Chronology of important events in April over the century 1901-1999


Guyana Chronicle
April 30, 2000


1901

** The Venezuelan gunboat `Miranda' arrived to assist in the delimitation of the Venezuelan-British Guiana Boundary.

1908

** Governor Frederic Hodgson decided that the Foundation Stone for the Public Free Library should be laid by Sir Joseph Godfrey, Surgeon General, District Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge, and a leading personality in the Executive Council. The Roman Catholic community considered the elevation of Freemasonry an affront and intended to keep them away from the ceremony. The controversy grew in intensity with heated exchanges in and out of the church. The Governor seemed unperturbed and on April 25, 1908, Dr Godfrey in full Masonic regalia, accompanied by his officers and a large retinue of officers in lodge attire, laid the foundation.

** Major John Waldo Link made his famous proposals to construct a railway to the Brazilian border, from thence to be connected with another railway from the Brazilian side to Boa Vista and Manaos on the Amazon. Link sought a land grant in alternate blocks of five square miles on both sides of the line, with mineral rights and a guarantee of 3 per cent for 10 years, during the period of construction. These terms were rejected with more or less levity. Four years later, a succeeding Governor confessed that a great blunder had been made in the rejection of the terms and that the colony was never again likely to receive such a favourable offer.

1916

** The Lords Commissioners of the Treasury agreed to modify slightly their monopoly in the issue of silver currency and agreed to mint a four-penny bit for British Guiana. The first issue was made in June 1917.

1917

** The last immigrant ship arrived in the colony. On board were 437 immigrants including 39 children. India had definitely locked and barred the door against any further shipments of immigrants. None were received in the colony after 1917 and the sugar industry braced itself for a new crisis. Sir Wilfred Collet almost immediately appointed a Colonisation and Labour Committee to investigate the situation. The committee, however, produced no tangible results. All indentures were suspended with effect from 15 April, 1920.

1921

** A Resolution was passed by 110 civil servants for the establishment of the B.G. Civil Service Association.

1922

** On April 2, 1922, the British Guiana East Indian Association was established. This was the culmination of a process beginning with the launching of the East Indian Institute in 1892 by Thomas Flood, Verasammy Mudaliar, James Wharton and Dr W. H. Wharton. The Institute was formed to develop social relationships among the educated Indians of Georgetown. In 1916, a meeting of prominent Indians was convened by Joseph Rohomon to consider the advisability of forming an association for the moral, social and intellectual development of Indians. Mr E. A. Luckhoo and Rohomon then declared the wide scope of the British Guiana East Indian Association.

Earlier, in 1894, Rev. V. P. Bronkhurst had suggested the formation of a Hindoo-Guyanian Christian and Mutual Improvement Society under the patronage of Christian ministers. While this was intended to cater for the entire colony, the BGEIA seemed restricted to Berbice and as a consequence, a Georgetown Association, under the leadership of Dr Wharton, Mr Flood and J. A. Luckhoo, emerged in collaboration with the Demerara Association in 1919. Then, in 1922, taking a cue from the visiting Indian delegation, including Diwan Bahadur, Kesava Pattu Pillai and Pandit Venkatesa Narayan Tivary it was decided to sink the regional differences of the two Associations in favour of one truly representative organisation and the British Guiana East Indian Association was finally reborn.

1924

** African urban dockworkers and stevedores, on March 31, engaged in strike action in response to a call from the BGLU. The Labour Union demanded that the rates for stevedores be increased from $1.60 to $2.00 per day, ordinary packers from $1.12 to $1.44 and truckers from 84 cents to $1.20 per day. The Union also wanted double time rates for night work, Saturday afternoons and holidays and for work done between 4 pm and 6 pm.

On April 1, the Union organised a street demonstration which was well supported by both urban and rural workers, including the unemployed. Fearing the worst, the Governor issued a proclamation, restricting further protestations in the city. The following day, April 2, the entire colony was proclaimed.

This strike marked the first occasion that pickets were used in the colony. Each worker wore a badge of red cloth with a large P on the left arm. Having virtually closed down all works in the city, the strikers fell upon the respectable homes in Kingston and Main Street and elsewhere and were invaded, but there were few, if any acts of violence.

