383. Telegram From the Consulate General in British Guiana to the Department of State1
443. Premier Jagan called me to his office late afternoon June 26 and talked over an hour along following lines. For first time he is seriously worried about what is happening in BG and where it is going. Several years ago he thought BG had bright future; there was much waiting to be done in way of economic development and possibility help solve problems outside BG. For example, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad were all facing pressing economic problems resulting partly from exploding populations. They were trying solve this by some industrialization but would never be able to keep up. In fact, all these places were just barely keeping the lid on. (He apologized at this point for digressing.)
Now in British Guiana there was this deplorable violence, senseless retaliation, and there seemed no end in sight. A few days ago he had to take his daughter out of school in Georgetown because of harassment by classmates. Several times he asked somewhat rhetorically “what can be done?” I asked if he were satisfied that he and the two opposition leaders had done everything that was within their power, individually as well as collectively, to stop the violence. He said he thought so but that everybody could not be controlled. He said he [Page 869] wanted this to be a very frank discussion. I asked him if he believed people in Mazaruni had anything to do with violence. He quickly replied that he did not think so but there was this theory of a plan. He said he wished to talk about solutions.
He said as I knew he had been seeking coalition but his efforts had come to nothing. In past few days he had been talking with Governor about such possibility and now he wished to talk with me. As long as U.S. was opposed to having PPP in coalition or in government at all, Burnham would refuse. During coalition negotiations with Burnham when Ghanaian delegation was here, Jagan had made concession after concession, including parity in cabinet, but Burnham always had another demand. This experience and subsequent ones simply illustrate that Burnham will not go against wishes of U.S.
He had thought many times about what caused his relations with U.S. to “go sour.” He still did not know specifically how this happened. He used to go annually from 1957 to 1961 to the U.S. and personal relations were very good. In 1961 he had talks with President Kennedy, Chester Bowles, Schlesinger, and other top officials. They had probed him very deeply and he had every reason to believe that he had passed the test. He had been quite frank with them about his socialist views. Generally speaking he was inclined to think there were two reasons for the deterioration: opposition leaders in BG had effectively spread word in U.S. that he was Communist and secondly, there had been U.S. trouble with Cuba. These two elements, in interacting way, had given impression that he was potential menace to U.S. This was myth but was now fact of life in U.S. which he must recognize. In actual fact, he said, U.S. need have no concern on this score.
Recently he had talked with various elements in Georgetown including Pres. Chamber of Commerce, businessmen, Catholic Church, etc. about possible solution to BG problem. Several had told him that he and PPP were Communist, that there was fear of regimentation, exclusion of private enterprise, and, if independent, of invitation by him to Soviets and Cubans to come in. He told them in essence that his record belied any danger to private enterprise. He had publicly pledged to keep his hands off sugar and bauxite industries, and as for regimentation, there could be ironclad guarantees in constitution and he was not fool enough to try tear up constitution with opposition being so strong in BG. As for Soviets and Cubans, he was prepared have treaty of neutrality, e.g., along Austrian lines. If U.S. wanted, it could have right to intervene. This was in fact unnecessary because he realized U.S. would intervene in any event if its security were threatened. Some businessmen had mentioned BG might be another Zanzibar, but he realized BG in same hemisphere as U.S. and events which take place in Africa would not be permitted to take place here.[Page 870]
Jagan said in final analysis only three courses now possible in BG: (1) coalition; (2) civil war; (3) partition. He thought coalition was dependent on U.S. He thought partition was no solution and recalled difficulties and suffering which ensued when India was partitioned. Economically partition would not make sense, but BG already is drifting toward partition. (I agreed that partition would not represent progress.) He could see no end to violence without coalition. Uncontrollable groups were now operating. I asked whether when he said coalition he meant all three parties. He said no, he meant PPP–PNC because their objectives were more similar and in any event there should be an opposition party. I asked whether he had in mind coalition now before election or after or both. He did not see much value in coalition before election since ministers would just be settling into their jobs “when the dog fight of elections would start in October or November,” but he was willing to consider it. He was more interested in agreement for coalition after elections. While he much preferred postponement of election to give time to work out problems, he was willing to consider acceptance of no postponement. He added that PPP had not yet decided whether to contest those elections.
He then asked where U.S. stood and what my views were. I told him that U.S. was assuming that course of events would be determined by elections in implementation of Colonial Secretaryʼs decision and that after the elections we would presumably know with what government we would be dealing. In meantime, pending basic political decision by electorate, we were in effect simply waiting. I indicated incidental opinion that he placed far too much weight on view that Burnham acted on basis of what he thought U.S. wanted. In my experience, politicians of all kinds were guided primarily, if not entirely, by what they thought would get votes and how they would fare at polls. I suggested that what happens in BG is for parties here to decide and matters of coalition or no coalition were not matters for U.S. to determine but could and undoubtedly would be decided by political leaders here. I mentioned that if he wished I would report his views exactly insofar as possible as presented to me. He was extremely pleased. I cautioned however that there would not necessarily be any response but that channels of communication were open and I would faithfully report his views at any time.
Comment: Jagan gave controlled performance. He was purposely calm, reasonable, most courteous, earnest. Only sign of tension was slight shaking of hands at times; otherwise he seemed relaxed. It is obvious that he would give almost anything to obtain U.S. support and will leap at any possibility of favorable response. We can probably expect some more peace feelers.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15 BR GU. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to London.↩