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416. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • British Guiana


  • US
    • The Secretary
    • J. Harold Shullaw, Director, BNA
  • UK
    • Anthony Greenwood, Secretary of State for the Colonies
    • Sir Patrick Dean, British Ambassador
    • Ian Wallace, Assistant Under Secretary of State, Colonial Office
    • C. G. Eastwood, Assistant Under Secretary of State, Colonial Office

The Colonial Secretary said he believed Jagan and the PPP would attend the Constitutional Conference scheduled to begin in London on November 2 although they would probably walk out at some point in the proceedings. Mr. Greenwood expressed satisfaction with the [Page 920]course of developments in British Guiana during the past year under Burnhamʼs leadership. He also expressed an optimistic view of the Conference prospects and satisfaction that Burnham is prepared to accept the recommendations in the report of the International Commission of Jurists. Mr. Greenwood said this was not easy for Burnham to do, but it should be a helpful gesture on the eve of the Constitutional Conference.

The Secretary expressed concern at the security situation in British Guiana following independence and asked if it would be possible for the UK to leave some military forces after independence. Mr. Greenwood replied that in view of our concern2 he would be prepared to recommend retention of British forces for a limited period of time after independence.3 He stressed that there was no precedent for doing so. Mr. Greenwood said Burnham was being pressed to get on with the creation of local security forces, but it would be a year from now before such forces would be able to take on the job of security. While Burnham was asking for independence in February, Mr. Greenwood thought June or July would be more realistic. The Colonial Secretary added that Burnham is agreeable to British forces staying on for a period after independence.

In response to the Secretaryʼs question about the Venezuelan claim Mr. Greenwood said the claim was without a sound legal basis and for that reason Venezuela would be uninterested in referring the dispute to the International Court. The Secretary expressed the hope the matter could be resolved before independence since otherwise the existence of the dispute would constitute a bar to membership for Guiana in the OAS. The Secretary asked whether there was any possibility of minor border adjustments. Both Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Wallace replied that any territorial concession to Venezuela would be exploited by Jagan against Burnham.

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The Colonial Secretary in the course of the conversation described Burnham as a “good Prime Minister” whose performance has been above expectations. He suggested that Burnham has made some progress in reassuring the small, well-to-do Indian business community and noted that return of Indians to areas which they had left during the racial disturbances. The Colonial Secretaryʼs references to Jagan were unsympathetic. He believes Jaganʼs position has deteriorated in the past year as his party has suffered from internal differences.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 16 BR GU. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Shullaw and approved by S October 27. The meeting was held in the Secretaryʼs office. The memorandum is part I of II.
  2. In a meeting later that day at the White House with Bundy and Chase, Greenwood said that to shorten the gap between independence and the readiness of local security forces the British would delay independence until June or July and institute a phased withdrawal of British troops. Bundy expressed continuing Presidential interest in British Guiana. Greenwood complimented Bundy on the U.S. Consul General in Georgetown. Bundy responded “we have taken particular pains in our selection of personnel for all agencies operating in British Guiana.” (Memorandum of conversation, October 18; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, British Guiana, Vol. III, Memos, 12/63–7/64)
  3. At a meeting on November 27 Dean informed Rusk that the British Cabinet, acting upon Greenwoodʼs recommendation, had decided to allow British troops to remain in British Guiana after independence on May 26, 1966, until October 1966 when Guyanese forces would be prepared to assume their responsibilities. (Memorandum of conversation, November 27; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 6 UK)