View Full Version : Come with me Behind God's Back

03-05-2008, 10:30 AM
This Friday, March 7th, is the World Day of Prayer, and this year Guyana is the focus. So I thought I'd get up on my soapbax and give a geography/history/World Affairs lesson. Don't be put off by the "Prayer" part of it if you are non-religious; you don't need to pray but why not discover a little jewel in the sun? Especially as it's the country that made and formed an AW member (moi!) and which will always be a part of her!

Anyway, I have been involved with this project over the last year and have tons of info in a Power Point presentation so i thought I'd just post it here. As an intro, here's an excerpt from an article I wrote about this year's World Day of Prayer:

The World Day of Prayer is the world’s largest international ecumenical Christian laywomen’s initiative. It is run under the motto “Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action,” and is celebrated annually in over 170 countries on the first Friday in March. The movement aims to bring together women of various races, cultures and traditions in a yearly common Day of Prayer, as well as in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.

The season lasts a year; it begins on the first Saturday on March each year, and ends on the first Friday of March the following year with a service written by the country in focus. Right now, Guyana has place of honour, and the Germans—German Christian women, to be specific—have honed in on Guyana and everything Guyanese with the incredible thoroughness for which Germans are famous. No other Christian community in the world takes the World Day of Prayer so seriously. No other community prepares it so thoroughly and puts so much effort into its preparation and celebration. No other country has folded Guyana into its heart as much as, right now, Germany.

And I am privileged, this season, to be Guyana’s ambassador, travelling around the country with laptop and Power Point to tell them about a country most of them have never heard of. We Guyanese often say we live “Behind God’s Back”. No longer. This year, in Germany, at least, we are in God’s spotlight.

For each country, the German Committee tries to find a native representative who is willing and qualified to present information on her home country, to answer questions and transmit a feeling for the country beyond the facts and the statistics. For 2008 they found themselves up against a problem: Guyana is such a small country it seemed unlikely that they could ever find such a person. Was there even a single Guyanese living in Germany? It seemed not.

And then, through an extraordinary coincidence dating back 12 years, they found me. The rest is history. Before this year, I had never heard of the World Day of Prayer. But before I knew it, I was standing before 50 inquisitive German women at my first World Day of Prayer workshop near Nuremberg. I was nervous; public speaking is my Achilles Heel, but I was aware of a duty, and so I did my best. The women made it easy for me. Their eagerness to hear about Guyana and the warmth with which they took me into the fold gave me wings, and I spoke.

I soon realised what a formidable audience I had before me. These ladies knew their stuff. The questions came thick and quick; hard-hitting questions that sometimes flummoxed me.

“What is the Guyana Government doing about bio-piratery?” “What about gays and lesbians? Is it true that they face life-imprisonment?” And more often than not the only answer I had was an honest “I don’t know.” But by the time the next workshop came around I had done my homework, and knew at least some of the answers.

These ladies were not looking for tourist-brochure hype. They did not want to hear about white sands and blue waters. They wanted facts, figures, and all the dirt. And it was up to me to give it to them.

In that spirit of the WDP motto “Informed prayer—prayerful action”, the quest of my audiences was always to discover the real Guyana, warts and all. Because only when problems are openly faced can they be openly dealt with. The sceptics and non-religious need to know: participants in the World Day of Prayer do not simply piously fold their hands and gaze up to the sky in prayer. They look down and try to help. And in the case of poor countries such as Guyana that help comes in the most practical of forms: money. All around the World on the first Friday of March, a collect is taken at services, and the money so gathered goes towards projects aimed at relieving suffering in one form or another: a village well, a school, medical help. Whatever is needed. Last year, in Germany alone, donations topped three million Euros. That’s a lot of money, and shows just what a force this movement is.

For me, never having heard of World Day of Prayer before, it was a call to action. Realising just how much was at stake, I quickly threw off my public speaking phobia. I had lived over thirty years in Germany, and always when I mentioned my homeland I met with blank eyes, or a frown, or barely disguised boredom. Guyana is a country no-one outside the Caribbean seems to have heard of. Or else they think it is in Africa. Or they associate it with the Jonestown suicides of 1978.

