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408. Information Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Davis) to Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • British Guiana

The question of holding a constitutional conference and fixing a date for independence is becoming an increasingly serious issue in British Guiana. Premier Burnham is becoming suspicious of both the United States and the United Kingdom and his suspicions have been intensified by press stories in Britain to the effect that the United States Government is opposed to early independence on the grounds that an independent British Guiana might go communist.2

The British have informed us that they expect to hold the promised constitutional conference as early as practicable, presumably, if all goes well sometime toward the end of this year, but they have not been willing to be this explicit to Premier Burnham. Instead they have told him that the conference could not be scheduled until there had been time to study a report on racial imbalance in the public services3 which the British Guiana Government has requested from the International Commission of Jurists.

Our Consul General in Georgetown has been told to try to allay Burnhamʼs suspicions of footdragging on the part of the British and to deny press reports that the United States opposes independence.4 We have suggested to the British that a more forthcoming reply to Burnhamʼs request for a constitutional conference in September might be [Page 908]helpful.5 Specifically we have suggested that since it is their intention to convene this conference this year Premier Burnham might be advised of this fact.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 19 BR GU. Secret. Drafted by Shullaw and Cobb.
  2. In a telegram from Georgetown for Shullaw, May 17, Carlson reported that he assured Burnham that these press stories were completely false. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Telegrams and Reports, 1965)
  3. In a telegram from Georgetown for Shullaw, May 22, Carlson reported that the Governor had confirmed his earlier assurance that the “only stipulation [concerning timing] was that of time to ‘study’ ICJ report before constitutional conference and that there was no mention of requiring its implementation.” (Ibid.)
  4. In a telegram from Georgetown for Shullaw, June 1, Carlson reported that Burnham was “quite unimpressed” with and unconvinced by U.S. arguments that the United Kingdom was not dragging its feet on independence. Carlson stressed to Burnham that the United States did favor early independence. (Ibid.)
  5. In a telegram to Georgetown for Carlson, May 21, Shullaw reported that he had called in John Killick of the British Embassy and “suggested that HMG might wish to consider being somewhat more forthcoming,” and that there could be “considerable gain were HMG to tell Burnham that the conference would be held this year.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, British Guiana, Vol. III, Memos, 12/64–11/65)