ESTABLISHMENT OF THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT
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With the freely elected PPP Government removed from office by the British Government, the Governor assumed full powers to manage the day to day affairs of Guyana until arrangements for the setting up of an Interim Government were put in place. Such a Government was needed to administer the country until another constitution was framed.
In planning for the establishment of the Interim Government, the British Government was confronted with a dilemma. Could it establish an Interim Government which was favourable to the people without including members of the majority People's Progressive Party which it had condemned as communist? It was the view of the British that the only way PPP members could be included was either if a split occurred in the Party, or if those regarded as non-communist would cooperate.
Clearly, the British had already set into motion plans to split the PPP since they felt that having some "safe" members of the PPP in the planned Interim government would add some respectability to it. They hoped that the inclusion such persons would enable the colonial authorities to win the confidence of the people. Apparently, however, the time period was too short to bring such plans to fruition.
But the Colonial Office found it extremely difficult to get people with popular support on its Interim Government which it eventually scraped together and named on the 27 December, 1953. The seven-man Executive Council including three businessmen, two persons who were defeated in the 1953 elections (one had lost his deposit), the former Financial Secretary and the leader of the opposition of the deposed House of Assembly. The twenty-four members of the Legislative Council included the head of the Sugar Producer's Association, the director of several companies, five defeated candidates (four of whom had lost their deposits), two civil servants and the members of the opposition of the deposed House. Sitting on the Executive Council and the Legislative Council were the Chief Secretary, the Attorney General and the Financial Secretary.
The members of this puppet Interim Government were mainly elite and middle-class elements drawn from the National Democratic Party which had won only two seats in the 1953 election. This party later merged with other reactionary factions to form the United Democratic Party (UDP). Thus, the puppet administration replaced back into power the same social and political forces which controlled the country prior to the PPP victory in April 1953.
Shortly after the announcement of the formation of the Interim Government, the PPP expressed its firm opposition to it. The party declared: "It is a decadent and bad form of government which is formed without the consent or choice of the people. It is a reflection on the ability of any people to choose rightly and well. Consequently, ever since our policy and programme were formulated, we have gone on record against the nominated system. . . . To this principle, as indeed to all our principles, we shall always firmly adhere."
On its establishment, the Interim Government publicised big plans and promises to improve economic and social conditions in the country. But among its first actions was its confirmation of the declaration of the existing state of emergency. Under the direction of the Governor, Sir Alfred Savage, who assumed dictatorial powers, it detained in prison large numbers of PPP militants. It also placed Dr. Jagan under restriction in February 1954 just after his return from India. He was later imprisoned when he broke the restriction order. Janet Jagan was also imprisoned on trumped up charges.
The Interim Government also re-enforced the Undesirable Publications Ordinance which placed a ban on progressive literature and films. Through the emergency regulations and this Ordinance, hundreds of people were arrested, intimidated and threatened. The youth arm of the PPP, established in 1952, and the British Guiana Peace Committee were banned in December 1953, and in May 1954, the Governor ordered the Police to close down the PPP headquarters in Regent Street, Georgetown. Meanwhile, British soldiers kept up steady patrols throughout the countries to prevent any protests by PPP supporters. They were assisted by many anti-PPP individuals, particularly by the soft-drinks and rum manufacturer, Peter D'Aguiar, who made available his trucks for their regular transport.
However, terror tactics by the Governor and the Interim Government could not force the people to give their support to them, since in addition to their leaders being harassed, social and economic conditions were deteriorating. The housing situation, especially on the sugar estates, was not improving. Unemployment was also increasing as a result of factory closures and technological innovations. The pro-British Daily Chronicle in April 1954 complained: "Unemployment ranks are swelling. People are getting restless. The Government must find work now. They want action today, not merely promises of big things in the future."
Hoping to offset these problems, the Interim Government went on a spending spree. A sum of $44 million was voted for developmental expenditure for 1954-55. (The Colonial Office had previously agreed to a $26 million expenditure for the ten-year period, 1949-59. A World Bank mission in 1952 had recommended an expenditure of $66 million for a five-year development plan.) Thus, the sum voted to be spent by the Interim Government for just one year exceeded by far the previous plans of both the Colonial Office and the World Bank.
The puppet administration went on a propaganda blitz with wild claims and promises as to its proposed development plans. A great deal of wastage occurred and money was wildly spent on planning a number of projects. For example, $30,000 was spent just to design a seven-storey hospital and one-third of a million dollars was paid to a British consulting firm to plan a 70-mile highway between Georgetown and Rosignol. One important project, the new western wing of the New Amsterdam Hospital which was completed in 1954, could not be utilised by the population since it was used to house British troops stationed in Berbice.
There was also evidence of corruption and nepotism. Lord Lloyd, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, commented in March 1955: "I also hope that efforts will be made to tackle all the causes of discontent, oppression, failure to respond to justified complaint and outright dishonesty and greed."
The PPP described the economic policies of the Interim Government as "national bribery" and "national sell-out". The Party attacked the development plan for its inadequate size and for its lack of emphasis on industrial and agricultural development. The Party also warned the workers that the objective of the Interim Government, in its plan to indulge in heavy expenditure, was an attempt to bribe them away from the PPP.
The promises and lavish spending of the Interim Government were not successful in drawing away support from the PPP. Actually, the strength of the Party grew; the Interim Government was met with such disfavour that it threw into the camp of the PPP persons who were hitherto neutral or against it. And despite the many efforts to restrict and destroy the PPP, the Party won a majority of seats in most of the Village Councils in Local Government elections held during the beginning of 1954.