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Situation

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 14 April 1954

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24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the situation in British Guiana.

Since the statement made by my right hon. Friend last Wednesday, there have been further demonstrations in Georgetown and the County of Berbice following the re-arrest of Dr. Jagan on 5th April. During these disturbances two members of the police force were injured and some arrests were made. Some waterfront workers went on strike on the 9th April, but the situation on the sugar estates has returned to normal, except for one estate where a few men remain on strike, and another where cane cutters went on strike on 12th April. The situation in the Colony generally is quiet.

Can the Minister explain why, if Her Majesty's Government are so certain of the justice and wisdom of their behaviour, they should under cowardly conditions refuse to permit a small local party to hold its meetings and state its point of view?

I do not think there is any need again to go into all the arguments on this matter. It has been made perfectly clear by Her Majesty's Government that as long as the present attempt is made by the P.P.P. to overthrow the constitution the present system has got to persist. It is useless to say that there are only a few people hoping to hold party meetings. What they are trying to do is to overthrow law and order by subverting the Government of this small territory.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that most of us in this House are more interested in safeguarding peace and security in British Guiana than making things easier for Communist intrigues there?

Does the Minister not realise that if the slightly swollen-headed and dangerous young man that Dr. Jagan is had been planning the policy that suits him and his friends they would have done exactly what the Minister and the Government have, in fact, done, namely, tried to enforce laws which they cannot enforce and produce a martyr where they ought to have been producing something else?

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will lay before the House the evidence in regard to preparing to sabotage British Guiana's dyke system on which Dr. Cheddi Jagan and other leading members of his party are held.

44.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make available to the House the evidence in his possession supporting the charge made of the existence of a plot to damage or destroy the sea-walls in British Guiana.

I have no information beyond that which my right hon. Friend gave to the House last Wednesday, namely, that the British Guiana Govern- ment received reports that P.P.P. Agents had been instructed to open the sluice gates at high tide in Georgetown. So far as I am aware, no charge had been made against any member of the P.P.P. in connection with these reports.

Is the Minister aware that a serious aspect of affairs in Guiana is that first a charge was made about plans to burn the whole of Bridgetown, that now there are these rumours, and that none of these charges is supported in a court of law? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not good enough for a Minister of the Crown to act on rumours about threats to overthrow the constitution by force, and does he not realise that little British Guiana will not knuckle under to this kind of treatment any more than India did?

Is it not a fact that the people of Guiana will not knuckle under to Communism in any respect whatever?

May I ask the Minister whether he appreciates that even those who may be critical of Dr. Jagan and the P.P.P. nevertheless feel that evidence should be produced to support such allegations, and under those circumstances will he not do what he can to provide the House with the evidence upon which this charge is made, otherwise suspicion will be felt that the charge is false?

May I ask the Minister whether he will reconsider this matter and will realise that to make charges and then not to substantiate them will not help the interests of the good government of the country? And since there seems likely to be a recurrence of this trouble, does he not think it better to make the period of interim government as short as possible, and when does he expect the report of the Commission that his right hon. Friend sent out to inquire into British Guiana?

As regards the last part of the question, the Commission is now back in this country. The Commission is working on its report, and it will be some months probably before it can be made public.

The Minister has used a very expansive term, does he really intend to convey that it will be some months before the Commission presents its report?

A new constitution for British Guiana is a highly complicated question, and it is necessary that the Commission should take its full time to ensure that the report is a good one. I understand it will take some time, and I would not encourage the House to think that the report will come out sooner.