388. Message From Secretary of State Rusk to the British Colonial Secretary (Sandys)1

I fully appreciate your concern at continuing violence in British Guiana and your desire to find some way of preventing a situation developing which could necessitate postponement of the elections you intend holding in the colony later this year. I also sympathize with your capable and courageous Governor in his efforts to carry out his responsibilities under such trying conditions. In the circumstances I am somewhat hesitant to raise again the doubts and misgivings about a pre-election coalition which we expressed to your people at the recent London talks. Since, however, we are in complete agreement on the constructive objectives we are pursuing in British Guiana, I have no hesitation in doing so.

In the first place we seriously doubt that Jagan, who has been using violence for political purposes, would be likely to forego such tactics if a coalition were formed. Apart from that consideration there is, in our opinion, the very real possibility that a pre-election coalition would adversely affect the electoral prospects of the PNC and the UF by confusing the supporters of those two parties. A coalition of the PPP and PNC excluding the UF would endanger the hoped for post election PNCUF coalition which at the moment is the only possibility of replacing the Jagan Government. In short, we share your view of the importance of holding the elections later this year but are concerned that nothing be done in the pre-election period in the quest for order and security which would jeopardize the currently hopeful electoral results.

Since the London talks on July 16 and 17 there have been several developments in British Guiana which may be relevant. The strike of the sugar workers has been ended in what amounts to a defeat for Jagan. Whether this will result in any immediate improvement in the security situation, of course, remains to be seen. I also understand that Jagan has broken off his “unity” talks with Burnham and DʼAguiar. In the course of those talks he clearly indicated that the coalition he seeks has as its objective postponement of the elections. He showed no interest in a coalition limited to a brief pre-election period but insisted on a five year coalition.

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I would be most grateful if you would give further consideration to these very real concerns on our part about the dangers of such a course of action.2

Warm regards,

Dean Rusk 3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 19 BR GU. Top Secret. Drafted by Shullaw.
  2. In a personal message to Rusk, attached to an August 17 covering note from the British Embassy, Sandysʼ deputy, Sir Hilton Poynton, reported that the risk of violence was diminished and the case for a temporary coalition was therefore less strong. Poynton stated that he was sure that Sandys would agree, upon his return from holiday, that the idea should not be pursued under these circumstances. If, however, violence were to set in again at the pitch it reached in June and July, a temporary coalition might be reconsidered. (Ibid.)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.