a per capita basis, has to be one of the most indecent acts of racism in the British Commonwealth since Apartheid.
This purposeful transfer of state assets, through a series of legal and illegal practices…..is racism….is immoral….is a provocation of non-peace. This is a gross abuse of Human Rights.
Wikileaks has provided additional proof to what Guyanese have always known: that the State has participated in the deliberate murder of its citizens. This callous and deliberate premeditated action makes the State an immoral actor run by immoral people
This is a criminal act by the state.
Racism is also a CRIMINAL act by the STATE and under many conventions and laws of the United Nations.
Racism promotes rewards and institutionalizes Hate.
THIS is one of the GRAVEST acts of NON-PEACE……….and INJUSTICE in Guyana
When a Government can kill its citizens with impunity it has become a ‘pariah’ state.
Those who run the STATE are guilty of an International crimes against humanity.
Would United States citizens continue to vote for a government that extra judiciously killed 1, 714,285 of its citizens extra judiciously killed . Absolutely not. Yet this is Guyana equivalency of 400 killed in a population of 700,000.
This is the scale of the crimes against humanity in Guyana.
As Rickford Burke once wrote: Democratic societies must espouse an unwavering commitment to human rights and reject the extra-judicial killing of any person; particularly, the premeditated, extrajudicial killing of persons arbitrarily identified as "criminals," regardless of the nature and circumstances of their allege crime.
This is an international crime that is unacceptable in any civilized society. The rule of law requires that a person accused of a crime be charged and placed before a court of law. This does not happen in Guyana. Such persons are executed by government mercenaries”.
The words of another human giant and Great Spirit, Dr. Martin Luther King should give us a better perspective…. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
And injustice is a deliberate act of non-peace.
The Great Mohandas Gandhi has warned us about the Seven sins of Life which are : “Politics without principle. Commerce without Morality. Wealth without Work. Education without Character. Science without Humanity , Pleasure without Conscience and Worship without Sacrifice”.
This is our modern day Guyana which is in a state of non-peace…non democracy.
The PPP believes it cannot lose a Westminster election because its ethnic Indian constituency, regardless of the PPP’s known criminality, extra-judicial killings and constitutional illegalities…. simply will never allow themselves to be ruled by any other race, and especially by an African President.
This explains the deliberate acts of racism that are being revealed in the Courts where 40 of 41 Ambassadors are Indian; where all of the Heads of Agencies and Public enterprises such as GPL, GWI, GUYSUCO etc. are Indian.
When a government, or political party, especially and ethnically elected one, can purposefully ignore the constitution of the country, the same constitution that empowers it through an election and gives it legitimacy, then that Government or Political Party has no right to rule anymore.
Democracy calls for a higher moral order especially in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society like Guyana.
When RACE hate (through its many disguises) is a major element of an election campaign, we should again listen to Martin Luther King who reminded us : “Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true”.
An election cannot be free and fair ……..or free of fear….…..when race HATE is marketed.
And when a government can use its ethnic electoral majority to completely marginalize another ethnic group, use deaths squads to kill them , refuse to have a formal commission of inquiry, and when their supporters see them as heroes …….then that Government is setting the seeds for ethnic conflict similar to that in has been seen in Rwanda.
When a group of people practice racism, promotes hate and state sponsored murder using drug lords……this is evil incarnate.
EVIL INCARNATE cannot be supported by any race in Guyana. The PPP will steal our State resources….LIE about their peaceful intensions for Guyana and about their relationship with drug lords……KILL Guyanese to make the country racially DIVIDED.
Will Guyana chose a group of individuals who Kill, Steal and Lie with constitutional impunity? Given the racial composition of the political parties in Guyana, this would be a modern day constitutional apartheid.
Are we this immoral that we will let murderers, drug lords, thieves and liars … divide us racially so that they can prosper criminally and commit murder in our name?
Is this what we want as a Nation? Is this our Children’s future…..one of non-peace, conflict, murder, mayhem, unbridled corruption, drug lords, money laundering, illiteracy, violent crime?
Where are our moral and religious leaders? The question today is “Where are our Martin Luther Kings in Guyana? “Where are our men of grace, courage and integrity? Where are the men of courage in the religious community in Guyana?
Where are our Mother Teresas, our Mohandas Gandhis, our Martin Luther Kings, our Daisaku Ikedas, our Desmond Tutus, our Jidda Krisnamurtis and our Nelson Mandelas?
Where are our peacemakers in Guyana who will take the challenge of this year’s International Day of Peace motto: “Peace and democracy: make your voice heard”.
Will they continue to abdicate their morals and have the vacuum filled by their opposites? Will they remain silent as Guyana continues to be a decaying abscess of moral, social, racial, economic, political and human rights puss?
