BBC Radio British Guiana politics in the 1960’s – radio documentary

BBC Radio British Guiana politics in the 1960’s

Mike Thomson investigates how Britain undermined British Guiana’s democratic process as the colony inched towards independence in the early 1960s.   BBC Radio

In the last of the current series Mike Thomson investigates how Britain covertly manipulated the democratic process in its South American colony, then known as British Guiana in the run up to its independence in 1966. Mike discovers new documents which show that they deliberately scuppered the outcome of their own conference organised to determine the country’s future.

On the face of it the conference, held in London in October 1963, was designed to confirm the constitutional future for what was then British Guiana. Publicly Britain encouraged the country’s Prime Minister Dr Cheddi Jagan – who had been fairly elected in 1961 – and the leader of the opposition Linden Forbes Burnham to agree terms for independence. However, behind the scenes, the documents reveal that the British were working to a different outcome – to ensure that agreement was never reached.   

The British, under pressure from the Kennedy administration which feared Dr Jagan’s Marxist leanings, were determined that he would not lead the country to independence. To this end they suggested a form of proportional representation in forthcoming elections, knowing full well that Dr Jagan would not agree to these terms as they would favour his rival. When the conference ended in deadlock as the British hoped it would, PR was duly implemented and the following year Dr Jagan was ousted much to the relief of the super powers.

Mike talks to historians, eye witnesses and Guyanese commentators today to discover how democracy itself was destroyed in British Guiana and the legacy of these shady days in today’s modern Guyana.

Producer: Paula McGinley.

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  • Cyril balkaran  On 03/03/2014 at 12:27 am

    The British Government under the leadership of Sir Harold Mac Millian did agree with the request of President Kennedy of the USA to deny Cheddi Jagan
    the Independence for British Guiana. The failed Conference of October 1963 was only a part of the collusion of the US/UK Plot hatced to deny Cheddi Jagan the honour of leading his country to the promised Independence after he secured an electoral victory in the 1961 general electioins. Britain had renegaded on that promise to grant the political independence to whichever party that had won the elections. The Colonial Secretary Duncan Sandys was dispatched to British Guiana in 1962 to try and heal the wounds of a racial war that the CIA had fermented and supported an 80 day general strike in order to oust Cheddi Jagan from political office. Gus Macdonald, editor of the BBC program has edited 2 BBC Films namely The Making of a Prime Minister and the Trail of the Vanishing Voters released on Prime time in 1969 before the Commonwealth Conference in January 1969. Britain was guilty of scuttling the independence for Guiana and finally awarded Independence on May 26th 1966 to Mr Forbes Burnham. The rest is history and that history caused the flight of Guyanese to the North and elsewhere. It was the anglo saxon plot to deny independence to Cheddi Jagan.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/03/2014 at 2:45 am

    That’s why the sun never set on the British Empire …..LOL

  • Vejai Seepersaud  On 07/23/2014 at 8:06 pm

    What is the reason why Great Britain granted Independence to an infant British colony who could hardly stands on its own. Jagan felt he could have full support from its people, he was proven wrong. Guyana is not a ONE straight-hair nation like the people of India. He had no vision of the might of the British & American at that time. Guyana should have never fought for Independence even by Jagan or Burnham. Guyana could been a paradise today if it was still under British rule, because of its uniqueness of being the only English country in South America. The developments could be enormous and unbelievable. Unto this day the Englishmen rule the world with their economic system and language.

  • Cyril Balkaran  On 07/25/2014 at 2:43 am

    The Politics of the 1960’s has created the Guyana of today. Britain had granted concessions to the Canadians Alcan Ltd and the US company Reynolds metal deals. both were in the Aluminium Smelter business. The Bauxite was extracted from McKenzie the Bauxite Town and from mining activities in Berbice. These industries were fully owned and operated by the foreign companies with Tax free concessions of up to 25 years. They were referred to as the Commanding Heights of the British Guiana’s Economy. Not rice and sugar. The British feared that Jagan would carry out his threat as stated in the party’s manifesto and that was to Nationalise these industries. He did not do it but Forbes Burnham did it. The politics of CIA/destroyed Guyana. Duncan Sandys the then colonial secretary of Britain said that the time came in 1966 to wash their hands off the politics of British Guiana and so May 26th was the date chosen by her majesty’s Government to relinquish control over British Guiana and a New Nation was born with Forbes Burnham at the helm with Peter D”aguiar as the Minister of Finance. Guyana can still become the prized nation in the Caribbean and Latin America if those opposition Guys can negotiate agreements for the Country and not for themselves!The 83,000 sq miles is still ours in spite of the bogus claims by Venezuela. Our population remains below 700,000 people. So why not work together to show our former colonial masters that we too can do it. Their history is to plunder the countries they ruled and to underdevelop those countries! God Bless Guyana!

  • Vejai Seepersaud  On 07/25/2014 at 6:12 pm

    Despite of your narration of what Great Britain did to Guyana, we Guyanese should look at the scope of development the British did in its former colony Hong Kong building of numerous skyline around its harbor. Guyana could had have the same. India former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even praised the British presence in India. Could you image India without the railway system. Without the British presence, India could have been like Afghanistan. So long the British got paid for their investment and show corresponding developments, it fine with me. The investment made in Guyana under the British did not fall from the sky. Nothing in this world is FREE. Teach yourself some basic economics. God Bless Great Britain. Proud to be a British subject. Silly mid-on.

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