THE WYNN-PARRY COMMISSION
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With the destructions of "Black Friday" (16 February 1962) completed, the TUC and the Civil Service Association (CSA) called off their strike. An investigation into the death of Superintendent McLeod was severely hampered when the examining pathologist claimed that the bullet recovered from the body mysteriously disappeared. (The pathologist himself was the President of the CSA that had participated in the strike against the Government).
Dr. Jagan immediately requested the British Government to appoint a commission to investigate the causes of the disturbances and suggested that the chairman should be appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations with two additional members appointed by India and Ghana respectively. However, the British Government did not completely agree with his proposal for the composition of the Commission. It appointed a Commonwealth Commission of Enquiry on 11 May 1962 which held its hearings on from 21 May to 28 June in Georgetown. The Commission consisted of Sir Henry Wynn-Parry, a British high court judge, as Chairman, and Sir E.O. Asafu-Adjaye of Ghana and Justice G. Khosla of India. It examined the evidence of scores of people including the leaders of the PPP, PNC, UF and the TUC. In publicly handing down its findings in early October 1962, it laid full blame for the disturbances on the PNC, UF and the TUC.
The Commission declared that the Opposition used the budget "to form a veritable torrent of abuse, recrimination and vicious hostility, directed against Dr. Jagan and his Government and each day gave fresh vigour to the agitation". The TUC decision to call a general strike was criticised as "a breach of faith and a display of irresponsibility". The Commission further stated: "The story put forward before us was that the unbending and indeed the provocative attitude of the Government was the sole reason for the decision to call a general strike or at any rate of precipitating that decision. We find it difficult to believe this version and we are of the opinion that the facts have been greatly distorted by the trade union leaders for the purpose of placing responsibility of arousing the workers' hostility upon the government. . . .
"There is very little doubt that, despite the loud protestations of the trade union leaders to the contrary, political affinities and aspirations played a large part in shaping their policy and formulating their programme of offering resistance to the budget and making a determined effort to change the government in office."
It also pointed out that the TUC leaders were deeply involved in politics and that some of them, such as Richard Ishmael, had personal grievances against Dr. Jagan and his Ministers.
About the budget itself, the Commission commented: "The budget provoked fierce opposition from several quarters and was made the excuse for sustained and increasingly hostile demonstrations against Dr. Jagan and his government. It will be seen that there is nothing deeply vicious or destructive of economic security in the budget. It had been drawn up on the advice of an experienced economist, who could not be said to have any Communist prepossessions. The budget won approval form many persons. The New York Times said in an editorial that the budget was courageous and economically sound. The London Times in a leading article observed, 'The immediate problem for the Prime Minister, Dr. Jagan, is how to win some acceptance for his economic proposals which are courageous and certainly not far from what Guiana must have'."
The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce was also heavily criticised for its impotence and lack of responsibility.
D'Aguiar's grievances against the PPP were described as "little more than a narrative of personal frustration". On his role on inciting the crowd over the incident of the injured child, the Commission reported: "A number of witnesses appearing before us stated what Mr. D'Aguiar told the crowd was that the child had in fact died. We are inclined to the view that Mr. D'Aguiar did not exercise any restraint upon himself and that he, in fact, announced the death of the child to the crowd and not its mere illness. We are constrained to observe that his being wedded to the truth did not impose so stern a cloistral isolation upon him as not to permit an occasional illicit sortie, in order to taste the seductive and politically rewarding adventure of flirting with half-truths."
The Commission also noted that as the situation grew ugly, the UF leader could think of nothing more than to ask the Governor to give protection to his wife and family, and that in a telephone conversation with the Governor, he said that "he could not see his way to making an appeal for peace to the riotous crowds".
The Commission dealt at length with Burnham's role in the disturbances. It observed: "The real motive behind Mr. Burnham's assault was a desire to assert himself in public life and establish a more important and more rewarding position for himself by bringing about Dr. Jagan's downfall." The Commission stated that on the evening of 15 February, Burnham at a public meeting worked up his audience into a "state of frenzy". It declared: "He began by congratulating his listeners on the splendid performance of the morning when there had been a wholesale breach of the proclamation. In his peroration he declared that "Government could not be got rid of by merely saying 'Resign' or 'Down with Jagan'. Those are useful slogans, but more than slogans are required in the present circumstances."
The PNC leader was describes as "callous and remorseless". The Commission revealed that the Governor had appealed to Burnham to use his influence to advise the crowd to refrain from violence and to use his public address system to ask the people to leave the streets. Burnham, however, declared that he could not assist. In his evidence before the Commission, Burnham gave this explanation: "We could not help. There were two main obstacles; one was that we were very short of petrol and we felt that if we went all round Georgetown using up this petrol at the Governor's request, we would have no petrol for the vehicles to carry out Party work. We also considered it ill-advised to go and tell the people to desist from what they were doing when we had nothing to do with the starting of it. The man who calls off the dog owns the dog."
The Commission declared that the refusal of both Burnham and D'Aguiar to appeal to the crowd to desist from violence was a "strangely unfeeling attitude of the political leaders when passions aroused by them had been let loose on the town".
Despite these findings, the Commission made no recommendations to the British Government as to what actions should be taken against those political leaders who incited the disturbances. By refusing to pronounce on this, the Opposition political leaders were given the licence to continue the attack on the PPP Government. The PNC-UF-TUC inspired riots of February 1962 failed to overthrow the PPP Government but this did not deter these forces from trying again.