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417. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Operations of the Central Intelligence Agency (Helms) to the Presidentʼs Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • British Guiana
The British Guiana Independence Conference concluded in London on 19 November 1965 by setting the date of 26 May 1966 for the independence of what will be known as the state of Guyana. The conference also produced agreement on a draft constitution for the new state and stipulations in the conference record for consultations between the leaders of the two parties in the coalition government. A number of compromises were worked out between Premier Forbes Burnham and Finance Minister Peter DʼAguiar which, hopefully, will ease some of the strains between them. The conference did not, however, succeed in bringing the two leaders much closer together; they remain basically incompatible on both personal and political grounds and are united only in mutual defense against the threat posed by Cheddi Jagan.
[5 lines of source text not declassified] It was generally agreed that the basic division of the country along racial lines would continue, that Jagan and the PPP would continue to enjoy the support of the vast majority of the Indian population and that this would continue to pose a [Page 922]serious threat to the government of independent Guyana. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] informally indicated that the British Government was alert to the possibility of racial violence breaking out following independence and would continue to be sensitive to any developments which might bring into question the good judgement of the British Government in granting independence to a government led by a representative of a minority racial grouping in the circumstances now prevailing in British Guiana.
Apart from the conference, the British Government and Premier Burnham made some progress in negotiating other agreements, primarily with respect to the internal security of the country. The British have agreed to maintain troops in Guyana until the end of October 1966 and to train and provide a cadre for the newly formed Guyana Defense Force. This force and the augmented Guyana police forces are to be brought to a sufficient level of capability to permit the withdrawal of British troops in October 1966. The adequacy of this solution cannot be judged at this time.
In a conversation [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] on 20 November,2 Forbes Burnham stated that his immediate objective is to launch his economic development plan so that he will be able to induce large numbers of West Indians of African descent to settle in Guyana prior to the December 1968 elections. His purpose is radically to alter the racial balance now existing in the electorate in sufficient time to enable him to win a plurality in the 1968 elections. Burnham stated that he will seek aid from both the British and American Governments for this purpose. He said further that he was confident his scheme was feasible and that it was the only possible course of action which would prevent Jagan returning to power with the support of the Indian community.
A copy of this memorandum is being made available to Mr. J. Harold Shullaw at the Department of State.
Richard Helms 3
  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, [file name not declassified] Telegrams and Reports, 1965. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. An unattributed memorandum, dated November 26, reported that [name not declassified] met with Burnham on November 20. Burnham said that the British had rationalized the outcome of the Conference “to salve their own consciences,” fully expecting that the constitutional safeguards would inevitably lead to East Indian control by constitutional methods, which he said was “not going to come about.” The report highlighted not only Burnhamʼs plans for West Indian immigration, but also his idea “that under the new constitution absentee voting would be permissible.” (Ibid.)
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Helms signed the original.