Will the men and women of cloth remain in hiding and missing in action?
Will the World continue to watch our Church and other Religious leaders sell their hearts and soul for pieces of tarnished silver or blood diamonds? Will the majority of religious leaders see their profession permanently damaged by those among them who have non morality, no decency, no godliness?
Religious cowardice is one of the worst sins of the cloth. Religious cowardice is anti-God, anti-right, anti-Peace, and anti-religion.
Religious organizations need to regain and re-take their moral authority from the false Gods parading as Bishops, Pundits and Priests in Guyana. The religious community as an institution interacts with more Guyanese than any other institution on a weekly basis.
Yet it has defaulted and become morally bankrupt in the most significant issue facing the Nation today…Peace, Justice and good governance and shared governance.
There is a famous saying by a Great power of spiritual strength, Khalil Gibran who once said:
We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them”.
We can choose Peace or chose destruction before election day.
I believe that “peace with justice” in Guyana lies with our Youth and a” few good men and women”.
As Nelson Mandela said on the 80th birthday of Beyers Naude, a White Afrikaaner who fought Apartheid and was an outcast to his own race:
“The guiding principle in the search for and establishment of a non-racial inclusive democracy in South Africa has been that there are good men and women to be found in all groups and from all sectors of society, and that in an open and free society those South Africans will come together to jointly and co-operatively realize the common good".
I hope some men and women who are nationalistic and non-racial join with me in changing Guyana into a plural democracy: a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural multi-party society in which every Guyanese, regardless of age, race, religion or creed, has an equal opportunity to realize his or her enormous potential in a peaceful manner.
Our Youth have been completely failed by most adults, religious institutions and especially by Politicians and their winner-take-all anti-peace anti-human rights Westminster System.
Democracy and Peace cannot be fully attained in Guyana without the total involvement and consent of the Youth of Guyana.
Youth are the essence of our new inclusive multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi religious plural Democracy. They have to make as Gandhi stated “be the change you want to see”.
It was also Mahatma Gandhi who once said “if we practice an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world will be blind and toothless”. Little did he know he was speaking about Guyana where leadership is blind and the citizenry are toothless!
Guyana is facing an economic, social and political chasm, and the enormity of these treats blocks the vision of its leadership: political, business and civic leadership. Guyanese, both at home and in the Diaspora, are also choosing to be blind. And there are none so blind as those who do not want to see.
The International Community, neither blind nor toothless, is conscious of Guyana’s societal disintegration. They too recognize Guyana for what it truly is: .a country facing a social, political and economic meltdown.
On this observance of the 2011 International Day of Peace, I call on all Guyanese to reflect on the theme of “Peace and democracy: make your voice heard”
Sober thinking Guyanese need to free themselves from the fantasy that the 2011 elections will make things right and peaceful, and for a moment realize that the country will only leap closer to the chasm, regardless of who wins the most votes, then it is time for all sane-minded citizens and well-wishers to stop this madness.
What is clear is that “a generation of racists, ideologists and individuals, under the disguise of political parties, businessmen and saviors” have dismantled the idea of peace and security in Guyana. This has ultimately made Guyana fertile ground for drug barons and their cartels. These new forces are better armed, more organized, better equipped and better financed than our government and armed forces.
Many Guyanese today recognize national priorities must be changed, but they don’t know how to go about this endeavor. This is because the mask of “race” permeates our every thought.
As an Act of Peace, I call on all Guyanese to Demand a Government of National Unity regardless of the results because the PPP will most likely use its unfair and stolen advantages in media, state resources and drug funds to win…………….and Guyana cannot afford a criminal organization that has recently dealt in extrajudicial killings via drugs lords and an organization that preached deep racism….to rule this country. To hope they can be defeated is a dangerous pipe dream because the expectations of the losing constituency are so high in the belief that after all that is known…Indo Guyanese will still vote them in victory….is unthinkable.
This would be IMMORAL, INDECENT, UNDEMOCRATIC AND NON-PEACE.
It will lead to racial violence similar to the 1960s AND THE International community will not stand idle to see an Army kill citizens to protect a group of state murderers, drug lords, racists and thieves.
The Army would then be engaged in an immoral act and crimes against humanity.
May Guyana and all races rise above this predictable tragedy and use this opportunity to heal our racial scars, to realize that “we have more in common than we have differences” and that at this time, with all our diversity, we have to all “work on the same quilt” of racial peace and nationhood.
May the three main political Parties sign a COMPACT OF PEACE before elections are held…....to bring about.
A Government of National Unity.
Good Governance, the establishment of racial harmony and the alleviation or eradication of poverty can only be accomplished after common ground is obtained. Apart from the practice of Good Governance, a strategy of economic revitalization is necessary to make racial harmony a national reality. Economic growth is fundamental to social progress and an absolute necessity if poverty is to be alleviated.
