288. Telegram From the Embassy in Guyana to the Department of State1

3619. For ARA/CAR John Griffith. Subj: CODEL Ryan Visit to Guyana. Ref: Ambassador/McCoy Telecon November 4, 1978.

1. Ambassador spoke with Guyanese Ambassador to Washington Laurence Mann afternoon Nov 4 regarding proposed visit of CODEL Ryan to Guyana for the purpose of making contact with the People’s Temple (PT) community at Jonestown.2 Ambassador told Mann that American Consul had been informed by PT representatives in Georgetown that it was now PT intention not RPT not to receive Congressman Ryan at Jonestown. Mann said that he had heard of this decision and had told the People’s Temple that he personally considered it to be ill-[Page 697]advised. Nevertheless, he went on, it was their decision and Government of Guyana could not force PT to receive CODEL within their community just as GOG could not dictate to its citizens whom they receive in their homes. Mann went on to say that PT seemed convinced that CODEL was hostile, would be arriving with well-developed prejudices against PT and merely wanted an on-the-spot visit to enable CODEL to return to U.S. and reiterate prejudiced view of People’s Temple community with more authority than before. PT officials had apparently cited to Mann concident visit by NBC camera team as proof-positive of CODEL’s bad faith.

2. Ambassador repeated for Mann’s benefit what Consul had already conveyed to PT representatives re CODEL’s visit: It was to give Congressman Ryan an opportunity to familiarize himself personally with a community which had generated great interest in his constituency. Furthermore, Congressman had made no secret of his intentions and in fact had sent a message directly to the PT asking that he be permitted to visit Jonestown. Ambassador observed to Mann, as he had previously, that CODEL visit to Jonestown would appear to be an excellent opportunity for People’s Temple to respond to criticism in the U.S. about their community effort in Guyana. On the other hand, a flat refusal to receive the CODEL at Jonestown might have just the opposite effect. As for the NBC camera team, Ambassador informed Mann that on the basis of the reftelecon, it was the Embassy’s clear understanding that the Congressman had not invited the team to come and that NBC San Francisco had only become interested in covering the story when news of the Congressman’s proposed trip became known. Further, it was our understanding that NBC had been told that they would have to clear any trip to Jonestown with People’s Temple and any visit by a camera team to the Guyanese hinterland with the Government of Guyana.

3. Ambassador Mann professed to understand all of this but repeated his statement that GOG was powerless to force PT to receive CODEL at Jonestown if the group was adamantly opposed. He expressed again his personal view that he felt that the PT was wrong to refuse. He wanted it emphasized to Congressman Ryan that GOG, for its part, would welcome his visit to Guyana and that ForMin Rashleigh Jackson and other officials would be pleased to receive him if he decided to come.

4. Within an hour of the Ambassador’s conversation with Mann, a PT representative called the Consul to tell him that Ambassador’s impression was not accurate: PT had not definitively closed the door to a visit by Congressman Ryan, but were setting three conditions:

A) that CODEL must have balance (i.e. that it include representation sympathetically disposed to PT);

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B) that there be no media coverage associated with the CODEL’s visit to Jonestown;

C) that Attorney Mark Lane be present for CODEL visit to Guyana and Jonestown.3

5. PT representative also informed Consul that their response to Congressman Ryan’s cable would be communicated through attorney Mark Lane.4

Burke
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780457–0244. Limited Official Use; Niact Immediate.
  2. No record of this conversation has been found.
  3. Lane did accompany Ryan. See Document 293.
  4. In telegram 278140 to Georgetown, November 1, the Department sent the text of Ryan’s cable to the People’s Temple, which contained “an open and honest request to you for information.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780451–0320)