260. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Assistance to British Guiana

PARTICIPANTS

  • Dr. Cheddi B. Jagan, Premier of British Guiana
  • Mr. Henry J.M. Hubbard, Minister of Trade and Industry
  • Mr. Clifton C. Low-a-Chee, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Development Planning and Secretary to the Council of Ministers
  • Mr. Lloyd A. Searwar, Assistant Head of Government Information Services
  • Mr. John Hennings, Colonial Attach, British Embassy
  • Dr. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Special Assistant to the President
  • Mr. William C. Burdett, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
[Page 539]

Dr. Schlesinger called on Premier Jagan to deliver a personal note from the President regretting his inability to accede to a request made by the Premier for a further meeting. The President referred to his crowded schedule including a Cabinet Meeting and official luncheon. He asked the Premier to speak frankly to Dr. Schlesinger who had his complete confidence.

Upon reading the President’s letter, Premier Jagan expressed his thanks and his understanding of why the President was unable to receive him. He then made clear his disappointment that the United States was unable to be more responsive to his request for economic assistance. He described British Guiana’s development program along the lines used with Mr. Fowler Hamilton earlier in the day. The Premier said that frankly speaking he felt that British Guiana was getting a run around. “He detailed the numerous surveys and missions which had visited his country. He asserted that the refusal of the United States to make a specific money offer placed him in an impossible political position. He inquired whether the United States attitude should be attributed to his failure to make a satisfactory political” impression. The Premier referred to a figure of $5 million mentioned by the recent ICA Mission. He asked if the United States could at least undertake to provide this sum.

Dr. Schlesinger assured the Premier that we were most sympathetic to his desire to help the people of British Guiana develop an economic and social program. He recalled that the President had said that the internal system and political and economic organization of a country were for each country to decide for itself. We insisted only that a country remain genuinely free and independent. Dr. Schlesinger explained the necessity for universal standards in the administration of our aid program. We were not able to commit any specific figure until we had an opportunity to examine British Guiana’s development program as a whole and the details of the various projects. We would be glad to help British Guiana perhaps in cooperation with Hemisphere organizations to formulate a development program and to work out the details of agreed projects. We would be willing to send a mission of economists and planners down to British Guiana. The United States definitely was not stalling.

The Premier asked whether we could finance part of the gap in the Berrill Plan which had been prepared with British advice. He recognized that we might not be able to accept the expanded Guianese program. Dr. Jagan said he would be glad to receive a mission, but did not want it to take up a lot of time. It was pointed out to him that even the Berrill Plan had not been reviewed in detail by U.S. technicians.

Premier Jagan asked what was he to say when he returned to Georgetown. He would be severely criticized. Was there some statement which he could make? Dr. Schlesinger responded that it might be possible [Page 540]to agree on a statement. Minister Hubbard asked if we had a draft. Dr. Schlesinger circulated a possible statement which might be issued by the State Department.

At this point the Premier had to leave for the airport to catch a plane for New York. The discussion was continued in the car. Dr. Jagan made several suggestions about the draft. He insisted that the mission should only review” British Guiana’s own plans. He wished to avoid any inference that the Guianese had not been able themselves to produce a plan. He asked who would decide about the composition of the mission.

After the Premier’s departure Minister Hubbard and Mr. Hennings returned to the Department of State and met with Mr. Burdett and Mr. Foster to adjust the draft, taking into account the Premier’s suggestions. Agreement was arrived at subject to confirmation by the Premier from New York on October 27.

Note: Agreement on the wording of the statement was reached by Dr. Jagan and Dr. Schlesinger by telephone on October 27.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Oct. 21-Nov. 6, 1961. Confidential. Drafted by Burdett. The meeting was held at the Dupont Plaza Hotel.