Let us have a Council of Economic Advisors of the Best and Brightest in and out of the Diaspora to develop a non-political, non-partisan plan to bring economic prosperity.
Let us deal with climate change with consensus and inclusiveness. Climate change is not just about preserving forests.
The political parties….which are all unregistered entities (therefore illegal bodies collecting our monies) have selected their Presidential candidates. This is all that is necessary. These three can sign the Act of Peace compact or betray Guyanese with the false hope of PEACE and the false dawn of DEMOCRACY.
Or they can seek common ground with themselves and with us…the citizenry.
Without common ground, democracy, nation building, peace and security are all pipe dreams.
Putting Guyana first has to be a paramount principle. Putting Guyana first is also a cardinal rule for achieving positive visionary change in Guyana for and behalf of all Peoples of Guyana.
Secondly, Guyanese have to take back the sovereignty of the country from external forces and their counterparts in the Guyana drug trade. Only with this occurring, through unity and strength, will there be an opportunity for choices about good governance, choices about racial peace, choices about economic prosperity, choices about social growth and choices about hope for our children and our country.
Unity, common vision and the grace of doing what is right for the People of the country; all races and creeds, can be leadership’s only mandate.
Destiny is always predetermined by action and faith.
Guyana stands at a stage in history where there must be another opportunity to have positive change and another chance to change from a destiny of destruction and racial unease.
The responsibility to change this rests with each and every Guyanese. The will to change the status quo should be the legacy to Guyana’s children and to their future.
Guyana needs reconciliation. Guyana needs to bring its families home.
Guyanese can make this happen because there are lots of good men and women in Guyana and in the Diaspora.
Today, we in Guyana are faced with an incredible crisis of governance. We have racial polarization, socio-political regression, unabated corruption, ineptitude, lack of accountability, drug trafficking, human rights abuses, death squads, prohibitive violent crime and rampant migration will continue unabated
Guyana needs new leadership. We need to find “a few good men and women” from all walks of Guyanese society who will come together to seek peaceful and sustainable solutions.
We in Guyana have long lost our innocence. We are shocked today at someone we have been nurturing for decades. Our politicians do not have the emotional intelligence to lead or be servant leader.
I have been approached by Youth leaders from Regions 3,4,5,6 and 10 to help them “make their voices heard” and over the last 2 months I have worked with them to put together a citizens manifesto of the type of Guyana our Youth want to live in. They want to be “pioneers of their futures, not captives of the past”. Their parent’s past.
We have created an economic strategy that will create 300,000 jobs over 5 years. We have redesigned the type of Ministries and have the types of leaders necessary for a modern prosperous Guyana. Servant leaders who seek Peace, Justice, economic prosperity and racial harmony.
We need a Government of National Unity to create a new constitution which protects minority rights, prevents state racism , state murders, ensures racial equity in the distribution of benefits and which will empower people in their local constituencies to promote development in their villages.
The CITIZENS MANIFESTO is my first “Act of Peace” and I will continue to advocate for our Youth, the silent abused majority in Guyana either formally or informally.
May Peace with Justice reign supreme.
The repudiation by some Guyanese of minister of social protection Volda Lawrence announcement that her ministry plans to stop the act of double dipping -people living overseas and accessing old age pension benefits in Guyana, shows the level of moral deterioration in our society.
The old age pension benefit was introduced in 1972 by the then Forbes Burnham lead PNC government following an amendment to the 1944 pensions Act. The aim of this form of social welfare was to give assistance to persons 55 years and over. The law was amended later on to include persons 65 years and over.
The 1972 amendments includes several statutory conditions that must be fulfilled in order to qualify for 'Old Age Pension' benefits. Two of which are:...READ MORE
TEACHING METHODS ADVERSELY
AFFECTING LITERACY RATE IN SCHOOLS.
Sooner or later we will need to reform the way we educate our children since the present methods being used has failed to produce well rounded and competent individuals who can take Guyana forward.
Being a student at the University of Guyana or entering the world of work requires three distinct qualities:.....READ MORE
A country's arm forces is on its most potent weapon of defense against threat both foreign and domestic. As such we must be proud of our sons and daughters who bravely puts their live and body in danger, so that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms fought for and gained over 50 years ago.
A Case for the Legalization
of Medical Marijuana
Marijuana has many healing and treatment benefits. However, its usage and recognition in the medical system as a hold is believed to be hindered by special interest groups representing large pharmaceutical companies and Governments who see it as a threat to social stability and their economic and political agenda.....READ MORE.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP SHOULD BE THE NEXT
ECONOMIC VENTURE AT WALES ESTATE –RAS LEON SAUL.