To say you are from Guyana is to admit that you, like your hapless country, are a non-entity, a nobody. I’ve learnt to deal with this in my own way. I’ve learnt that self-esteem, self-respect and identity are not dependent on coming from a great and famous country. I’ve learned that your country does not need to be first among nations to be loved with a passion; that its perceived importance in the grand scale of things is just that, a perception, and never a reflection on its worth. Most of all, that there is a certain magic and mystery to being an unknown; we Guyanese must rely not on the historical or political grandeur of our country for our sense of identity, but on the strength and vigour and confidence of our own hearts. It’s a magic that can be nourished; and once nourished it can be spread.

My job, I discovered, was to spread the magic of Guyana, the true Guyana, the Guyana we all remember and believe in and long for, in Germany. And that great nation opened its heart to receive it.

After the four big nationwide workshops fast July, I found myself in huge demand. Invitations poured in for me to speak for local groups. The German Catholic Woman’s Society were one of the first, booking me in for workshops in Bavaria, closely followed by the Evangelicals in Württemberg. I accepted all on a first-come-first-served basis, and soon my schedule from November through January was completely full with engagements from Hamburg to Stuttgart to Weimar. If I could have I would have cloned myself: by now I wanted nothing more than to spread the word.

Shyness fled. There’s nothing like an eager audience to lend a speaker wings, and these women were hungry. Unlike the well-prepared women I had spoken to in July, they as yet knew nothing of Guyana. That’s where Guyana’s very obscurity worked to advantage: none of them had heard of my country before, and so they came with open minds and no preconceptions. It was discovering virgin territory, and they loved it.

03-05-2008, 10:38 AM
Not at all.

There we are, at right at the top, next to Venezuela.

03-05-2008, 10:56 AM
The first inhabitants were the indigenous peoples, nine tribes.

03-05-2008, 11:00 AM

03-05-2008, 11:04 AM

03-05-2008, 11:08 AM
They too settled along the coastal strip.Everyone wanted a piece of the land.
The natives fled inland and left the coast to the Europeans.

03-05-2008, 11:12 AM
In 1831 the country became a colony of Great Britain and was named British Guiana.
The settlers grew cotton. But when the USA cotton industry overtook them they switched to sugar cane.


03-05-2008, 11:15 AM
Sugar cane growing is hard work. They needed workers. So they brought slaves from Africa.


03-05-2008, 11:17 AM
Life on a slave ship was hard...


03-05-2008, 11:19 AM
..but so was life on the sugar cane plantations.


03-05-2008, 11:19 AM
To be continued....

03-05-2008, 03:15 PM
I interrupt this programme with the following bulletin, which someone sent me today:

WORLD DAY OF PRAYER 2008: Update on Guyana

Guyana this year, 2008, is a country on the brink of chaos and anarchy as its inhabitants, especially the voiceless working poor, live in constant fear of violence from criminals who kill, maim and destroy with impunity as they walk and stalk the land at will. The institutional forces of law and order visibly appear incapable of dealing with heavily armed and highly trained criminals and bands of criminals who are intent on creating mayhem in the society.

Within the past three weeks, 20 civilians, one soldier and three policemen have been killed. In the early hours of the morning of January 26, a band of about 20 heavily armed gunmen in execution style slaughtered 11 residents, including five children, in their homes in the rural coastal village of Lusignan on the East Coast of Demerara, and injured several others. A day or two earlier, a young soldier of the Guyana Defense Force (the Army) was killed in an encounter between the army and criminals in Buxton, the village that borders Lusignan. Then, on the evening of February 16, right across on the western side of the country in the interior mining township of Bartica in the County of Essequibo, a band, reportedly of about the same number and armed in the same way as in the previous slaughter at Lusignan, invaded and rampaged the township unhindered, and brutally slaughtered 13 persons including three policemen in the Police Station and injured several others.

“Living in a society of terrifying unknown, no one knows what will happen next or to whom it will happen or where it will happen,” was the saddened cry of someone writing to one of the national papers. The people pray silently and openly for relief from the violence and other misdeeds of “man’s inhumanity to man” and the resulting conditions that degrade the sanctity of human life and human living.

Please intensify your prayers with and for the traumatized people of these communities and of all Guyana for God’s wisdom to provide new understanding to those with the responsibility to find effective ways to urgently and quickly bring relief from the heavy burden of the current evils that beset the citizens of Guyana. Prayer has become more desperately needed not only on March 7th, World Day of Prayer but ongoing, for as long as possible, until peace, harmony and security are restored to this once beautiful Guyana. “When all voices are joined together in one united voice, what a powerful voice it will be?” Please help the people of Guyana by raising your voices in prayer with them and for them in their pleas to the Most High for relief, even if such relief resides in miracles.

