396. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs (Shullaw) to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Tyler)1


  • Recent Events in British Guiana

Several weeks after the Anglo–US consultations in July 1964 violence in BG came to a virtual halt with the end of the sugar workers strike, and the beginning of the election campaign. In mid-August a new East Indian party was formed—the Justice Party—and Jagan announced that the PPP would participate in the elections “under protest.”

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The campaign is now in full swing with the deposit of electoral lists October 26, and the three major parties, as well as several new parties are active. As the campaign intensifies the likelihood of violence increases but every effort is being made to maintain security. To this end the US has just supplied 20 radio transmitter receivers and 10 jeeps for the police.

Jaganʼs actions indicate that he is on the defensive. He is blaming his governmentʼs failure to receive assistance on reactionary elements in the U.S. and the U.K., and he maintains that the intense internal dissatisfaction with his administration is attributable solely to outside influences. The most recent estimate from the Colonial office suggests Jagan would get only 40% of the vote if elections were held today. Last July we thought he would get from 45% to 48%.

We are preparing to move ahead with an assistance program for a non-Jagan government in BG. The program would consist of road rehabilitation, maintenance of the seawall, making a cut through the Berbice Bar to open up the New Amsterdam area, and construction of a road from Atkinson field to the interior. An AID representative will go to BG November 4 to investigate the degree to which the BG administrative services can be used in implementing the projects.

We must anticipate that if Jagan loses by a close vote HMG will press us to agree to a JaganBurnham coalition government after elections. They may argue that only in a PPPPNC coalition can the major groups in the population be represented; that a government which does not contain the PPP will be under continuing attack designed to keep it from governing effectively; and that an African dominated Burnham government will seek to intimidate and repress the East Indians.

We believe a PPPPNC coalition after the elections would only add to BGʼs problems. It would be politically impossible for the US to assist a government in which Jagan and his colleagues played a role. Intense personal rivalry between Jagan and Burnham would contribute to instability and intensify racial antagonisms. We hope that a coalition government can be formed without the PPP and that it will be genuinely multi-racial.2 We will use the influence we have in support of such a government.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, British Guiana Chronological File, 1964. Secret; No Distribution. Drafted by Cobb.
  2. Telegram 125 from Georgetown, October 26, reported a 2-hour discussion between Carlson and Burnham on October 23, during which the latter spoke of his thoughts about whom he wanted for the various cabinet positions in his coming government, with United Front and Justice Party leaders slotted for minor positions. Carlson reported that Burnhamʼs “current thinking somewhat disturbing because may indicate intention make coalition government unduly PNC dominated with other partiesʼ participation kind of sham,” which Carlson said would be “very divisive” and would lead to a Burnham administration of “one term or less.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 14 BR GU)