JAGAN'S COALITION PROPOSALS
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Following the failure of Dr. Williams to bring about a settlement, Dr. Jagan wrote Burnham on the 6 June, 1964 and made comprehensive proposals to the PNC for the achievement of national unity. The letter stated:
". . . . You would be aware that it has been my wish since the split of the People's Progressive Party in 1955 that a merger or a coalition of the two parties representing the majority of the working people should take place. Unfortunately my previous efforts have failed to bring about a merger or a coalition government. I know you will agree with me when I say that the situation has now deteriorated to such a point that something dramatic must be done to prevent further racial strife between the two major ethnic groups, to unite the working class and to create a stable and strong government.
"I propose, therefore, to invite you to join me in the formation of a coalition government between the People's Progressive Party and the People's National Congress on the following terms:
"Council of Ministers: The PPP and the PNC to have an equal number of Ministries - 5 to each party - with the Leader of the PPP being Premier and the Leader of the PNC being Deputy Premier. The Deputy Premier shall be the Leader of the Legislative Assembly. The term of office of the coalition government is to be two, three or four years with the minimum period until August 1965, the life of the present Government.
"It is my considered view that in the charged atmosphere of today, a holding government for a short period until the proposed general elections later this year will not suffice to create unity, peace and harmony which are so necessary today at all levels. It is my view that the coalition should continue after the next general elections on an agreed basis and that the party Leader of the majority party should be the Prime Minister and the other Leader the Deputy Prime Minister.
"On Independence, the Ministry of Home Affairs should go to one Party and a Junior Minister to the other Party; the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministry should go to the Party which does not hold the Home Affairs Ministry, and the Junior Minister to the other Party.
"Head of State: On Independence the Head of State should be mutually agreed upon by all Parties.
"House of Assembly: The future House of Assembly is to be made up on the Surinam model of a combination of a first-past-the-post and proportional representation system. I suggest the existing 35 constituencies to be the basis of new general elections at a time to be mutually agreed upon. In addition there should be 17 seats allocated to each party on the basis of the votes polled with the proviso that no party would share in the allocation of these seats unless it polled a minimum of 15 percent of total valid votes cast. This proviso is in keeping with your proposals to the Constitutional Committee of 1959 for the prevention of fragmentation and the formation of multiplicity of parties. It is also in keeping with our present electoral laws which cause a candidate to forfeit his deposit if he or she does not obtain 15 percent of the total votes cast in the constituency.
"Senate: I suggest that the Senate be reconstituted as follows: 6 PPP, 4 PNC, 1 UF and 2 others.
"United Nations Presence: Between now and Independence there should be a United Nations Presence in British Guiana. During this interim period all preparatory steps must be taken to create with the help of the United Nations and British Commonwealth territories, Security, Police and Defence Forces, and institutions in which there is public confidence.
"Agreed Programme: The PNC and the PPP should immediately set to work to produce an agreed programme based on a domestic policy of democracy and socialism, and a foreign policy of non-alignment. A central committee and various sub-committees should be established to produce a detailed domestic programme within two months.
"British Government: Immediate representation should be made to the British Government for the latter's agreement to electoral reform and other arrangements proposed above.
"In view of the obvious urgency of this matter, I should be very grateful if you would give my proposal your early attention. I look forward to hearing from you in a day or two. . . ."
Through these proposals, Dr. Jagan offered the PNC parity in the Council of Ministers. In the interest of establishing nation and racial unity, he was also willing for the PPP to accept a minority position in the Senate. On 13 June, in a nation-wide radio broadcast, Dr. Jagan informed the Guyanese people of his coalition proposals to Burnham. However, these proposals did not meet with any positive response from the PNC leader.
Proposal to Commonwealth leaders
On the 24 June, 1964, Dr. Jagan made yet another offer for a PPP-PNC coalition when he wrote to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers whose conference was commencing the following day in London. In his letter, he recommended that until the December 1964 elections there should be a UN presence in Guyana. He also suggested that a Commonwealth team should be appointed to help being about a compromise to include "the achievement of a coalition Government of the two major parties, the PPP and the PNC." Dr. Jagan stated that such an achievement would assure the US Government on the issue of security within the region. However, the British Government was unwilling to agree to this proposal.
At this Conference, Dr. Eric Williams proposed that Guyana should be administered by a Commonwealth Commission which would be manned by a staff appointed by the United Nations. This suggestion was also rejected by the British Government.
In the final communiqué of the Conference, the Prime Ministers "expressed the hope that the political leaders of British Guiana would seek urgently a basis of collaboration in the interest of their fellow countrymen of all races to strengthen a spirit of national purpose and unity."
Mediation of Chaman Lal
This was exactly what Dr. Jagan was doing, but despite all efforts to reach an agreement with the PNC, nothing was being achieved. In August 1964 the famous Indian Buddhist monk, Bhikku Chaman Lal, visited Guyana in an effort to secure a coalition agreement. He received maximum cooperation from the PPP but was attacked in sections of the opposition press. After holding separate meetings with Dr. Jagan and Burnham, Chaman Lal stated that he had worked out an eight-page coalition agreement.
The Buddhist monk also stated that the four important points on which the two leaders agreed were parity for the two parties in the Cabinet and on the boards and corporations; readjustment of the number of Ministries after the election according to Assembly seats; racial balance in the police force; and the commitment that one party would have the Premiership and the other would have the Home Affairs Ministry. Burnham had accepted Dr. Jagan's proposal that a coalition be formed immediately and should continue for four years after the December 1964 general election, but after putting this matter to his party's executive, he informed Chaman Lal that the PNC wanted the coalition to last only until the election "when the whole thing would be revised".
As a result, a meeting with Dr. Jagan and Burnham to confirm the agreement fell through and no agreement could be reached. In great disappointment, Chaman Lal departed from Guyana.