With the announcement by Government of its intention to close the over one hundred year old Wales sugar estate at the end of 2016, general secretary of the Healing the Nation Theocracy Party(HNTP) wants the lands at the estate to be use for Hemp cultivation....READ MORE.
GUYSUCO -A BILLION DOLLAR BABY
The spending of billions of dollars yearly by Government to patch holes in the failing Guyana sugar corporation (Guysuco) is like a mother spending billions of dollars to keep her son in the morgue hoping that he will one day wake up and take care of her. She is keeping him on ice. This is the same for the sugar industry in Guyana which is dead and is being kept on ice by having billions upon billions of Government revenue pumped into its accounts to keep it from stinking. Sugar in Guyana is dead and most be buried with dignity...READ MORE.
MOVING FORWARD WITH OUT THE PPP/C:
A GAME OF RUSSIAN ROULETTE.
The Granger led APNU/AFC administration is playing a game of Russian roulette by ignoring the leaders of the PPP/C in its pursuit of national development...READ MORE.
The long Waite at the housing ministry's Central housing and planning department, presents a real life example of how rudimentary and unprofessional the public service in Guyana has become.
As a first time home owner it took me 10 long and painstaking years to be a warded a plot of land by the CH&PA on the East Bank Demerara. Though happy at the outcome, it saddens me to imagine the horrors Guyanese have to go through at the Ministry of housing Central housing and planning department to obtain a land.
The CH&PA is the department within the Ministry of Housing with responsibility for land allocation. Since gaining power at the May 11 General elections the APNU/AFC administration has commence numerous forensic audits into various Government Agencies and departments. The CH&PA was one of those departments that was forensically audited by an auditing form.The findings are not surprising but they are damming....READ MORE
MOVING FORWARD WITH OUT THE PPP/C
A GAME OF RUSSIAN ROULETTE.
The Granger led APNU/AFC administration is playing a game of Russian roulette by ignoring the leaders of the PPP/C in its pursuit of national development.
Despite campaigning and winning the May 2015 general elections on the promise of CHANGE, the Granger administration is still to deliver this change after over one year in office. If anything else Guyana is more divided than ever.
Guyana is celebrating 50 years of its jubilee independence this year. That's 50 tumultuous years of self-governance. Guyana's problems has being fed by the disunity that started when the two
political forces: PPP and PNC split in 1955 over a failure by the two leaders Cheddie Jagan and Forbes Burnham to agree on issues including...READ MORE.
The continued criminalization of marijuana use, is violation of a persons human rights. Under the United Nations Convention on human rights a per is guaranteed the freedom of CHOICE.
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MAKING GUYANA A BETTER PLACE
A FIGHT FOR POWER -BURNHAM AND JAGAN
As Guyanese celebrates our 50th independence anniversary this year, it would be fitting that we do a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the two leaders who fought and struggled to make the freedoms that we enjoy today possible.
The concept of an independent Guyana was formal introduced on the 1 January 1950 with the formation of the PPP as a merger of the British Guiana labour party led by Forbes Burnham and the Political Affairs Committee led by Cheddi Jagan and was the first political party in Guyana. It was a multi-ethnic party supported by workers and intellectuals and held its first congress on 1 April 1951. Its third Congress was held in 1953, with Burnham unsuccessfully seeking to become party leader.
Elections were held in1954: the first time in Guyana's history and which also brought the colony its first elected Government the PPP. Unfortunately, the life of the PPP in Government was cut short due to the British suspicions of Jagan and the PPP's radicalism and with conservative forces in the business community expressing concerns with the new administration's program of widening the role of the state in the economy. The PPP also sought to implement its reform programs at a rapid pace, resulting in further confrontations with the governor and with high-ranking civil servants who preferred a more modest approach.
The issue of civil service appointments also threatened the PPP, in this case from within. Following the 1953 victory, these appointments became an issue between supporters of Jagan and supports of Burnham. Burnham supporters felt marginalized by their non appointments to certain possessions within the public service, citing ethnic discrimination by the Jagan lead administration, which resulted in a threat by Burnham to split the party if he was not made leader of the PPP. A compromise was reached by which members of what had become Burnham's faction received ministerial appointments. However, a split was inevitable given the ideological difference between both leaders.
Cheddi Jagan then sought to introduce the Labour Relations Act, something that again angered the British. This law was aimed at reducing rivalries among unions according to Jagan, but opposition forces felt that it would have favored the GIWU, which had and now renamed GAWU ( Guyana Agriculture and Workers Union) still have a close relationship with the PPP. The opposition accused the PPP of trying to gain control over British Guiana's economic and social life and in the same breath starve the opposition of support from the working class. Ironically, the day the act was introduced to the assembly, GIWU went on strike purportedly in support of the PPP.