On April 2, a meeting was organised between the BGLU and the employers by Hon. P. N. Browne, but it was put off at the last moment for April 3. Instead, the Governor met both the Union and the Chamber of Commerce.

After this meeting, Critchlow attempted to call off the strike and this resulted in much disorderly behaviour. The workers were dissatisfied that Critchlow had not extracted from the employers a promise of an increase in wages. The employers had taken advantage of Critchlow's good nature and had set him firmly against the workers. Disaffected, the workers returned to work. The two groups met on April 3 but were unproductive. Critchlow appealed to the Governor for arbitration which was refused. He, however, appointed a Commission to investigate and report. The Commission presented its report on April 29, but no one was surprised that it offered the workers no real relief.

On April 3, fellow Indian estate labourers from plantations Houston, Farm and Providence on the East Bank of Demerara adopted strike action independently of what was happening in Georgetown. Large numbers marched on Plantation Diamond where they managed to persuade the field and factory workers to join in the strike action. They protested the increase of the police on the East Bank, which they claimed was intended to terrorise them from pursuing their rights in a very peaceful manner. The estate workers decided to take their grievances to the Governor and assembled a protest parade into the city. Armed with flags, agricultural implements, and sticks, and accompanied by a Tadjah band, some 4,000 workers proceeded towards the city. As they proceeded, their numbers swelled and the police, fearful of the consequences of such a large angry combination descending on the city, attempted unsuccessfully on several occasions to disperse the procession. At Ruimveldt, the police charged the procession twice, but could not break their resolve. The Riot Act was read and the police opened fire into the procession. Forty-two rounds were fired, 13 persons were killed and 18 persons were seriously injured.

** A Resolution was passed to seek the establishment of a Labour Bureau. By this time, the functions of the Immigration Agent General, in relation to resolving disputes on the sugar estates, had ceased. Labour affairs were handled by the Local Government Department. A Labour Branch of this Department was formed in 1938 with Hon. H. B. Laing as Commissioner of Labour. In 1948, a committee recommended that a Labour Department should be established within the Colonial Office, and a Labour Advisory Committee appointed composing persons with expert knowledge of Labour and Colonial issues. This body was to be coordinated by a Commissioner of Labour assisted by Labour Officers.

** Between 1923 and 1924, a serious drought affected the colony and particularly the county of Berbice. In April, 1924, Berbicians were reported carrying buckets for miles in search of water for themselves and their stocks. Some were digging deep into the soil, often unsuccessfully, along the foreshore at Number 62 Village, in painful desperation, hoping to strike water. Some excavations struck pockets of water early in the mornings and late afternoons, but none during the day. By the end of April, the Corentyne was reportedly like the Sahara and cattle were running wild in agony from dire thirst. The West Berbice was then the place without food for man or beast.

1927

** In October, 1926, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr L. S. Amery, appointed a Parliamentary Commission to visit Guyana and "to consider and report on the economic position of the colony, the causes which have hitherto been retarded and the measures which could be taken to promote development, and any facts which they may consider to have a bearing on the above matters."The commissioners, R. Roy Wilson MP (Conservative) and H. Snaell MP (Labour) visited the colony during the period November 16 to December 17, 1926. On their terms of reference, they were not required to offer comment on the general constitutional situation.

The report, submitted in April 1927, reserved the findings of the 1922 Wood Report by declaring that the constitution was the cause of the colony's stagnation; that bribery and corruption were the principal features of elections; that five out of eight members had to be unseated; that the colony consisted of a congeries of races from all parts of the world with different instincts, different standards and different interests which make government more difficult; that their financial position indicated a collapse of a serious nature impinging on bankruptcy.

** The East Indian Cricket Club was opened on April 30, by His Excellency, Sir Cecil Rodwell who despatched the first ball bowled on the ground by Mr H. B. Gajraj to the boundary to the resounding applause of the large assembly of appreciative onlookers.

