The 1953 Parliamentary Elections in colonial British Guiana
History This Week
By Tota C. Mangar
June 1, 2006
Colonial British Guiana's nationalist struggle entered a far more militant stage in the post-1947 period. The foremost demand centred on electoral reform and universal adult franchise. These were considered prerequisites to economic development, the second item on the national agenda. In 1950 the Colonial Office had agreed to the visit of a Constitutional Commission. In 1951 this Waddington Commission supported the local demand for universal adult suffrage and it is also recommended a moderately advanced constitution for Guyana.
There were five other political parties campaigning for the election. These were The National Democratic Party, (NDP), The Peoples National Party. (PNP), The United Farmers and Workers Party (UFWP), The United Guianese Party (UGP) and the Guianese National Party, (GNP).
The NDP had the most experienced candidates. Several of them had served in various capacities in the old legislature and some in the Executive Council. The NDP was closely allied to the League of Coloured People (LCP) and appealed to urban sentiments. Its main candidates were John Carter, Dr Jacob Alexander Nicholson, William Oscar Rudyard Kendall and John Fernandes.
The PNP splintered from the NDP as the "Independent Socialist" in late December 1952 and then, changing its name, announced in February 1953 that it would contest the elections. The PNP was led by RBO Hart and it nominated seven candidates to the urban constituencies.
The United Guianese Party (UGP) was formed in December 1952. It announced itself as the European party and was led by businessman Claude Vibert White. This party UGP fancied its chances in Georgetown and fielded eight candidates, most of them in urban constituencies.
The Guianese National Party (GNP) was perhaps the most unusual of the parties in the 1953 elections. While members campaigned as a party they contested seats as independents. The party was led by the highly respected rural physician, Rohan Loris Sharples and popular school teacher, Charles Clarence Bristol. Five members of this party were nominated for various rural constituencies.
The United Farmers and Workers Party, (UFWP), was formed in September 1952. It fielded three candidates, two of whom were Debidins. Daniel Debidin had served in the 1947 legislature. His belief that adult suffrage was withheld simply to deny East Indians effective political representation had made him a clear representative of the East Indian Community.
The extension of the franchise necessitated the preparation of a new voters list; enumeration between 16 and 25 June produced a revised lost of 205,296 registered voters. These voters were located in revised constituencies recommended by the Waddington Commission. There were 131 candidates, 58 the nominees of political parties and 73 independents contesting the 24 constituencies.
In final preparation for the election the new constitution was adopted by the Legislative Council on 3rd April and ballots were cast on the 24th April. The number of 156,226 or 74.8 percent votes cast was regarded as very high at the time when compared with the rest of the Caribbean. There were 152,231 or 72.8 percent valid votes which again produced very flattering comparison with the major Caribbean Islands, Jamaica, (1944), 58.7 Trinidad, (1946), 52.9 and Barbados, (1950), 64.6 percent.
The supporters of the PPP gave the party a convincing victory. The party with 77,695 votes polled 51 percent of the valid votes cast and won 18 or 75 percent of the available seats. Eleven of the party's candidates polled clear majorities over all their opponents put together. The NDP, the only other party to win seats, polled a distant 20,032 or 13 percent and won two of the six remaining seats. The four other victorious candidates were all independents.
Fourteen of the successful candidates gained a majority over all other candidates in their respective constituencies and of this number thirteen were PPP candidates. The other candidate was an independent. A total of seventy-eight candidates lost their deposits.
The results reflected massive overall support among the Blacks, East Indians and others for the programmes articulated by the PPP. The party was strongest in the rural coastal districts and on the Corentyne, where it polled nearly two thirds of the votes. But support was strong in the capital of Georgetown as well where the party won every seat.
In these constituencies, middle class Blacks and others were surprised at the level of rejection by the new enfranchised. In only one constituency, won by the PPP, did the opposition candidates poll more votes combined than did the PPP.
Of the eighteen successful PPP candidates, there were nine East Indians, six Blacks, two whites and one Chinese. It would have been most difficult to obtain a closer representation of the ethnic composition of the colony. Cheddi Jagan, W.O.R Kendall, Theo Lee and N.W.D Phang served in the previous legislature. Both Phang (Northwest District-Independent) and Lee (Essequibo Islands-Independent) were conservatives who supported liberal policies and possessed reasonable parliamentary records. Kendall, an LCP-NDP moderate won the contested New Amsterdam constituency.
Expectations were high especially among the working class people in relation to the emerging PPP Government of 1953 following its convincing election victory.
Below see list of Members of the British Guiana Legislature following the 1953 General Elections:
Members of the British Guiana Legislature
following the 1953 General Elections
Name of successful candidate Constituency
W.A. Phang (Independent) North West-District
Theophilus Lee (Independent) Essequibo Islands
Charles Carter (Independent) Upper Demerara River
Thomas Wheatling (Independent) Pomeroon
Eugene Correia (National Democratic Party) Bartica & Interior
W.O.R Kendall (National Democratic Party) New Amsterdam
Janet Jagan (PPP) Western Essequibo
Fred Browman (PPP) Demerara Essequibo
Jenarine Singh (PPP) West Bank Demerara
J.P Lachhmansingh (PPP) East Bank Demerara
Ashton Chase (PPP) Georgetown South
Clinton Wong (PPP) Georgetown South-Central
Jessie Burnham (PPP) Georgetown Central
Frank Van Sertima (PPP) Georgetown North
L.F.S. Burnham (PPP) Georgetown North-East
B. Ramkarran (PPP) West Central Demerara
Sydney King (now Eusi Kwayana) (PPP) Central Demerara
Jane Phillips-Gay (PPP) East Central Demerara
Sam Persaud (PPP) Mahaica-Mahaicony
Balli Lachhmansingh (PPP) West Berbice
Adjodia Singh (PPP) Berbice River
Robert Hanoman (PPP) Eastern Berbice
Cheddi Jagan (PPP) Corentyne Coast
Mohamed Khan (PPP) Corentyne River