This didn't go over well with the British, who saw this as an amalgamation of party politics and labor unionism; which they believe challenges the constitution and the authority of the governor. Consequently, on October 9, 1953 a day after the act was passed by the legislature, the British suspended the colony's constitution and sent in troops.
This however, only helped in masking the growing clash of ideologies in the country's first and largest political party as the ideological conflicts between the PPP's Cheddi Jagan and Burnham widened into a bitter dispute. In 1955 Cheddi Jagan and Burnham formed rival wings of the PPP. Support for each leader was largely, but not totally, along ethnic lines. J.B. Lachmansingh, a leading Indo-Guyanese and head of the GIWU, supported Burnham, whereas Jagan retained the loyalty of a number of leading Afro-Guyanese radicals, such as Sydney King. Burnham's wing of PPP moved to the right, leaving Cheddi Jagan wing on the left, where he was regarded with considerable apprehension by Western governments and the colony's conservative business groups.
All the while, British Guiana was being governed by an interim administration consisting of small group of politicians, businessmen, and civil servants that lasted until 1957.
The 1957 elections held under a new constitution exposed the extent of the growing ethnic division within the Guyanese electorate. The revised constitution provided limited self-government, primarily through the Legislative Council. Of the council's twenty-four delegates, fifteen were elected, six were nominated, and the remaining three were to be ex members from the interim administration. The two wings of the PPP launched vigorous campaigns, each attempting to prove that it was the legitimate heir to the original party. Despite denials of such motivation, both factions made a strong appeal to their respective ethnic constituencies.
Cheddi Jagan PPP faction convincingly won the 1957 elections, securing a parliamentary majority with its support coming mainly from the Indo-Guyanese community. As such, opposition force began to express outrage at the fact that the PPP was becoming a party which promotes Indo-Guyanese: more farm lands, improved union representation in the sugar union, more business opportunities and more government posts for Indo-Guyanese.
Worsening the division was Cheddi Jagan decision to veto British Guiana's participation in the West Indies Federation resulted in the complete loss of Afro-Guyanese support. For years the British Caribbean colonies had been actively negotiating for the establishment of a West Indies Federation. Given past commitments by the PPP to work for the eventual political union of British Guiana and with the Caribbean territories, this decision to veto was met with suspicion by some even though Cheddi Jagan did address the issue by stating:"The withdrawal of Jamaica provides both a challenge and an opportunity for the people of the West Indies. It is a pity that Jamaica has now voted to come out of the WI Federation. I have always maintained that the question of Federation should have been subjected to the test of a referendum in each territory well in advance of the setting up of the Federation As is well known, this has been for long my stand in British Guiana, and if this course had been followed the present unfortunate situation would not have arisen.
At this point some may tend to gloat; others to despair. I can well imagine the degree of anxiety of the peoples, particularly of the smaller units who have tied their hopes and aspirations to Federation. But this is a time neither for gloating nor despairing.
It is rather unfortunate in these days when there is a distinct trend for separate countries to get together politically and or economically for a regional unity, however tenuous, to be broken up.
One must realise, however, that the proposed independent federal constitution was so emasculated that it was hardly likely that the objectives of the WI peoples — economic well-being and higher living standards — could have been achieved. A weak federal Government would hardly have been able to go in for effective overall planning and balanced development for the region as a whole."
It was suspected that Indo-Guyanese, who constituted a majority in Guyana, but not a majority in the federation, were apprehensive of becoming part of a federation in which they would be out numbered. Jagan's veto of the federation might have caused his party to lose significant Afro-Guyanese support.
The experiences of the 1957 elections thought Burnham a lesson -his base was too small. Knowing that he could not win if supported only by the lower class and urban Afro-Guyanese, Burnham went about building middle-class allies, especially those Afro-Guyanese who backed the moderate United Democratic Party. From 1957 onward, Burnham worked to create a balance between maintaining the backing of the more radical Afro-Guyanese lower classes and gaining the support of the more capitalist middle class. RACE: Burnham's appeals to race proved highly successful in bridging the schism that divided the Afro-Guyanese along class lines. This strategy convinced the powerful Afro-Guyanese middle class to accept a leader who was more of a radical than they would have preferred to support. At the same time, it neutralized the objections of the black working class to entering an alliance with those representing the more moderate interests of the middle classes. Burnham's move toward the right was accomplished with the merger of his PPP faction and the United Democratic Party into a new organization, the People's National Congress (PNC).
Similarly, following the 1957 elections, Jagan rapidly consolidated his hold on the Indo-Guyanese community. Though frank in expressing his admiration for many communist leaders; Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and, later,Fidel Castro Ruz, Jagan in power asserted that the PPP's Marxists Leninist principles must be adapted to Guyana's own particular circumstances. Jagan advocated nationalization of foreign holdings, especially in the sugar industry. British fears of a communist takeover, however, caused the British governor to hold Jagan's more radical policy initiatives in check.