The club had actually been started in 1914, and one year later, secured its own ground, leased to the club for five years by Mr J. A. Veersawmy, himself a sportsman and a cricketer of some ability. The ground, located in Queenstown, was opened in December, 1905 by Governor Walter Egerton who defended his wicket against the first ball bowled by Mr Thomas Flood. The ground was an important nursery for young Indian cricketers, but over a period of time proved inadequate to the needs of the members of the Club especially as it disqualified them from participation in the Parker Cup Competition.

The old facility was disposed of and the Club moved to more spacious accommodation situated on Thomas Lands. This site was leased from the Government through the kind intervention of Mr Kunwar Maharaj Singh, CIE, ICS, who was in the colony as a representative of the Indian Government.

1941

** The British Guiana Trades Union Council was registered with the general aim of promoting the interests of affiliated organisations and those of the workers be they organised or unorganised. The founding unions were the BGLU, the BG Congress of General Workers, the Moulders and Mechanics Union and the BG Sawyers Union. This union was the 16th registered trade union. It was registered on April 8, 1941. The first president was and Secretary of the BGTUC respectively were Theophilus Lee and Nathaniel Critchlow. Subsequently, on its reconstitution the first President and Secretary were A. A. Thorne and Critchlow.

1943

** The West India Royal Commission had recommended the establishment of Legislative Advisory Committees. Governor Gordon Lethem was very enthusiastic about the recommendation which he adopted fully, when in April 1943, a modified constitution was introduced. The Committee system was one of the ways through which the Colonial Office hoped to familiarise colonial politicians with the process of government. It was conceived as preparation for greater participation in colonial administration. In reality, it turned out to be another method of marginalising the local representative in preference to the conservative elite.

** On April 30, 1944, Edgar Mittelholzer's Corentyne Thunder, which was the first of a four-novel series, was released.

1947

** The workers at Demba adopted strike action between April 13 and 16, 1947. The causes of the strike were rooted in the unequal relationship between capital and labour. This, added to the contempt on the part of Demba officials for African workers and their efforts to unionise themselves, provided an important opportunity for politicians and trade unionists to gain mileage from the struggle of the workers. This took the form of support from the general secretary Joycelyn Hubbard and other PAC leaders, notably Dr and Mrs Jagan and Mr Ashton Chase, who performed important directional and propaganda tasks for the workers.

** The Guiana Industrial Workers Union under Dr Joseph Lachmansingh was registered. The circumstances occasioning the formation in 1964 was an increasing dissatisfaction with the MPCA, the recognised union in the sugar belt. On April 5, 1948, the GIWU became the 49th Union to be registered in Guyana. Its first President was Dr J. P. Lachmansingh and Ms Jane Philips Gay as its General Secretary. Even though the GIWU enjoyed the overwhelming majority support of the field workers especially on the East Coast of Demerara, the Sugar Producers' Association refused to recognise the Union. The Labour Department did the same, even after the 1948 East Coast sugar workers protest which resulted in the gunning down of five sugar workers at Enmore Estate on June 16, 1948.

** Legislation (Housing) in 1946 was enacted and brought into operation by proclamation and a Control Housing & Planning Authority was appointed.

** Legislation enacted for establishment of a new Co-operative Department.

1948

** The workers at the Transport and Harbours Department adopted strike action on April 17-21, 1948. The cause of the strike was in pursuance of their struggle for the recognition of the union as the legitimate channel of negotiations for the T&HD and of the conduct of the General Manager, Col. Teare, towards the executives of the Union. This strike was significant because three of the principal personalities identified with the struggle, Ivan Edwards, Ramkarran and F. O. Van Sertima were all connected with the PAC, and subsequently, the PPP. This strike was an important victory in the process of disseminating and politicising the struggle of labour against management. In the end, a commission of inquiry supported the view of the workers that the General Manager, Englishman Col. R. V. Teare was unsuited to the job. It concluded that his reaction to any staff misbehaviour was to adopt the line that victory goes to the one who hits hardest and fastest was so strong that it made him resistant to all normal colonial regulations and established governmental procedures and his comportment not conducive to harmonious relations.

