Historical reflections Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 9, 2002

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TODAY October 9 marks 49 years since the British landed troops here, suspending the Constitution and removing the popularly elected People's Progressive Party (PPP) internal-self government, with Dr. Cheddi Jagan as Premier.

This was after only 133 days in office for the party.

Ironically it was on this day in 1992, that Dr. Jagan was sworn in as the first freely elected President of this country.

Arguably, the suspension of the Constitution and other diplomatic and overt activities at that time were responsible for the political and racial difficulties that dogged the country then and which still exist today.

It was therefore no surprise when former Political Adviser to American President John F. Kennedy, Arthur Schleisinger made a public apology to Dr. Jagan for his role in removing the re-elected PPP government in the 1960s and installing the PNC/UF coalition government.

"I am sorry for the grave injustice I did to Dr. Jagan and the Guyanese people," Schleisinger said after the historic October 5, 1992 elections.

Dr. Jagan and Mr. Forbes Burnham had been united in the PPP up to 1955.

However, these charismatic personalities had different political ambitions.

The events of October 9, 1953 provided an excellent launching pad for the furtherance of Mr. Burnham's political ambition of becoming head of state and the first cracks in the walls of national unity began to appear.

So with an interim government installed by the British colonial power, Mr. Burnham as Chairman of the PPP unsuccessfully demanded "leader or nothing" in 1955.

This initially led to the formation of two PPP factions - Jaganite and Burnhamite.

The latter eventually became the PNC.

This ruptured the unity of the national independence movement, and most unfortunately led to division along racial lines that exist to today.

Analysts say the political engineering by the West in the then Cold War era, in collusion with local elements, were more instrumental in nurturing this division, because it suited their interest of removing the "communist" Jagan and replacing him with a more acceptable political leader.

Dr. Jagan in his book `Forbidden Freedom', recalling the scene of the arrival of the British troops on that fateful day in Guyana's history, said: "No doubt they (soldiers) were thoroughly indoctrinated on the subject of `terrorists' and `bandits' and `communists'.

"But meeting no resistance, they were overheard remarking later: `Where's the war we came to fight?'"

He added: "Shots were fired, but not against these defenders of democracy. One was fired to break open the lock of our Party's Office."

Dr. Jagan also recalled the views of a `Daily Herald' correspondent written on October 9, 1953:

"I flew into this crisis city of palms and wooden houses late last night. And this afternoon, 18 hours later I am still looking for the crisis."

The lesson here is that the Guyana situation has deep historical political roots and in prescribing solutions, including power-sharing and a host of others, it is necessary to ascertain the origin of a problem.

Guyana's history is full of painful lessons and the crisis gripping the nation today demands rational, logical and coherent approaches - foremost being constructive dialogue instead of antagonistic confrontations.

Today is a day for all citizens of goodwill to sit and ponder deeply on what has gone before and the options to be pursued to preserve the democratic gains and build a united, safe, secure and prosperous society.