The 1961 elections were a bitter contest between the PPP, the PNC, and the United Force (UF), a conservative party representing big business, the Roman Catholic Church, Amerindian, Chinese, and Portuguese voters. These elections were held under yet another new constitution that marked a return to the degree of self-government that existed briefly in 1953. It introduced a bicameral system boasting a wholly elected thirty-five-member Legislative Assembly and a thirteen-member Senate to be appointed by the governor. The post of prime minister was created and was to be filled by the majority party in the Assembly. With the strong support of the Indo-Guyanese population, the PPP again won by a substantial margin, gaining twenty seats in the Legislative Assembly, compared to eleven seats for the PNC and four for the UF. Jagan again was prime minister.
Unfortunately, Jagan's relationship with communist and leftist regimes became more solidified; his refusal to observe the United States embargo on communist Cuba was one such example. After discussions between Jagan and Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara in 1960 and 1961, Cuba offered British Guiana loans and equipment. In addition, the Jagan administration signed trade agreements with Hungary and the German Democratic Republic both strong Communist States at that time.
From 1961 to 1964, Jagan was confronted with a destabilization campaign conducted by the PNC and UF. In addition to domestic opponents of Jagan, an important role was played by the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), which was alleged to be a front for the CIA. Various reports say that AIFLD, with a budget of US $800,000, maintained anti-Jagan labor leaders on its payroll, as well as an AIFLD-trained staff and activists who were assigned to organize riots and destabilize the Jagan government. Riots and demonstrations against the PPP administration were frequent, and during disturbances in 1962 and 1963 mobs destroyed parts of Georgetown, doing millions in damages.
To counter the MPCA with its link to Burnham, the PPP formed the Guianese Agricultural Workers Union. This new union's political mandate was to organize the Indo-Guyanese sugarcane field-workers. The MPCA immediately responded with a one-day strike to emphasize its continued control over the sugar workers.
The PPP government responded to the strike in March 1964 by publishing a new Labour Relations Bill almost identical to the 1953 legislation that had resulted in British intervention. Regarded as a power play for control over a key labor sector, introduction of the proposed law prompted protests and rallies throughout the capital. Riots broke out on April 5; they were followed on April 18 by a general strike. By May 9, the governor was compelled to declare a state of emergency. Nevertheless, the strike and violence continued until July 7, when the Labour Relations Bill was allowed to lapse without being enacted. To bring an end to the disorder, the government agreed to consult with union representatives before introducing similar bills. These disturbances exacerbated tension and animosity between the two major ethnic communities and made reconciliation between Jagan and Burnham an impossibility.
Jagan's term had not yet ended when another round of labor unrest rocked the colony. The pro-PPP GIWU, which had become an umbrella group of all labor organizations, called on sugar workers to strike in January 1964. To dramatize their case, Jagan led a march by sugar workers from the interior to Georgetown. This demonstration ignited outbursts of violence that soon escalated beyond the control of the authorities. On May 22, the governor finally declared another state of emergency. The situation continued to worsen, and in June the governor assumed full powers, rushed in British troops to restore order, and proclaimed a moratorium on all political activity. By the end of the turmoil, 160 people were dead and more than 1,000 homes had been destroyed.
In an effort to quell the turmoil, the country's political parties asked the British government to modify the constitution to provide for more proportional representation. The colonial secretary proposed a fifty-three member unicameral legislature. Despite opposition from the ruling PPP, all reforms were implemented and new elections set for October 1964.
As Jagan feared, the PPP lost the general elections of 1964. The politics of apan jhaat, Hindi for "vote for your own kind", were becoming entrenched in Guyana. The PPP won 46 percent of the vote and twenty-four seats, which made it the majority party. However, the PNC, which won 40 percent of the vote and twenty-two seats, and the UF, which won 11 percent of the vote and seven seats, formed a coalition. The socialist PNC and unabashedly capitalist UF had joined forces to keep the PPP out of office for another term. Jagan called the election fraudulent and refused to resign as prime minister. The constitution was amended to allow the governor to remove Jagan from office.
Burnham became prime minister on December 14, 1964 and by December 1965, the first year under Forbes Burnham, conditions in the colony began to stabilize. The new coalition administration broke diplomatic ties with Cuba and implemented policies that favored local investors and foreign industry. The colony applied the renewed flow of Western aid to further the development of its infrastructure. A constitutional conference was held in London; the conference set May 26, 1966 as the date for the colony's independence. By the time independence was achieved, the country was enjoying economic growth and relative domestic peace.