In terms of other concrete action, much help is also needed from people in Canada and in every other country to plead with their various governments and people of goodwill at all levels to petition the people in the central institutional sources of power in Guyana to promote measures that will serve to protect the people from the ravages of evildoers and ensure peace, security, stability and human and social progress in the society.

03-05-2008, 04:17 PM
Questions are welcome! Comments too!
But then again, who cares?????

03-05-2008, 04:38 PM
:cry:I do.

To say you are from Guyana is to admit that you, like your hapless country, are a non-entity, a nobody. I’ve learnt to deal with this in my own way. I’ve learnt that self-esteem, self-respect and identity are not dependent on coming from a great and famous country. I’ve learned that your country does not need to be first among nations to be loved with a passion; that its perceived importance in the grand scale of things is just that, a perception, and never a reflection on its worth. Most of all, that there is a certain magic and mystery to being an unknown; we Guyanese must rely not on the historical or political grandeur of our country for our sense of identity, but on the strength and vigour and confidence of our own hearts. It’s a magic that can be nourished; and once nourished it can be spread.

I love this paragraph. Especially the bolded part. ((hugs)) The whole thing is excellent!

I will join you and the German women in praying for your country. Thankx for asking. It's an honour to do so.

03-05-2008, 05:04 PM
Thank you!
I'll continue with this when I get home this evening.

William Haskins
03-05-2008, 05:12 PM
excellent thread. thanks for posting it.

03-05-2008, 07:00 PM
Sharon, what an excellent summary and call to concern. I know very little about Guyana, pretty much only a bit with regards to the Jonestown Massacre. But, of course, there has to be so much more.

Thank you for doing this.

03-05-2008, 07:06 PM
please continue this history lesson. It's very interesting

Little Red Barn
03-05-2008, 07:09 PM
Thanks aruna. :) More...

03-05-2008, 07:25 PM
I would like to see more, too. The Church Women United Group in our town is holding a celebration of this day. I've been running information about it for the past several weeks. They honor World Day of Prayer every year.

A. Hamilton
03-05-2008, 08:35 PM
I am touched and my heart is burdened by the needs of this country. You are an incredible spokeswoman. I will be praying.
I hope you don't mind, I posted a link to this thread in the prayer request thread.

03-05-2008, 08:41 PM
Is it okay to start with the praying a coupla days early?

Death Wizard
03-05-2008, 09:11 PM
Fascinating stuff. I'll need to study it more tonight.

03-05-2008, 09:23 PM
Is it okay to start with the praying a coupla days early?

I hope so or we're both in trouble. :)

Jean Marie
03-05-2008, 09:32 PM
Great thread, Sharon. Thank you.

03-05-2008, 11:05 PM
Thanks everyone! Unfortunately I am very tired this evening so the lesson continues early tomorrow morning... unless I change my mind later!

DHD, thanks for posting it on the prayer request thread! And please do start the praying early!

Devil Ledbetter
03-06-2008, 01:52 AM
Great thread Aruna. I'll be looking for more tomorrow.

03-06-2008, 10:07 AM
I'm going to go back in time a bit, to tell a story.

In 1815, a young man, Josias Booker, arrived in Guiana (not yet a colony) from Lancashire to work as company representative on Broom Hall estate in the district of Demerara. Within three years Josias had established himself as plantation manager of Broom Hall.

This estate had 155 African slaves.
Compared to other planters Josias treated his slaves well. He encouraged them to become Christians, built a chapel for them and even attended services alongside them.
Josias found that the frequent trampling of the soil by the slaves damaged it. Substituting oxen for slaves, he believed, would save not only time and slave effort but wear-and-tear on the soil. He imported a plough from Lancaster, significantly improving the drainage of the land and the quality of the soil. Production on Broom Hall increased three-fold.


News of this success spread; soon other plantation owners began to copy him, sending their slaves to Broom Hall for training. Josias thrived. He acquired his own plantation, then another, and another. When neighbouring plantations failed he stepped in and took over. His fortunes grew.

By this time Josias’s younger brother George had followed him to the colony, and had settled in Georgetown. George worked at building up a general merchandising and trading business, and acted as a shipping agent for the export of timber. A third Booker brother, William, joined them. All three brothers prospered.


