THE ROBERTSON COMMISSION
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Two months after the suspension of the constitution, the British Government on 2 December 1953 appointed a three-man Commission headed by Sir James Robertson to rationalise the reasons already given by the Colonial Office for removing the PPP Government from office. The members of the Commission arrived in Guyana in early January and examined oral and written evidence from members of the public and various officials.
The PPP decided to boycott the Commission on the grounds that the three-man body was precluded from enquiring into the circumstances which led to the suspension of the constitution. The Party also felt that the Commission itself was weak, uninspiring and unlikely to report objectively. The Chairman of the Commission wrote to Ashton Chase, then Acting Leader of the PPP in the absence of Jagan and Burnham, to persuade him to call off the boycott, but Chase replied that the Party Executive Committee was sticking to its decision.
The Commission's Report, issued in September 1954, justified the British actions, as was expected, but came to a decision that so long as no other party was able to take the place of the PPP, the constitutional advance in Guyana must be halted. It declared: "We are, therefore, driven to the conclusion that so long as the present leadership and policies of the People's Progressive Party continue, there is no way in which any real measure of self-government can be restored in British Guiana." This statement itself was a clear encouragement to opportunistic elements in the PPP to try to change its leadership and policies to suit British interests.
The Commission also proposed that there must be an indefinite period of "marking-time". In the mind of the Commission, this "marking-time" period was to be one in which the PPP would either lose support or change its leadership and policies. Election which would follow this period, hopefully, would bring into power a Government which would support the interests of British colonialism.
The Commission could not estimate the length of the period of "marking-time", declaring that: "Everything will depend upon the extent to which the people of British Guiana, including the leaders of the PPP themselves, can be brought to the realisation that the futile and deliberately disruptive policies for which the PPP at present stands are no basis for the future constitutional progress of their country."
The British colonialists had a two-fold plan to weaken the PPP. First, the Interim Government would be supplied with loans and grants so that the people would be bribed away from supporting the PPP in its fight against colonialism.
But just in case the people were not willing to stop supporting the PPP, the second part of the plan was to carry out the old policy of divide and rule - to split the Party by giving encouragement to the "moderates" to separate from the "radicals". The Commission was unambiguous about this. It encouraged the road to opportunism and betrayal when it stated: "The extremist leaders of the PPP and the policies for which they stand are the sole barriers to constitutional progress." It then openly suggested that the people and even some of the leaders must get rid of the "extremist" leadership and change the policy of the Party. The general idea was that the right-wing must get rid of the left-wing and the "moderates" must bring the Party's policy in line with the British Government's colonialist plans. Only when this was achieved would there be general election.
The Commission also sowed the seeds of racism by attacking the Indian support in the PPP. It raised the distinction between the Indian "extremist" leader of the Party (Jagan) and the African "democratic socialist" deputy leader (Burnham). It categorically stated that Indian educational and commercial success was a threat to other races, particularly the Africans. It also tried to create the impression that the Indians were not patriotic by stating that "Guianese of African extraction were not afraid to tell us that many Indians in British Guiana looked forward to the day when British Guiana would be part, not of the British Commonwealth, but of an East Indian Empire."