** The Enmore strike which started on April 22, 1948, less than a week after the T&HD strike, and involved primarily Indian workers lasted for four-and-one-half months and was called primarily to secure recognition of the Guyana Industrial Workers Union (GIWU). The strike was significant for several reasons. It was palpably a confrontation between the GIWU supported by the Jagans and Lachmansingh, and the Sugar Producers Association (SPA), which favoured the Manpower Citizens Association (MPCA). Clearly then lines were being drawn between labour and capital. Secondly, the ensuing clash between the workers and the police on June 16, 1948, which ultimately resulted in the loss of the life of five sugar workers and seriously injuring 14 others, enabled the Jagans, Lachmansingh and Jane Philips-Gay to become more involved in the workers' struggle. The strike also allowed Dr Jagan to be the first person to consciously take politics into the country areas, into the populous sugarbelt whose workers were experiencing the harshest strains.

1949

** The Belfield School for Delinquent girls was opened by the wife of the Commissioner of Local Government, Mrs M. B. Laing.

1953

** On August 25, 1948, Mr Theo Lee moved a motion for the appointment of a commission to inquire into the desirability of making the Legislative Council a wholly elected body based on Universal adult suffrage and of offering self-government to the colony. On December 16, 1948, the Governor announced that the Secretary of State had acceded to the motion and would appoint an independent constitutional commission. In October, 1950, the terms of reference were announced to `review the franchise, the composition of the Legislative Council and the executive Council and any other related matters, in the light of the economic and political development of the colony, and to make recommendations. The members of the commission were Sir E. J. Waddington, chairman, Professor V. T. Harlow and Dr Rita Hinden. They arrived in the colony on December 15, 1950, and left on February 13, 1951. The report was submitted on June 29, 1951, and the new constitution was proclaimed April 1, 1953.

** A. A. Thorne, the principal architect behind the formation of the British Guiana Workers Union, served on the 1905 conciliation team which met with the colonial Governor after the 1905 street protests in Georgetown. He also clashed with Nathaniel Critchlow in the 1920 squabble in the Labour Union. Mr Thorne was considered by some of his friends as a very verbose speaker and a kindly man given to outlining his several accomplishments. A Barbadian by birth - August 14, 1871 - he died in this country on April 23, 1956.

** Consequent upon the introduction of adult suffrage and a new constitution, elections were held on April 24, 1953. The parties contesting the elections were the People's Progressive Party, National Democratic Party, United Guianese Party, the People's National Party and the United Farmers and Workers' Party. There were 131 candidates, 58 of whom were sponsored by the contesting political parties and 73 were Independents with no acknowledged party affiliation. There were 205,296 registered voters for the 24 constituencies. At the polls, 152,231 votes or 72.8 per cent of the registered voters cast their ballot. The PPP received 77,613 votes or 51 per cent of the votes cast and won 18 of the 24 seats. The National Democratic Party with 20,442 or 13 per cent of the votes won two seats. The remaining four seats were won by Independent candidates.

** The PPP was elected into government in April, 1953, and deposed by Her Majesty's Government in October of the same year. They were replaced by an Interim Administration of discredited political aspirants. In the circumstances, the leadership of the PPP mounted a civil disobedience campaign in which Mrs Jagan was fined for holding an illegal procession in April, 1954, summoned for being in possession of a confidential police manual and subsequently charged with being in possession of banned literature. Eight other members of the PPP were also charged for being in possession of subversive literature. On April 3, 1954, Dr Jagan was arrested for violating a restriction order and was later sentenced to six months in prison with hard labour. A restriction order was issued against Forbes Burnham on April 5, 1954.

1956

** Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir Allan Lennox Boyd in April, 1956, announced the return to democratic principles and practices to the colony following a period of unrest here after the PPP government was replaced by the Interim Administration.

** The Governor then announced the provisions of the so-called `Renison Constitution' which replaced the Waddington Constitution. The Renison Constitution lacked many of the innovative features of the Waddington Constitution, but it nevertheless brought an end to the period of marking time in the political process locally. The Constitution provided for a Legislative Council consisting of the Governor, 12 elected members, four officials and not more than eight nominated members. There was also an Executive Council under the Governor, four official members, one nominated and five elected members. Dr Jagan led the local political leaders in protesting the ambiguity of the Constitution and the so-called flexibility of the Constitution which enabled the Governor if and when to choose to appoint sufficient nominated members to frustrate the will of the electorate. Her majesty's Government responded with a modified version consisting of the Governor, three ex-officio members, 11 nominated members and 14 elected members. This represented a small victory for the political leaders.