By now, however, cotton production in Guiana was in decline; North America had overtaken it. The planters - first among them the Booker brothers - switched to another cash crop: sugar.
Before long the Booker Brothers owned most of the colony’s sugar plantations, as well as most of the African slaves.

(The images are not quite accurate, as they show cane production, not cotton; never mind!)

George Booker


More about the Booker Brothers, and the Booker Line shipping company (http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.bookerline.com/images/George%2520Booker.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.bookerline.com/photo.htm&h=529&w=408&sz=160&hl=en&start=4&sig2=LLcSF7KqC4FXLHFVmerFjw&um=1&tbnid=u6U5utHSLXt_tM:&tbnh=132&tbnw=102&ei=i4vPR_6VOpOWxAHH_oyXAw&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dbooker%2Bbrothers%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den% 26rlz%3D1B3GGGL_enDE241DE243%26sa%3DN)

03-06-2008, 10:33 AM
Soon, Booker Brothers owned most of British Guiana.
By this time, the colony had a capital city, Georgetown, at the mouth of the Demerara River.

Georgetown lay 6 feet below sea level.
Luckily, it was built by the Dutch who knew about water management. They built the city on canals for drainage.

and the houses on high stilts. Photos of Colonial Georgetown:





03-06-2008, 10:44 AM
On August 1, 1838 a great blow was dealt to the sugar industry: all slaves had to be emancipated. The Booker brothers took the blow with good grace. George Booker mustered the 315 slaves on his plantation Greenfield.
“As of this day,” he said with gravity, “You are free. Congratulations. We have set aside some land for you in the backlands, and our overseer will offer you every assistance in establishing yourselves.”


George had jobs for them, as paid labourers. But their joy was too great; they were not listening, and the last thing on their minds was work.
As time moved on George and his co-planters learned that work would never be on their minds. Freedom was intoxicating, the memory of their pain too great.
They scorned the scenes of their humiliation. They had nothing but contempt for cane and all farm work. If they did work, then only what was needed for mere survival. They worked intermittently and unpredictably. They would come to work one day, and not the next. They loathed the fields, the cane, the cutlass. Africans would no longer work for the white man, would no longer touch the earth. They fled the fields, sought the city, and found work there.
The planters were left high and dry.
The sugar industry fell into crisis.

03-06-2008, 10:54 AM
The British farmers imported labourers from China...
http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyggbs/Images/sixei.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyggbs/LandofsixpeoplesEI.htm&h=333&w=500&sz=122&hl=en&start=114&sig2=zqcZEZYiHGM4cw7r9g2uaQ&um=1&tbnid=LtVCpUh6NQgQAM:&tbnh=87&tbnw=130&ei=UUbOR56CIZWmwwH52siqDw&prev=/images%3Fq%3Damerindians%26start%3D108%26ndsp%3D18 %26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1B3GGGL_enDE241DE243%2 6sa%3DN

...and Portuguese from Madeira.
http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyggbs/Images/sixei.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyggbs/LandofsixpeoplesEI.htm&h=333&w=500&sz=122&hl=en&start=114&sig2=zqcZEZYiHGM4cw7r9g2uaQ&um=1&tbnid=LtVCpUh6NQgQAM:&tbnh=87&tbnw=130&ei=UUbOR56CIZWmwwH52siqDw&prev=/images%3Fq%3Damerindians%26start%3D108%26ndsp%3D18 %26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1B3GGGL_enDE241DE243%2 6sa%3DN
But neither the Chinese nor the Portuguese proved viable in the tropical climate of British Guiana, or suitable for the hard labour required in the cane fields..

Finally, they imported Indians.
http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyggbs/Images/sixei.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyggbs/LandofsixpeoplesEI.htm&h=333&w=500&sz=122&hl=en&start=114&sig2=zqcZEZYiHGM4cw7r9g2uaQ&um=1&tbnid=LtVCpUh6NQgQAM:&tbnh=87&tbnw=130&ei=UUbOR56CIZWmwwH52siqDw&prev=/images%3Fq%3Damerindians%26start%3D108%26ndsp%3D18 %26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1B3GGGL_enDE241DE243%2 6sa%3DN

03-06-2008, 11:11 AM
The Indians--known as East Indians to distinguish them from the native "Indians",
who were now knowns as Amerindians (American Indians)-- saved the sugar industry.
More and more were shipped in from India. They came as indentured servants, under contract for five years.
But most of them stayed on after their contract was over, and settled in British Guiana.
In time they became the largest population group.

