THE 1964 ELECTION CAMPAIGN
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In early 1964, the Governor, Sir Richard Luyt, began making preparations for the elections to be held in December 1964 under the new system of proportional representation. This system converted the entire country into a single constituency with the contesting parties each submitting a list of candidates in order of preference. Votes, therefore, were to be cast for the party and not an individual candidate within a political party. Whatever proportion of votes a party won, that party would be entitled to receive that proportion of seats in the new 53-member National Assembly.
In April, under regulations that he made, Luyt appointed an Elections Commission made up of three British expatriates under the chairmanship of G.W.Y. Hucks. The regulations declared that the Commission was to take orders and direction only from the Governor.
The registration of voters was fixed for a period of four weeks (from May 8 to June 6). Many persons displaced as a result of the on-going racial conflict occurring at that time faced a serious disadvantage as a result of the limited time for registration.
Despite the fact that the House of Assembly on 30 April 1964 passed a motion by 17 votes to 14 that the house-to-house system of registration should be retained, the Governor overruled this decision and ordered that a system of voluntary or personal registration must be carried out. This was what the combined opposition wanted and which had been rejected by the House of Assembly.
According to the new registration system, the onus was not on the Elections Commission to register the voters, but on the people themselves to apply personally to the Commission for registration within the given period. This new process prevented many voters from registering. The PPP estimated that this arrangement prevented about 30,000 persons from the rural areas to be registered as voters. In retrospect, the PPP's argument was on sound footing because for the 1964 elections, 247,604 voters were registered, compared to 246,120 registered for the 1961 elections.
The PPP had also requested that photographs should be affixed on voters' identity cards as a safeguard against fraud. The PNC had earlier made the same proposal, but did not press for it. The House of Assembly on 14 May 1964 discussed this matter and passed a motion by 17 votes to 9 requesting that photographs should be affixed on voters' identity cards. The Governor contemptuously disregarded this decision of the National Assembly and ruled that the voters' identity cards would not have photographs. He also issued orders extending the facility of proxy voting.
The Governor's actions also openly helped the opposition. Duplicated copies of the "Police Research Paper on the PNC Terrorist Organisation" were confiscated under the pretext it was a confidential document. The Governor made an offence punishable by a fine and six months imprisonment to be in possession of a copy of this document. At the same time the Commissioner of Police refused to bring charges against the persons named in the research paper for conspiracy and "organised thuggery".
On 24 November 1964, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Anthony Greenwood, appointed a Commonwealth Team of Observers to observe the upcoming elections. The terms of reference for this Commission stipulated that it should examine whether the administrative arrangements were conducted in a fair and proper manner; if there was freedom of expression through the media and public meetings; and to consider if other factors affected the free and fair conduct of the election.
The team was led by Mr. Tek Chand, an Indian judge, and was made up of two members from Canada, two from Ghana, two from Malta, one from Nigeria, one from India, and two from Trinidad and Tobago.
For the elections, the ruling PPP was opposed by the PNC and the UF, as well as by four splinter parties formed solely to contest the election. There were strong allegations that two of these splinter parties, the Justice Party (JP) led by Balram Singh Rai and Jai Narine Singh, both Hindus, and the Guiana United Muslim Party (GUMP), led by Hussain Ghanie, received lavish funding from sources in the United States and from local Indo-Guyanese big business opposed to the PPP. Their platform, like the PNC and the UF, was anti-communism, but they added race and religion in their campaign.
Actually, the GUMP also received direct funding from the British government. As early as 25 February 1964, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Anthony Greenwood, instructed that funding should be given to Hussain Ghanie to assist in his party's election campaign. This was clear evidence that the British government was involved in manipulating the election.
Interestingly, those who helped organise the formation of the GUMP included leading Muslims associated with the UF and the PNC. Obviously, their aim was to push the GUMP to try to pull away Muslims who overwhelmingly supported the PPP. The GUMP conducted a heavy campaign among Muslims, the great majority of whom were Indians, but it failed to win any significant support.
The other splinter parties were the National Labour Front, led by Cecil Grey, and the Peace, Equality and Prosperity Party, led by Kelvin De Freitas. Their campaign was very low-key and was concentrated mainly in Georgetown.