1963

** An ordinance to incorporate the University of Guyana was ratified by the Governor. At the first meeting of the Board of Governors (Council) of the University of Guyana, Mr John Carter, Esq., QC, LA, LLB, was appointed Pro-Chancellor and Dr Harold A. Drayton, Esq., CSC, Ph.D., as Deputy Chancellor.

** The presence of two Russian Freighters loading rice in Georgetown gave the pretext for violence in the city. There were rumours that arms were aboard the ship. The city of Georgetown experienced a mini Black Friday with attacks on the Rice Marketing Board, rioting and looting. One person was shot dead.

** The 80-day strike. The PPP government announced its intention to enact a Labour Relations Bill. Certain elements in the Trade Union Movement perceived the Bill as an attempt by the government to gain control of the trade union movement. Meeting on April 18, the Movement decided on a general strike which they held on April 23 following the passage of the Bill in its second and third readings. There followed numerous incidents of gunplay, looting, squatting, demonstrations, occupation of government buildings, attacks on strike-breakers and countrywide clashes between the PPP and the PNC supporters. The strike ended on July 8, 1963, following a decision by the government on July 6 to withdraw the bill.

1964

** Political violence unleashed in Guyana in the wake of a strike in the sugar industry on February 17, 1964. Between April 3 and 30, there were repeated incidents of violence and bombing. Life on a daily basis was characterised by arson, bombings and inter-racial violence. The worst aspect of this inter-racial conflict was seen at Wismar, where houses and business places owned by Indians were systematically destroyed, many people beaten, some to death and women and children raped, as "police and armed volunteers did nothing to help".

1965

** The PPP, having been deposed by the PNC-UF coalition after the 1964 general election, refused to take up their seats in the House of Assembly. The boycott lasted until April, 1965, when the party decided that it was expedient that they utilise the opportunities afforded to a Member of Parliament to give effective representation to their constituency and protest the illegality of the PNC-UF coalition.

1969

** The Cornerstone for the New Amsterdam Technical Institute was laid.

** It was officially announced that Timehri would be the name of Guyana's international airport at Atkinson Field.

1971

** The workers at Linden, traditionally PNC supporters, adopted strike action for the speedy conclusion and release of the Tyndal Arbitration Tribunal's findings, the payment of the award before the date of the takeover of Demba by government, and against the attempt of the government to convert their Canadian-based insurance pension plan (RILA) to a local government run scheme.

1973

** The `Georgetown Accord' which gave a commitment to the establishment of CARICOM was reached.

1976

** The historic Amerindian (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament. The Passage of this Bill, piloted through the House by Desmond Hoyte, Minister with responsibility for Amerindian Affairs and Economic Development, removed the stigma of wardship from the indigenous peoples of Guyana and made them Guyanese citizens, entitled to enjoy rights that were previously denied to them.

1980

** Anglican Bishop Georgetown Enthroned: The first native Guyanese took office amidst pomp and splendour after 137 years of church history. Right Reverend Randolph Oswald George, 55, took place in the country's premier Anglican Cathedral. It was a significant break with precedence in that previous Bishops who have headed the local Diocese were all selected in Britain, home of the Church of England, including Dr Allan John Knight who had become a naturalised Guyanese. John Knight, served in the Diocese for some 40 years until his death in 1979. He had succeeded another Englishman, William Piercy Austin and according to Bishop George, his two predecessors had guided the Anglican Church here in Guyana with distinction for 92 years out of its 137 years existence as a separate Diocese.

1981

** Father Denzil Hinds, Resident Parish Priest of Christ-the-King Parish of McKenzie, and a member of Parliament, was dismissed from the Diocese, allegedly because of his acceptance of public office.

** Guyanese cricketer, Clive Lloyd, created history by appearing in his 100th Test match - more than any other West Indian cricketer - at the Sabina Park in Jamaica. Lloyd was honoured by the West Indian Cricket Board for his contribution to West Indian cricket. In his career beginning in 1966 Lloyd had so far scored 29,481 runs at an average of 49.21 with a highest score of 242 scored against India in 1974-75. At the time, Lloyd had already scored 18 Test centuries.