(I don't know about you but this image is so huge you have to scroll to see all of it. I don't know how to correct that.)

03-06-2008, 11:21 AM
The East Indians, however, lived under atrocious conditions. To save money, the planters let them live in the old slave lodgings. They worked from early dawn till dusk. And no Indian could advance higher than the position of foreman.

However, unlike the Africans, they were allowed to keep their culture, and as far as was possible under the cramped conditions. Hinduism and Islam were kept alive in this Diaspora.

03-06-2008, 11:53 AM
In the early 1900's British Guiana practically belonged to Booker Brothers, McConnell and Company.
It had a stranglehold on the country's economy. The Booker ethic was "buy cheap, sell dear", and nothing else counted.
The company held immense power over the colonial government. When Bookers snapped its fingers, the Government fell to its knees.

Those who worked for the company loathed it with all their being.

All but two of the country's sugar estates belonged to Bookers. One of these two was the Campbell estate, at Albion in the Corentyne district. This estate belonged to a Scottish family, the Campbells. The Campbells were of aristocratic stock. William Middleton Campbell was Governor of the Bank of England between 1907 and 1909, a man of great prestige. The Campbells had been in Guyana for many decades; they too had owned slaves, had grown rich through sugar.

In 1934 a young Campbell, Jock, came to British Guiana for the first time to take charge of the family estates.

Jock was born in 1912, and grew up in great privilege. He attended Eton and Oxford; he enjoyed the good life, liked fast cars and even faster women.

Neither of those were to be found in British Guiana.
For the first time, Jock found out that his family had been slaveowners.
For the first time, he discovered the source of his family's wealth.

It was the shock of his life.
.................................................. .................................................. .................

In 1901 a ship arrived in Demerara from India, bringing a new set of indentured servants.

Among them was a family called Jagan, from Uttar Pradesh; they were allocated to the Campbell family estate at Albion.

The Jagans were labourers of the Kurmi caste, known for its thrift and industry, and the Jagan children worked as hard as the parents.

Their son Bharrat, a child-labourer, married and moved to the neighbouring estate, Port Mourant, and there his 11 children were born. The eldest of these was named Cheddi.

From Cheddi Jagan's Autobiography, The West on Trial:

Plantation life in British Guiana was hard. At a very early age, my parents had to join their mothers in the canefields, my father at Albion and my mother at Port Mourant. They both worked in the creole gangs. My mother relates that she had to work from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. manuring sugarcane in the fields for 8 cents (approx. 2p) per day, and also three times per week from midnight to 6 a.m. fetching fine bagasse into the factory for 4 cents (1p) for the 6-hour period. Her total take-home pay was about 60 cents (I2 ½p) per week. She often recalls how difficult those days were: 'Bhaiya, ahwee proper punish" (Brother, we really suffered). My mother has a way of calling me by the all-inclusive term "brother", a common practice among Indians.

Cheddi was five years younger than Jock Campbell.

Both were children of King Sugar.

03-06-2008, 11:59 AM
This is turning out to be quite different than I expected. I have strayed quite far form my original Power Point presentation...

03-06-2008, 12:13 PM
Now, two anecdotes, one for Jock and one for Cheddi, both true, but dramatized.

Jock's anecdote:

Jock stopped, and stared, frowning. There in front of him stood several long, low ramshackle buildings, rough constructions made of coarse wooden planks haphazardly hammered together, black holes for windows and doors. Not even buildings: they were more like piles of rotting wood set aside for burning, and they stood in what appeared to be a lake of stinking black mud. A miasma of wretched despair hung over the site, a cloud of squalor that wafted through the air and seeped into Jock’s soul along with the stench of human excreta and rotting refuse. It was a scene in sharp contrast to the clean crisp green of the cane fields behind them.

“What on earth are those?” he asked Mr Bee (Albion's estate manager). “Pig sties?” For indeed, pigs roamed the area, grunting in excitement at the dubious treasures they found in the mud.
Mr Bee replied dismissively, “Oh, those are the logies where our coolies live.”
“You mean, people live there? The stench is appalling! How can they stand it?”
“They’re used to it – they don’t mind in the least. These people are not like you and me, you know. Basically they’re barbarians.”
Jock swallowed the words he wanted to say, and said instead,
“Why don’t they have proper houses?”
“Well, we already had the logies when the slaves were freed so it was logical to put the coolies here. It saved money. Why build new houses when…”
Leaving the hovels behind them, Jock and James Bee approached a freshly painted building, simple but palatial in comparison to the hovels they had just seen, and clean. Mr Bee pointed to it in passing and said: “That’s the stable for our mules.”

