Reply to Mr Hamilton Green – Part 1

Dear Editor,
A good friend of mine sent me a video clip of Mr. Hamilton Green attacking a billboard erected on the East Bank, hailing Dr. Jagan as the Father of the Nation. In that video, Mr. Green gave several reasons for his positions.
From the outset, let me say that almost all the points he made were distorted, and some were downright untrue. The first point he made was that the PPP Government in June 1953 did not go to meet the Queen in Jamaica after her coronation. Mr. Green called it a mistake. Perhaps it was.
However, it was not Dr. Jagan alone who held that position. Burnham, who was then Chairman of the PPP, was of that view as well. In fact, in that period, Mr. Burnham used to describe himself as the only Marxist in the PPP. Other leaders of the PPP who took that position were Martin Carter, Rory Westmaas and Sydney King, among others. They felt it was enough that the colony was represented in London at the crowning.
To now blame Dr. Jagan alone for that decision is incorrect by a long shot. That was a collective decision.
The other “mistake” he spoke about was the solidarity given by the PPP to Julius and Ethal Rosenburg, who were sentenced to death in the US for allegedly spying for the Soviet Union. Here, again, Mr. Green is very misleading.
It is true that the PPP Government passed a motion in the Legislative Assembly calling on the President of the USA to exercise clemency for them. At that time, people all over the world felt it was persecution, and that the couple were innocent. It was at a time when McCarthyism was rampant in the US, and many people, communists and non-communists, were being persecuted. Those included Paul Roberson and the famous film writer Trumbo. Many innocent people were destroyed by the extremism of Senator McCarthy.
So, the PPP was not alone in calling for clemency for them; it was on the side of progressive people the world over, demanding this and giving solidarity to the couple. This included the Pope!
How this was a mistake is a mystery. Indeed, it was an act of humanism and solidarity.
He then accused Dr. Jagan of not joining the Non-Aligned Movement, suggesting that Jagan was hostile to it, and that he had an opportunity to join and did not. That is totally untrue.
Cheddi Jagan held the Non-Aligned Movement and its founders in very high esteem. But how could the country join that movement when we were (a) still a colony and (b) even if it were possible for a colony to join the NAM, the PPP was not in office in 1955, the Constitution having been suspended in 1953.
So, Mr. Green is creating his own circumstances, and then using those to criticise Dr. Jagan. This is certainly an attempt to deliberately mislead people.
It is true that it was Mr. Burnham who established the Non-Aligned Park in Georgetown in the mid-1970s. The PPP supported it fully. This was when Burnham was working to change his image as a pro-colonial and pro-imperialist for his role from 1955 to 1970.
If, according to Green, Burnham was so enamoured with the NAM, why did it take him so long after Independence to join that movement?
Let me add that Dr. Jagan’s position on international relations of an independent Guyana was known from the inception. He reiterated this is an interview he gave in January 1957. In answer to a question on foreign policy, he said. “…we would pursue a policy of strict neutrality and friendliness to all nations…” Later in the 1960s, he even said he was ready to sign such a neutrality pact as the Austrian model. He was opposed to having any foreign military base here.
The other distraction Green tried to pass off is that Kennedy asked Jagan if he was a communist and Jagan could not answer. Where he got that from is a total mystery. This is sheer nonsense!
He spoke about Cheddi’s position on the West Indian Federation. Let me say that the PPP’s position on the Federation was decided by the party from its inception. That was when Burnham was the Chairman of the PPP.
That position was that a PPP Government would be supportive of Federation if the region became independent, or at a minimum enjoyed internal self-government. It also stated that, before joining, a referendum would be held.
That position of the PPP came out of a meeting of the Caribbean Labour Congress, which was held in the late 1940s and attended by the English-speaking countries. The minimum conditions were never met when the Federation was formed; therefore, the West Indian Federation was aglorified crown colony. That is what the PPP was opposed to.
Incidentally, the PPP was not alone. The British were trying to establish Federations in various regions of Africa (West Africa, etc) and they were rejected by African leaders for the same reasons that the PPP rejected the West Indian Federation. They refused to be gloried crown colonies to please the colonialisters and to make it easier for London to subjugate the colonies.
Cheddi Jagan should be praised for saving the integrity of the region by the PPP’s position. The progressive forces in the region always rejected such a status.
Had Mr. Green done his homework, he would have known that the Government of Belize fell because the leading Party there changed its position on the Federation! Opposition in many of the Caribbean islands was strong, Jamaica is one example.
Hamilton Green then moved to talk about Cheddi’s position on the Independence Conference in London in 1963. What he failed to say is that Burnham’s role was less than honourable. I am being kind here.
Burnham changed his position constantly on Independence. From 1950 to 1955, while in the PPP, he was a strong advocate for Independence. There were no differences between him and Dr. Jagan in that period.
He began to shift in the late 1950s. By 1960, at the first Independence talks, he dropped the demand for independence and advocated internal self-government instead.
In the run-up to the 1961 elections, he again called for independence. In fact, it was on this issue that he and Sydney King fell out.
He agreed that whichever Party won the 1961 elections would lead the country to Independence. He was confident of victory because of his collaboration with the British colonial masters, and he was aware that the boundaries were being changed to give the PNC a win. Things did not go accordingly to his and the British plan.

Donald Ramotar
Former President of Guyana

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