Mr Rai was fulfilling a commitment clearly stated in the PPP manifesto

Stabroek News
August 26, 2001

Dear Editor,

Mrs Janet Jagan, in her letter [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (2l.8.0l), after consultation with Mr Brindley Benn, noted that she could not recall the events, or the circumstances regarding Mr Balram Singh Rai's role in the government takeover of the 51 denominational schools and concluded that I was speaking on behalf of Mr Rai. For the record, the information I presented represented part of a research project on Rai's political contribution, of which I am a co-author. Mr Rai, as far as I know, will not, and has not made any public comment on the Guyana political situation since his departure from Guyana in 1970.

Mrs Jagan should have an abiding interest in preserving for posterity the important contributions of all the ministers of the 1957-61 PPP government, including that of her own. However, when it comes to Mr Rai, she is either manipulating information or forgetting. It is perhaps because Mr Rai's role in the PPP government reveals the many contradictions inherent in the PPP's position, ideology and policies, and exposes the missed political opportunities that could have been seized by the PPP government. Why else would she remind us about Rai's role in the 1953 and 1964 elections (she did so earlier on April 8, 1999), without acknowledging Mr Rai's assistance, together with elder statesman Mr Eusi Kwayana, during the 1947 election that started Dr Jagan's political career? She ignores also Mr Rai's accomplishments both as a Minister of Education and as Minister of Home Affairs.

With due respect, Mr Brindley Horatio Benn's credibility in regard to 'dual control' is highly questionable. He was Minister of Education from 1957 to 1959. There is no evidence suggesting that he took any decisive action in regard to 'dual control' then. Mr Benn left the PPP after 1968 when the party was in opposition, formed the Maoist Working Peoples Vanguard Party (WPVP), was very critical of Dr Jagan and the PPP, and his WPVP flirted with the WPA. He later returned as a member of the 'Civic' component to support the PPP, was selected for Parliament, resigned his seat when Dr Jagan appointed him as High Commissioner to Canada, was recalled to Guyana and appointed Chairman of the Public Service Commission in 1999. His son Mr Robeson Benn, is a PPP/C Member of Parliament. After these relationships with the PPP it would seem unwise for Mr Benn to now disagree with Mrs Jagan's version of the 'dual control' events.

Furthermore, Mr Benn's relationship with Mr Rai was hardly friendly considering the much publicized and widely discussed events of the April 1962 party elections when Mr Rai then Senior Vice-Chairman of the PPP, contested against Mr Benn for the chairmanship of the party. The leadership of the PPP, along with Mr Brindley Benn, Mrs Benn and others, were directly involved in that "fraudulent election," which was engineered to select what Rai later referred to as "show Negroes" to convince Africans, that the PPP was still "multiracial," a practice the PPP continues to this day. In addition, in Mr Benn's case, he was presumably more ideologically correct ("it is easier to

stop tomorrow than to stop Communism"), and less likely to question executive committee decisions. It was Mrs Jagan, as General Secretary, who, on May 21, 1962, issued the ultimatum giving Rai 10 days to withdraw statements about charges of fraud at the election. His refusal to do so led to his dismissal as Home Affairs Minister and eventual expulsion from the PPP, which sparked a number of protests against the party leadership, many in the form of resolutions by PPP groups throughout the country.

Mrs Jagan in her analysis asked why Dr Jagan would have intervened to delay further action of the 'dual control' bill. While not admitting that he did intervene, she is naive to think that deferring the bill would have satisfied the Christian Social Council and the UF; and that the latter would not have joined in a coalition with the PNC in 1964. After all, Mr Rai was fulfilling a commitment that was clearly stated in the PPP manifestos of 1953 and 1957, and which Dr Jagan had articulated as far back as 1947 when he defeated Mr John d'Aguiar in the general election of that year. Aside from the executive committee, the matter was also discussed at the level of the General Council. The 1960-1961 members of the General Council of the PPP were Dr Cheddi Jagan, Minister of Trade and Industry (Leader); Mr Brindley Horatio Benn, Minister of Natural Resources (Chairman); Mr Balram Singh Rai, Minister of Community Development and Education (Senior vice?Chairman); Mrs Janet Jagan, Minister of Labour, Health and Housing (General Secretary); and Mr Boysie Ramkarran, Minister of Communications and Works (Treasurer). There were other elected PPP members of the Legislative Council, and PPP members who were representatives of PPP groups countrywide, some still alive. Dual control was widely discussed within and outside the General Council by PPP group representatives. Some have indicated, with certainty, that Mrs Jagan, given her admitted position on religious injustice, actually supported Mr Rai's position, not Dr Jagan's.

The reasons for suspension of the constitution in 1953, and dismissal of the PPP Government in October 1953, 133 days after its elected representatives assumed office, were recorded as "crimes" by Dr Jagan in The West on Trial (page 120). The "crimes" he listed included: neglecting to send a representative to meet the Queen in Jamaica; lifting a ban on West Indian leaders; repealing the Undesirable Publications Law; amending the Rice Farmers Security of Tenure Ordinance of 1945; passage of the Labour Relations Bill; and passing of a resolution asking the United States President to exercise clemency in the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case. Dr Jagan made no mention of 'dual control' as a reason or "crime" for suspension of the 1953

constitution. Contrary to what Mrs Jagan also said, Mr Burnham, as Minister of Education, did not table an Education Amendment Bill to address 'dual control.'

Neither was the issue of 'dual control' a significant cause for protest after the bill was passed. The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Disturbances in British Guiana in February 1962, is replete with information on the "1962 Budget" and the "Communist agenda of the PPP." There is no reference to 'dual control' as an offensive measure that generated the disturbances in February 1962. Mr Rickey Singh, writing in the Sunday Chronicle, June 24, 1962, 'RAI: THE INSIDE STORY' noted "I happen to know that Mr Rai is not in the habit of bowing easily to any situation. The 'schools take-over' legislation is ample proof of this."

Mrs Jagan reminded us that collective decision-making was the modus operandi of the PPP. However, she must also recognize that high standards of excellence rested with individual ministers who by their humanity, intelligence, political and diplomatic skills and personal courage were able to ensure entrenchment and durability of sound policies and practices.

Perhaps Mr LFS Burnham, Leader of the Opposition and PNC said it best in 1962 when he noted "the Minister's [Mr Rai's] dismissal meant that the last vestige of intelligence was removed from the PPP."

Yours faithfully,

Dr Baytoram Ramharack