Jock finally found his voice. “Why don’t you let the coolies live here, and put the mules in the hovels?” he asked, almost flippantly.
Bee looked at him as if he were mad.
“Mules cost money to replace.”

03-06-2008, 12:32 PM
Cheddi's anecdote:

A Christmas present, from the Lady of the Mansion! Mrs Gibson was known as formidable; something of a dragon – why, suddenly, a Christmas present? Cheddi was sceptical; he was intrigued. With the other boys from the child-labour gang he walked, barefoot, up the sanded path that cut through the mansion’s lawns. Their mothers, as excited as they, had dressed them in their very best clothes; rags still, yet clean. And they had scrubbed their boys to remove the ingrained grime from their skin, and combed their hair and slicked it with coconut oil, and warned them to be on their very best behaviour.

The boys stood before the mansion and looked up in awe; never had they been so close to paradise. Their hearts rattled with excitement; Cheddi’s too. What went on inside those palaces, what was it like? The universe of the white man was a thing beyond his wildest imagination; hidden from him by those pristine white walls. Would they be invited in? Would they know paradise, if even for a while? He had heard tales of shining wooden tables, laden with food, at which these white gods ate – would he partake of such a feast? Or should he? He was aware of a nagging feeling, a sort of resentment, a feeling that all this, somehow was just not right.

Mrs Gibson appeared at an upstairs window; she looked down at the boys and smiled; she waved. Quivering with anticipation, the boys waved back; but not Cheddi. The nagging at his heart grew stronger, a vague, restless thing he could not define, a thing that kept him aloof. He looked up at Mrs Gibson, his eyes narrowed, untrusting.

“Merry Christmas, boys!” cried Mrs Gibson gaily, and flung out her hand, bestowing her largesse like a great goddess sprinkling her devotees with divine blossoms, beaming in her magnanimity, bestowing her blessing. Spontaneously the boys raised their arms, as if in adulation. Only Cheddi stood stock still, arms glued to his sides.

But these were no divine blossoms falling on them. It was… money. Coins fell about the boys, pennies from heaven! At once they dropped to hands and knees, grovelled in the sand, cried out with glee and gratitude; snatching the coins from each other, shoving them into their pockets. Cheddi alone stood upright, looking up at Mrs Gibson. She stood at the window, a smile of smug satisfaction on her face, watching the wild scramble down below. All at once she saw the lone boy standing there, looking up at her, not chasing the coins, not smiling, just staring. Their eyes locked. The smile vanished from her lips. She drew back from the window.

03-06-2008, 01:46 PM
Jock was determined to CHANGE Bookers from bottom up. His standard line was, People are more important than ships, shops and sugar estates, and that was the basis of everything he did.

And now I am looking for my own biography of Jock Campbell and CAN'T FIND IT! It's probably buried in a box of books somewhere at the back of my garage...


03-06-2008, 01:56 PM
After attending primary school in his home village, (Cheddi Jagan) began at the age of 15 years to attend Queen's College, the leading boys' school in the capital, Georgetown. Leaving two years later, having passed the school certificate examinations, his father wanted him to study law but the expense of studying in England put this beyond his reach. His father therefore opted to send him in 1936 to Howard University, Washington DC, to study dentistry.

Cheddi Jagan's two years in Washington DC doing his pre-med studies opened his eyes to the condition of African Americans and the realities of legally enforced segregation in the south. He moved to Chicago, where he attended Northwestern University, and then in New York City, studying social sciences, and the writings of socialist thinkers broadened his education.[/IMG]

(more) (http://www.guyana.org/features/guyanastory/chapter115.html)

IN the USA he met Janet Rosenberg, a Jewish nurse from Chicago.

They fell in love; against the will of both sets of parents, they married. To the horror of her parents, he took her to British Guiana.

03-06-2008, 06:58 PM
Keep going Aruna, you are fascinating me. I'll be back after work to hopefully read more.