The newly independent Guyana at first sought to improve relations with its neighbors. For instance, in December 1965 the country had become a charter member of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (Carifta). Relations with Venezuela were not so placid, however. In 1962 Venezuela had announced that it was rejecting the 1899 boundary and would renew its claim to all of Guyana west of the Essequibo River. In 1966, Venezuela seized the Guyanese half of Ankoko Island, in the Cuyuni River, and two years later claimed a strip of sea along Guyana's western coast.
Another challenge to the newly independent government came at the beginning of January 1969, with the Rupununi Rebellion. In the Rupununi region in southwest Guyana, along the Venezuelan border, white settlers and Amerindians rebelled against the central government. Several policemen in the area were killed, and spokesmen for the rebels declared the area independent and asked for Venezuelan aid. Troops arrived from Georgetown within days, and the rebellion was quickly put down. Although the rebellion was not a large affair, it exposed underlying tensions in the new state and the Amerindians' marginalized role in the country's political and social life.
The 1968 elections allowed the PNC to rule without the UF. The PNC won thirty seats, the PPP nineteen seats, and the UF four seats. However, many observers claimed the elections were marred by manipulation and coercion by the PNC. The PPP and UF were part of Guyana's political landscape but were ignored as Forbes Burnham began to convert the machinery of state into an instrument of the PNC.
After the 1968 elections, Forbes Burnham's policies became more leftist as he announced he would lead Guyana to socialism. He consolidated his dominance of domestic policies through gerrymandering, manipulation of the balloting process, and politicization of the civil service. A few Indo-Guyanese were co-opted into the PNC, but the ruling party was unquestionably the embodiment of the Afro-Guyanese political will. Although the Afro-Guyanese middle class was uneasy with Forbes Burnham's leftist leanings, the PNC remained a shield against Indo-Guyanese dominance. The support of the Afro-Guyanese community allowed the PNC to bring the economy under control and to begin organizing the country into cooperatives.
On February 23, 1970, Guyana declared itself a "cooperative republic" and cut all ties to the British monarchy. The governor general was replaced as head of state by a ceremonial president. Relations with Cuba were improved, and Guyana became a force in the non-aligned Movement. In August 1972, Burnham hosted the Conference of Foreign Ministers of Non-aligned Countries in Georgetown. He used this opportunity to address the evils of imperialism and the need to support African liberation movements in southern Africa. Burnham also let Cuban troops use Guyana as a transit point on their way to the war in Angola in the mid-1970s.
In the early 1970s, electoral fraud became blatant in Guyana. PNC victories always included overseas voters, who consistently and overwhelmingly voted for the ruling party. The police and military was accused of intimidated the Indo-Guyanese and tampering with ballot boxes.
Considered a low point in the democratic process, the 1973 elections were followed by an amendment to the constitution that abolished legal appeals to the Privy Council in London. After consolidating power on the legal and electoral fronts, Forbes Burnham turned to mobilizing the masses for what was to be Guyana's Cultural Revolution. A program of National Nervice was introduced that placed an emphasis on self-reliance, feeding, clothing, and housing itself without outside help.
Government authoritarianism increased in 1974 when Forbes Burnham advanced the "paramountcy of the party". All organs of the state would be considered agencies of the ruling PNC and subject to its control. The state and the PNC became interchangeable; PNC objectives were now public policy.
Burnham's consolidation of power in Guyana was not total; opposition groups were tolerated within limits. For instance, in 1973 the Working People's Alliance (WPA) was founded. Opposed to Forbes Burnham'sauthoritarianism, the WPA was a multi-ethnic combination of politicians and intellectuals that advocated racial harmony, free elections, and democratic socialism. Although the WPA did not become an official political party until 1979, it evolved as an alternative to Forbes Burnham's PNC and Cheddi Jagan PPP.
Cheddi Jagan's political career continued to decline in the 1970s. Outmaneuvered on the parliamentary front, the PPP leader tried another tactic. In April 1975, the PPP ended its boycott of parliament with Cheddi Jagan stating that the PPP's policy would change from non-cooperation and civil resistance to critical support of the Burnham regime. Soon after, Jagan appeared on the same platform with Prime Minister Forbes Burnham at the celebration of ten years of Guyanese independence, on May 26, 1976.
Despite Cheddi Jagan conciliatory move, Forbes Burnham had no intention of sharing powers and continued to secure his position. When overtures intended to bring about new elections and PPP participation in the government was brushed aside, the largely Indo-Guyanese sugar work force went on a bitter strike. The strike was broken, and sugar production declined steeply from 1976 to 1977. The PNC postponed the 1978 elections, opting instead for a referendum to be held in July 1978, proposing to keep the incumbent assembly in power.
