VISIT BY JAGAN AND BURNHAM
TO ENGLAND AND INDIA -- 1953
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The removal of the PPP Government by the British Government was welcomed with glee by some anti-PPP groups in Guyana. The main supporters of the British actions were drawn from the National Democratic Party (NDP) which formed the main opposition in the legislature. The League of Coloured People, led by John Carter, who was also a leader of the NDP, and the anti-democratic British Guiana Village Chairmen's Conference hurriedly dispatched telegrams of support for the British actions to the British Colonial Office in London.
In the Caribbean, Grantley Adams, Chief Minister of Barbados, Alexander Bustamante, Chief Minister of Jamaica, and Norman Manley, the Jamaican opposition leader, also sent telegrams to thank the British Government for overthrowing the PPP Government. Their telegrams threw abuse on Dr. Jagan and hypocritically condemned him and his party for not practising democracy. These three Caribbean leaders were heavily influenced by the prevailing anti-communist propaganda which was also reflected in their messages of support to the British Government.
Despite the intense anti-communist campaign against the PPP by the British Government and its supporters in the USA and the Caribbean, strong criticisms all over the world against the British action in suspending the constitution forced the British Government to debate the issue in Parliament. As already stated, the British Government also issued a White Paper which tried to build the case for the suspension of the constitution, but this document was filled with suppositions and distortions.
The Parliamentary debate was fixed for 22 October 1953, and the PPP decided to send Dr. Jagan and Forbes Burnham to London to provide information to the opposition and also to put the Party's case to the British public. But all impediments were placed in their way to prevent them from reaching London. The Governments of Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and the United States stated that they would refuse them to transit through their ports. As a result the major American, British and French airlines refused to take them as passengers. They managed to obtain seats on the Dutch airline (KLM) from Suriname, but because the Suriname Government refused to allow them to overnight, they had to charter a special plane, at very high costs, to take them directly from Guyana to the airport in Suriname on the day of their departure.
On the other hand members of the opposition groups found no problems to get to London to thank the British Government for removing the PPP Government. These persons included John Carter, Lionel Luckhoo, John Fernandes, and Rudy Kendall - all of the National Democratic Party - and John Dare of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.
In London, the two PPP leaders found little support from among the leadership of the opposition Labour Party who apparently believed the anti-communist propaganda peddled against the PPP.
During the debate on the motion to support the British Government for its action in Guyana, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Oliver Lyttelton, launched a tirade of attacks on the PPP and its leaders for promoting communist policies, stating that "Her Majesty's Government is not willing to allow a communist state to be organised within the British Commonwealth." He read out telegrams of support for British actions from Grantley Adams of Barbados, Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley of Jamaica, and also from the League of Coloured People, which was closely associated with the NDP, and the British Guiana Village Chairmen's Conference. Apparently referring to media editorials that the US Government pressured Britain to remove the PPP Government, Lyttelton insisted that " . . . .No representations of any kind were received from the US Government before Her Majesty's Government made their decision."
The motion was eventually approved. Lyttelton had tried hard to expose a "communist" plot by the PPP, but he failed in this. After the debate was completed, the Economist admitted that the British White Paper had not cleared up many people's doubts.
The PPP leaders held a number of public meetings throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland with support from student and leftist organisations. At these meetings they presented the PPP case and were able to win sympathy from members of workers' organisations and from sections of the media. The Labour Party, which the PPP had seen as its ally, refused to associate itself with Jagan and Burnham and threatened action against its affiliates if they offered assistance. The British TUC also refused to provide support having also been influenced by the prevailing anti-communist propaganda.
From Britain, Dr. Jagan and Burnham travelled to India to present their case to the Indian public. They arrived there on 21 November, and during their two-week visit, they held public meetings in a number of cities to inform the people of the situation in Guyana. The highlight of the Indian tour was when Dr. Jagan and Burnham addressed an informal assembly of the both Houses of Parliament. This meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. However, the visit to India did not manage to ensure official Indian support for the cause of the deposed PPP Government, since the Indian Government itself was depending on British support over problems it was facing from Pakistan. In addition, the Indian Government faced "communist" problems in some states, and most likely believed the British anti-communist propaganda against the PPP.