FAILURE OF THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT
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When efforts failed to deplete the strength of the PPP, the Colonial Office, for psychological reasons replaced the principal personalities involved in the suspension of the 1953 constitution with hope that the new appointees would do a better job in undermining PPP support. Sir Patrick Renison replaced Sir Alfred Savage as Governor, Derek Jakeway succeeded John Gutch as Chief Secretary and Attorney General, Frank Holder, was promoted to Chief Justice. But the changing of these officials made no impact on the people. Attempts at national bribery were proving very expensive; corruption was widespread and the Interim Government came under attack from every quarter. Further, the cost of living was rapidly rising and rice farmers suffered a drop in prices in 1956.
The UDP, whose members and supporters comprised the majority in the interim Legislative Council, was worried that the policies of the puppet Government were not winning support away from the PPP. The PPP, with widespread national support, continued to maintain that only the restoration of democracy and national determination would improve the social and economic conditions in the country. A desperate UDP, therefore, wrote to the Chief Secretary, on the 20 December, 1954 complaining that the Interim Government could not win the confidence of the people unless independent Ministries of Industry and Commerce, Education and Labour were established.
As a result of poor performance of the Interim Government, even its mouthpiece, the Daily Chronicle on the 27 November, 1955 complained in an editorial: "Two years have gone by and we are no better off than we were before the political debacle. We have had more houses built, we have had self-aided schemes, a little of this and a little of that, but the population is increasing faster than ever, unemployment is increasing and the cost of living continues to rise. We submit to marking time politically, and even here we expect the time has come for some closure to that, but must we submit to marking time where the economic development of the country is concerned? Must we continue to live as we are living, or should we say existing? Let there be an end to this nonsense."
W.J. Raatgever, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Interim Government, during a debate in the Legislative Council in November 1955 declared: "So far as I have seen - and I have gone around quite fairly - there has been no developmental work done in this country." Even Jock Campbell, Chairman of Bookers and champion of British colonialism, had been forced to admit in August 1955 that there was "a very unsatisfactory state of affairs" existing in the country and that there could be no progress in a "political vacuum."
The UDP saw their participation in the puppet Interim Government as a chance to be in "power", and many of their members who held leading positions in the administration (such as John Carter, Lionel Luckhoo and W.O.R. Kendall) were fearful of any forthcoming election. On the 26 October, 1956, during discussions in the Executive Council on the issue of a date for general election under the Renison Constitution (announced earlier in June), Kendall, the Minister of Communications and Works, called for a delay in the election to allow the Interim Government to win some support. Kendall stated that the Interim Government needed more time to allow its projects to have some impact on a large part of the population.
W.T. Lord, another nominee to the Legislative Council, complained on the 21 December, 1956 that the Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Mines, Frank Mc David, had failed to formulate a policy with regard to either land or agriculture and that "not one constructive idea has been produced."
Clearly, the Interim Government was suffering from inertia. Money available for development in 1954-55 was under-spent because the members of the government could not come to an agreement on how to use it. Of the $44 million earmarked for that period, only $26 million was actually spent.
Faced with a deteriorating economic situation, the British Government sought an electoral solution after it felt that the PPP would lose if the electoral boundaries were manipulated. The British Government probably also developed the opinion that PPP supporters were either disillusioned because of many of their leaders being imprisoned, or had moved away to join with the Burnham group after the split in the Party in February 1955. The British Government was apparently convinced that the Burnham group would win the election, or would join with the UDP in a coalition government, thus forcing the PPP in opposition.
The colonial authorities also wanted a commitment by an elected government on the issue of the West Indian Federation. In a statement, Governor Renison explained: "If British Guiana was still without any form of representative government which would decide whether not to join the Caribbean Federation, it would be a disappointment."
The leaders of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad also influenced the British Government to reach the decision to hold a general election since they were convinced by Burnham's propaganda line that he would win any forthcoming election and lead Guyana into the West Indian Federation. (The West Indian leaders, Grantley Adams, Norman Manley and Patrick Solomon of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad respectively, apparently gave Burnham their unilateral support when they later met with him in Ghana in March 1957.)
The Governor admitted that the period of the Interim Government was a "frustrating period of marking time". This was not strange since dictatorial and non-democratic rule by puppets appointed by the British Government could not generate any form of progress.
Finally, a new constitution drawn up by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Alan Lennox-Boyd, was announced on the 25 April, 1956. It was even more backward than the one proposed by the Robertson Commission (which met in 1954 to rationalise the overthrow of the PPP Government). It provided for a single chamber Legislative Council of 12 elected members counterbalanced by 8 nominated and 4 ex-officio members, and an Executive Council of 5 elected members counterbalanced by 4 ex-officio members and one nominated. The Robertson Commission, though providing for similar control of the Executive Council by the Governor, had recommended that the legislature should have, as in 1953, an elected majority. For the House of Assembly, it had proposed 25 elected seats, one more (for Rupununi) than in 1953.
Opposition to these constitutional proposals were immediately registered by the PPP and other political parties. The PPP demanded that the new constitution must introduce a large measure of self-government.
Shortly after the announcement of the proposals was made, the Governor left for London for consultations and on his return in October 1956, he announced modification in the original plan - that the legislature would have 14 elected seats instead of 12, three ex-officio members and as much as 11 other nominated members.
Even before general elections were announced for August 1957, Burnham declared that his group would contest all 14 seats. The UDP also made a similar announcement. On the other hand the PPP continued to agitate for changes in the proposed constitution and finally decided to contest 13 of the seats after it was unable to get the other political parties and groupings to form a united front to contest the election.
At the general election, the PPP convincingly won 9 seats, while Burnham's group won 3, the UDP 1 and the NLF 1. After the election, Burnham's group merged with the UDP to form the People's National Congress (PNC). With the formation of the PPP Government (even though with limited powers) the period of the Interim Government came to an unlamented end.