The July 1978 national referendum was poorly received. Although the PNC government proudly proclaimed that 71 percent of eligible voters participated and that 97 percent approved the referendum, other estimates put turnout at 10 to 14 percent. The low turnout was caused in large part by a boycott led by the PPP, WPA, and other opposition forces.
Forbes Burnham's control over Guyana began to weaken when the Jonestown massacre brought unwanted international attention. In the 1970s, Jim Jones, leader of the People's Temple of Christ, moved more than 1,000 of his followers from San Francisco to form Jonestown, a utopian agricultural community near Port Kaituma. The People's Temple of Christ was regarded by members of the Guyanese government as a model agricultural community that shared its vision of settling the hinterland and its view of cooperative socialism. The fact that the People's Temple was well equipped with openly flaunted weapons hinted that the community had the approval of members of the PNC's inner circle.
Complaints of abuse by leaders of the cult prompted United States congressman Leo Ryan to fly to Guyana to investigate. The San Francisco-area representative was shot and killed by members of the People's Temple as he was boarding an airplane in Port Kaituma to return to Georgetown. Fearing further publicity, Jones and more than 900 of his followers died in a massive communal murder and suicide. The November 1978 Jonestown massacre suddenly put the Forbes Burnhamgovernment under intense foreign scrutiny, especially from the United States. Investigations into the massacre led to allegations that the Guyanese government had links to the fanatical cult.
Although the bloody memory of Jonestown faded, Guyanese politics experienced a violent year in 1979. Some of this violence was directed against the WPA, which had emerged as a vocal critic of the state and of Forbes Burnham in particular. The party's leaders, Walter Rodney, and several professors at the University of Guyana were arrested on arson charges. The professors were soon released, and Rodney was granted bail. WPA leader then organized the alliance into Guyana's most vocal opposition party.
As 1979 wore on, the level of violence continued to escalate. In October Minister of Education Vincent Teekah was mysteriously shot to death. The following year, Walter Rodney was killed by a car bomb. The PNC government quickly accused Walter Rodney of being a terrorist who had died at the hands of his own bomb and charged his brother Donald with being an accomplice. Later investigation implicated the Guyanese government, however. Walter Rodney was a well-known leftist, and the circumstances of his death damaged Forbes Burnham'simage with many leaders and intellectuals in less a developed countries who earlier had been willing to overlook the authoritarian nature of his government.
A new constitution was promulgated in 1980. The old ceremonial post of president was abolished, and the head of government became the executive president, chosen, as the former position of prime minister had been, by the majority party in the National Assembly. Forbes Burnhamautomatically became Guyana's first executive president and promised elections later in the year. In elections held on December 15, 1980, the PNC claimed 77 percent of the vote and forty-one seats of the popularly elected seats, plus the ten chosen by the regional councils. The PPP and UF won ten and two seats, respectively. The WPA refused to participate in an electoral contest it regarded as fraudulent. Opposition claims of electoral fraud were upheld by a team of international observers headed by Britain's Lord Avebury.
The economic crisis facing Guyana in the early 1980s deepened considerably, accompanied by the rapid deterioration of public services, infrastructure, and overall quality of life. Blackouts occurred almost daily, and water services were increasingly unsatisfactory. The litany of Guyana's decline included shortages of rice and sugar (both produced in the country), cooking oil, and kerosene. While the formal economy sank, the black economy in Guyana thrived.
In the midst of this turbulence, Burnham underwent surgery for a throat ailment. On August 6, 1985, while in the care of doctors at the GPHC, Guyana's first and only leader since independence unexpectedly died. An epoch had abruptly ended. Guyana was suddenly in the post-Burnham era.
Despite concerns that the country was about to fall into a period of political instability, the transfer of power went smoothly. Vice President Desmond Hoyte became the new executive president and leader of the PNC. His efforts to revitalize the stagnant economy were very successful, so much so that by 1992 Guyana's GDP growth was raise to a staggering 7.0% according to world Bank reports -A figure that was the envy of many sister CARICOM states.
However, revitalization of the economy proved difficult at the beginning, Hoyt's first step was the moved to embrace the private sector, recognizing that state control of the economy had failed and lifting all curbs on foreign activity and ownership in 1988.
Although the Hoyte government did not completely abandon the authoritarianism of the Burnham regime, it did make certain political reforms. Hoyte abolished overseas voting and the provisions for wide spread proxy and postal voting. Independent newspapers were given greater freedom, and political harassment abated considerably.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited Guyana to lobby for the resumption of free elections, and on October 5, 1992, a new National Assembly any regional councils were elected in the first Guyanese election since 1964 to be internationally recognized as free and fair. Cheddi Jagan of the PPP was elected and sworn in as President on October 9, 1992. President Cheddi Jagan died on March 1997 following a heart attack.