Biography of Dr. Cheddi Jagan
This was a difficult year for Cheddi Jagan and the PPP government which he led. The opposition PNC in collaboration with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) financed and supported by CIA and US trade unionists called a strike which lasted 80 days. The cause of the strike was claimed to be the introduction of the Labour Relations Bill, which Mr. Burnham had fully supported in 1953 when he was a minister in the PPP government. He admitted later that it was not really the cause of the strike which was political, but was used to carryout its intentions of destabilising the government of Dr. Jagan. Fire had proved a costly and dangerous weapon in 1962; in 1963, the weapon was a sea and air blockade.
The strike was marked by continued violence and civil servants on strike were paid by funds provided by the CIA. Those workers who remained loyal were intimidated and harassed. Violence was directed against Indians, anyone suspected as a government supporter, PPP legislators and ministers of the government. It was a year of explicit calls to race and violence by the PNC and a period of wild and false accusations and information by the press which acted as a stimulant to further racial clashes and violence. Every journalistic gimmick was used to whip up racial feelings and spread hate and fear. Blatant calls to violence were often reinforced by various less subtle exhortations to loot and rob. Large photos with racial implications were published almost daily in the press.
In early May 1963 the discovery of the existence of Plan "X" 13 ( arms, weapons, assassination plots and plans for extensive military training by the PNC to forcibly overthrow the government) evoked public horror and caused a temporary halt to the violence.
But by early June the violence was back and soon intensified after the arrival of a Cuban tanker which brought fuel and gasoline in an attempt to break the blockade. Indians in Georgetown were brutally attacked and beaten, sometimes in full view of the police. Unruly mobs invaded government buildings. An attempt was made on the life of Dr. Jagan as he was leaving his office. Several government and Public Buildings were dynamited and blown up.
During this period Dr. Jagan met on numerous occasions with the Governor, the Commissioner of Police and the Commander of the British Troops and requested that the army be deployed on foot patrols all over the city, because the police were incapable of dealing with the situation. His requests were denied because at this point, Britain was caught on the horns of a dilemma. Not wishing to dishonour its pledges, unwilling to use the crude "big-stick" methods of 1953, and unable to stem US pressure, it connived at the CIA backed strikes and disturbances so the world could be told that Guiana, torn by racial strife, was not ready for independence.
Also, in 1963, Dr. Jagan attended an Independence Conference in London. It became clear that the British government had no intention of granting independence while Dr. Jagan and the PPP were in office. Instead, the Conference degenerated into a squabble over the electoral system.
This was a year of increasing violence culminating in the uncontrollable murders, rapes and burning of buildings at Wismar, with the British Police Commissioner being responsible for lack of protection to the hundreds of Indo-Guyanese in that area who had to evacuate en mass to survive. Altogether in 1964 some 2,668 families involving approximately 15,000 persons were forced to move; there were over 100 murders resulting from widespread bombings and burnings. It was an even more difficult year for Premier Cheddi Jagan.
Dr. Jagan with the assistance of President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was seeking a political settlement. However, the proposals put by Dr Nkrumahs mission to the country were rejected by the PNC. Thus all efforts failed.
The British Colonial Office, pressured by the Kennedy administration, amended the Constitution to provide for new elections one year ahead of that provided in the Constitution under which the People's Progressive Party had won the elections in 1961. Also, the method of voting was changed from first-past-the-post to proportional representation (PR) in order to block the PPP from taking office again.
Dr. Jagan, who had hopes that a Labour Party victory in the U. K. would bring about greater understanding, noted in West on Trial, that he was not fully prepared for the cynical betrayal of our cause which was soon to take place.
The New York Times in October 1964, reported that the British government had bowed to the wishes of the USA and had ruled out early independence for British Guiana and would go ahead with the P R elections for December 7, 1964.
The PPP went into these elections under protest, gaining more votes than it did in 1961 - 45.8%, the largest number for any single party. However, the PNC led by Mr. Burnham and the United Force led by businessman Peter d’Aguiar formed a coalition and were asked by the Governor to form the government.
This alliance was manipulated to ensure that Dr. Jagan and the PPP were not allowed to govern, even though the two parties vowed at election time that they would never team up with each other.
In January, in the PPPs official organ Thunder, Cheddi Jagan called on the people, despite the treachery of the British government, the PNC and United Force, to unite the working people "regardless of race, or ethnic origin" and struggle for better conditions as well as exposing the pro-colonialist character of the "PNC UF marriage." "Let us consolidate our forces, win new support and march forward to victory," he wrote in his statement.
During 1965, Dr. Jagan wrote the booklet "Anatomy of Poverty in BG" and began his monumental book "The West on Trial." He and his family had moved from Red House, his residence as Premier, to a rented house on Camp Street in Georgetown.
In another message in April, the PPP Leader said, "In our struggle for national liberation, to free our country from the shackles of colonialism and imperialism, we must organise, educate and inform. We must tell the world that our struggle is democratic, nationalist, anti-imperialist and anti-feudal. We must rally all patriotic Guianese behind us. We must fight for the preservation of our fundamental rights laid down in our Constitution."
He called for an end to the emergency laws and for the release of all detainees those PPP members held at Mazaruni prison without trial.
His theme of unity and racial harmony was repeated. "Racism is the greatest curse of our land.. anyone who spreads racial propaganda must be severely dealt with. Such a person is an enemy to himself and his country."
The Partys 12th Annual Congress was held in April at Zeeburg, W.C. Demerara. Following his address to Congress, the Party declared in favour of taking all necessary steps and precautions not only to achieve national unity and racial harmony, but also unity in ideology, organisation and propaganda. Congress called for an end to the emergency, the restoration of full constitutional guarantees, the release of the detainees and the demand for genuine independence.
Dr. Jagan refused to attend the London Conference on Independence until the detainees were released. In December, he charged that the British government failed to grasp the opportunity to help work out a satisfactory solution to the deep-seated political problems of the country. The British government, he charged, also retained the Constitution and electoral system and thus declared the Conference a "farce."