1989

** The national budget was presented on March 30, 1989. On April 4 the TUC issued a statement denying that it had been party to the presentation of such a budget. On April 5, faced with stiff opposition and protests from the FITUG, Finance Minister Greenidge, deputy Prime Minister Haslyn Parris and Trade Minister Winston Murray met the press and conceded that the overall provisions of the budget were tough. They, however, insisted that these provisions were necessary. FITUG, on the same day, issued a call for its members to take strike action demanding a recall of the budget. On April 6, the membership of the independent trade unions of FITUG picketed outside Parliament building chanting and ringing bells. Faced with the almost total shutdown of the country, the Hoyte Government on Tuesday April 10, sacked some 300 corporation workers who had exercised their right to dissent and to engage in strike action. On April 11, University of Guyana students staged a massive picket and street demonstration. George Daniels, Chairman of FITUG left the country, a factor which considerably weakened the protest. The strike eventually collapsed in June.

1993

** Minority Leader Mr Hugh Desmond Hoyte, diagnosed initially with an asthmatic condition, was flown hastily to the United States. The People's National Congress (PNC) reported that Mr Hoyte suffered an asthmatic condition and was advised to seek treatment in the US. Mr Hoyte was seen by heart specialists who confirmed his illness was serious. Eventually, triple bypass heart surgery had to be performed on Friday, April 23 at the Cornell Medical Centre, USA.

** Police investigated the circumstances surrounding the discovery of a dead female in Main Street, Georgetown on Friday, April 10. The dead woman had been identified as 19-year-old Monica Reece. At about 10:30 pm a dark coloured pick-up was seen driving at high speed up the western carriage way, when someone was thrown out in the vicinity of Geddes Grant. Persons nearby went over and found Reece who was dressed in a shirt and pair of tights, lying in a pool of blood. The back of her head was bashed in. The failure of the Police to solve this case has seriously eroded the reputation of the Force.

1994

** Travelling on President Cesar Gaviria Trujillo's military jet aircraft, President Cheddi Jagan paid a four-day state visit to Colombia on April 3-6. Colombia awarded the Order of Simon Bolivar, its highest National Award, to the President of the Cooperative Republic. The President concluded a number of agreements for cooperation in education, anti-narcotics training, trade and agriculture.

** On April 13, the United States Embassy announced the reopening of the Office of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Georgetown. The office, which was closed in 1982, would be a subsidiary of the US Regional Development Office in Brickdam. Mission Director, Ms Mosina Jordan, said that the agency was expected to fund programmes valued at US$8-10M annually.

1995

** Dr Frederick Chiluba, President of Zambia, paid a two-day state visit to Guyana on April 7-9. He headed a 30-member delegation. While here, he met President Cheddi Jagan and members of the Cabinet in an effort to strengthen relationships between the countries.

1996

** Former US President Jimmy Carter paid a three-day visit to Guyana on April 22-24. He met President Cheddi Jagan, Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte, other political leaders and other groups, national and internatinal, to discuss among other things the draft National Development Strategy and Plan.

1997

** A Caribbean Regional Judicial Colloquium for Senior Judges on the Promotion of Human Rights of Women and the Girl Child through the Judiciary - organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Regional Office of the Commonwealth Youth Programme - was held on April 15-18 in Georgetown.

** The Government of France agreed to write off two-thirds of Guyana's approximately US$4.2M debt to the country. The Netherlands and Guyana also reached an agreement to write off US$10.7M out of US$19.9M owed by Guyana. The United Kingdom wrote off US$126.6M of the US$197.2M debt owed by Guyana. Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo signed agreements in the capitals of the three countries.

** Timehri International Airport was renamed the Dr Cheddi Jagan International Airport, (Timehri).

1999

** Guyana's denunciation of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights became effective in April. As a consequence, death row prisoners in Guyana no longer have recourse to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

** Aviation Investments, led by the Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana, became the major joint venture partners of GAC.