03-06-2008, 07:51 PM
Jock spent the war years in England, working in the Colonial Office. There he prepared the groundwork for his vision.

He had set his eyes set on the Booker Empire. His plans were quite clear. His father and uncle owned the company Curtis Campbell, which consisted of two sugar estates, Ogle and Albion. But two estates would not be enough for Jock; his vision for King Sugar meant that structural and social changes had to encompass the entire sugar industry. Booker was the embodiment of King Sugar; that throne must be usurped.

Jock convinced his father and uncle that a merger between Curtis Campbell and Booker Bros, McConnell and Co was necessary for the survival of the family concern.

Those two were on the Board of Booker, and helped negotiate a take-over of their own company in 1939. Shares were exchanged; Jock became a Director himself and moved into the Booker stronghold.

From then on it was only upward. In 1947, aged 35, he became Booker’s Vice-Chairman. In 1952 he became Chairman, aged only 40: he had reached the very top. In fact, to all intents and purposes he had been running the company since 1945.

Jock returned to British Guiana after the war and found a senior management of crusty old men. Entrenched in their ways, confined in their thinking, these men were rooted in a framework of self-interest intrinsically opposed to change. He dismissed them all as hopeless. He was a new broom sweeping clean. He ran rings around them and knew it.
He whirled through the company like a hurricane, leaving the survivals exhausted, but exhilarated, removing the old and replacing it with new.

The company was in complete disarray, so splintered nobody knew what was making a profit and what was making a loss. The machinery was old and derelict after the war years, and a serious fire had destroyed several Booker buildings.

Worst of all, the company was universally hated, both inside and outside the colony, and even by the colonial authorities. It was the textbook example of an arrogant, imperialist juggernaut grown obese and unwieldy off the fat of the land; except that it was now making a loss. All that would have to change.

I believe that there should be values other than money in a civilised society. I believe that truth, beauty and goodness have a place. Moreover, I believe that if businessmen put money, profit, greed and acquisition among the highest virtues, they cannot be surprised if, for instance, nurses, teachers and ambulance men are inclined to do the same. Jock Campbell.

Bookers, once a synonym for greed, would become a model of benevolence. And the process began with people. The company began to recruit new managers, efficient managers, ethical, hand-picked managers; a difficult task, which Jock solved by breaking it down into small and manageable units.

Most important of all, the new people were Guianese; qualified, home-bred individuals who had caught the infectious spirit of their leader. If they lacked the skills for the job, they were sent abroad for training. The glass ceiling of skin colour cracked and crumbled; and it fell apart not through protest by the workers, not through rebellion or revolution, but through a decree from above.

03-06-2008, 08:03 PM
Meanwhile, Cheddi and Janet Jagan were back in British Guiana, and they had plans of their own.

They also had a dream of their own: theirs was the socialist dream. Up and down the country they drove, speaking to the sugar workers, infecting them with the fire of rebellion. They organised strikes and go-slows. They made demands. They drew crowds.

Jagan had grown up hating Booker Bros. He did not trust in or want a reformed Bookers. He wanted Bookers gone.

He did not trust Jock Campbell. He did not trust any Englishman.

Jagan realised that he had to unite all the people in order to work towards self-government and, later, independence from Britain. He wanted to draw the African population into his movement, and so recruited a brilliant young African Lawyer, trained in London: Linden Forbes Burnham.


They formed a political party, the People's Progressive Party, and in 1953 ran for election. It was the country's first election under the colonial government.

03-06-2008, 08:30 PM
I'm enjoying the lesson immensely.

Thanks, Aruna. I'm staying tuned.

03-06-2008, 09:33 PM
I just read the whole thing and this is amazing. I was praying along the way as well. I can't wait for God to move!

Terri, proud to know a Guianian!

What an honor Aruna!

03-06-2008, 09:37 PM
Amazing thread, Aruna. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us.

03-06-2008, 10:32 PM
And thanks to all of YOU for listening/reading! I am always amazed to find that "outsiders" do turn on to Guyana!

03-06-2008, 10:46 PM
I'm a bit busy so copyng from this website (http://www.guyana.org/features/guyanastory/chapter128.html).
If the following whole block of text puts you off then here's it in a nutshell: Jagan won the election; Churchhill didn't like that and neither did JF Kennedy.