In the campaign, the PNC's propaganda to its African supporters was that the PPP was anti-African. The UF, on the other hand, told Indians that the PPP was anti-Indian. The GUMP, composed totally of Indians, claimed that the PPP was anti-Indian and anti-Muslim. The Justice Party, with its Hindu leaders, urged Indians not to vote for the PPP which they claimed was anti-Indian and anti-Hindu.
For its election campaign, the Justice Party used a fleet of American-made motor vehicles equipped with public address systems, which the PPP claimed were obtained through American funding. Its public meetings were held totally in Indian-populated areas, but despite its lavish spending, it failed miserably to get Indians to believe its propaganda.
Not to be outdone, the UF also received substantial financial support from American sources, including the Christian anti-Communist Crusade.
(In terms of foreign sources of funding for the election campaign, the New York Times of 28 April 1966 stated in an editorial that the CIA "has poured money into Latin American election campaigns in support of moderate candidates and against leftist leaders such as Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana.")
The PNC and the UF also received funds covertly from the United States Government and some of these were utilised for the election campaign. The US State Department in its publication Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XXXII, Dominican Republic; Cuba; Haiti; Guyana, published in 2005, stated that the Special Group/303 Committee of the National Security Council approved approximately $2.08 million for covert action programmes after 1962 in Guyana. A good proportion of this covert funding was given to the PNC and the UF in 1963 and 1964 when they were trying their best to overthrow the PPP government.
By this time, most Guyanese were aware of the covert and overt role of the CIA, working in alliance with the PNC, UF and the TUC, in trying to overthrow the PPP Government. The Indian population saw the Justice Party and the GUMP as part of that connection aimed at undermining Indian support for the PPP. It was, therefore, not surprising that in almost every Indian community these two splinter parties were labelled as "CIA agents".
During the election campaign, the PNC and the UF also launched attacks on each other. Burnham was emphatic that the PNC would never join with the UF in any coalition since the PNC was "socialist" and the UF was "capitalist".
Overall, all the opposition parties attacked the PPP claiming it was communist, anti-religion, anti-Indian and anti-African. The PPP, on the other hand, defended its political, social and economic programme showing how it was providing land to the landless, creating new jobs, and expanding agriculture and industrial development. The PPP also, in public meetings throughout the country, attacked the PNC, UF, JP and GUMP for opposing immediate independence for Guyana, and for joining up with "imperialist" forces, including the CIA, in the effort to destablise the country.
The PPP asserted that in the event of a PNC or UF victory, the US government would pressure the new government to abandon the lucrative Cuban rice market. This brought a quick denial from Delmar Carlson, the US Consul-General in Guyana, who said that at no time had the American government suggested that rice exports to Cuba should be stopped.
The Elections Commission allocated radio time to the political parties to make political statements. The print media was also heavily involved in the campaign, with the main daily newspapers, the Daily Chronicle, owned by Peter D'Aguiar, the leader of the UF, and the privately-owned Guiana Graphic, fiercely championing the views of the opposition parties and openly carrying an anti-PPP campaign. The PPP itself could only express its views through its newspaper, the Mirror, which was published just two times a week.
In its manifesto, issued about a month before the elections, the PPP placed its focus on the struggle for independence and the development of the economy. In a separate statement, Dr. Jagan stated that the PPP would contest "under strong protest" the premature 1964 general election which he said was rigged in favour of the opposition parties under a "fiddled" constitution.
On 2 December, just five days before the elections, Governor Luyt openly interfered in the electoral process when he issued a statement in which he expressed his views as to how he would exercise his discretionary powers in the appointment of a Premier after the elections were concluded. He declared to a shocked country that he would not necessarily appoint the leader of a party with the highest number of votes as Premier.
The Premier, Dr. Jagan, sharply criticised Luyt for his statement. He questioned the propriety of the Governor, as Head of State, for making this statement on the eve of the elections. In a statement on 4 December, Dr. Jagan declared:
"The question could influence the electorate, and the Governor has apparently entered the political arena to help the opposition. Such action would never be contemplated by a British sovereign. . . ."
He further complained that the Governor "has confused many persons into believing that even if a party polled more than 50 percent of the votes, the leader of that party need not be asked to form the Government."