The general election, held under the "first past the post" system, took place on 27 April 1953. The total number of voters registered in a house to house enumeration was 208,939. Almost 150,000 were newly qualified because of the extended franchise resulting from the granting of universal adult suffrage. Of this number, an estimated 40,000 were illiterate, and special arrangements had to be made to enable them to vote. These included the introduction of symbols for political parties and independent candidates, and separate ballot boxes for each candidate. Each ballot box was marked with the name and photograph and symbol of the candidate. The symbols were chosen long before nomination day, and all voters knew whom they represented. The PPP, as a political party, adopted the cup as its symbol and all its candidates used it during their campaign to educate voters, particularly the illiterate, on how to mark their ballots.

On election day, the ballot boxes were placed behind a screen and the voter, after marking his ballot in secret, folded it and placed it in the box of his chosen candidate. By the time the polls closed at 6.00 p.m., 156,226 persons or 75 percent had voted; the final tally showed that the valid votes were 152,231 or 73 percent of the electorate.

There was great excitement over the election, and most persons voted very early. The results were declared by the following morning and they showed that the PPP won 18 seats while obtaining 51 percent of the overall votes. The NDP won two seats, while independent candidates won four. Among the electoral casualties of the NDP was Lionel Luckhoo, the President of the MPCA, who lost badly to a PPP candidate in a district with a large sugar worker population.

Among the successful PPP candidates were three women - Janet Jagan, Jane Philips-Gay and Jesse Burnham. They became the first women elected to the Guyanese legislature.

The spectacular victory of the PPP caused much concern among the colonial authorities since they had not expected an outright victory by the PPP. They anticipated that no party would win a clear majority and that the new Government would be made up of a diverse group of members of political parties and independents and, thus, could be easily manipulated. It was apparent that the colonial authorities based their analysis on the opinions expressed by the media which claimed that the PPP would be soundly defeated.

Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, was very critical of the Colonial Office which had predicted in a briefing to him that the PPP could not win a majority. The United States Government was also concerned over the new situation and felt that the PPP victory presented a strong threat to British colonialism.

03-06-2008, 10:56 PM
BTW, somebody in a rep suggested I write a historical novel about this. Well, I have! The two anecdotes quoted above are actually scenes from my unpublished novel Last of the Sugar Gods. It's a family saga, with the real political story woven in and out of the fiction.
This novel ms was read by several agents and one major Publisher, Bloomsbury, and I got some "nice" rejections. They all felt that a Guyana novel was not commercial enough because the general publics had never heard of this country.
It is still on my hard disc however and maybe one day...

Devil Ledbetter
03-07-2008, 02:06 AM
BTW, somebody in a rep suggested I write a historical novel about this. Well, I have! The two anecdotes quoted above are actually scenes from my unpublished novel Last of the Sugar Gods. It's a family saga, with the real political story woven in and out of the fiction.
This novel ms was read by several agents and one major Publisher, Bloomsbury, and I got some "nice" rejections. They all felt that a Guyana novel was not commercial enough because the general publics had never heard of this country.
It is still on my hard disc however and maybe one day...I'll look forward to reading that! :D

03-07-2008, 02:26 AM
I'm enjoying the lesson immensely.
Thanks, Aruna. I'm staying tuned.

me, too. me, too!

This is fascinating.

That last bit with Cheddi and Jock reminds me of an old fashioned radio drama ... what's next? what's next?

03-07-2008, 08:45 AM
Aruna, I can only say keep trying. The beauty of your country is in its size, that you were able to encapsulate its development as you have. It seems to me that all the countries around the world could learn from this history. What a story!

Kate Thornton
03-07-2008, 09:00 AM
I am completely stunned.

Aruna, what a magnificent story - and a fascinating telling of it. I was glued to my monitor.

I am so sorry for the lawlessness and misery of contemporary Guyana. I am hopeful for a better world.

Please, give us more. Keep us informed, now that we know as much as you have given us.

And thank you.

03-07-2008, 09:02 AM
me, too. me, too!

This is fascinating.

That last bit with Cheddi and Jock reminds me of an old fashioned radio drama ... what's next? what's next?

*nods emphatically*

Keep going, Aruna! This is a great thread, imo. Thanks for sharing this.

03-07-2008, 09:53 AM
And I am truly stunned at your reactions... thank you so much!

03-07-2008, 10:10 AM
The short version is, that the PPP immediately moved ahead with reforms.
Here's the long version:

During the election campaign, the PPP had published its programme, and as soon as the legislature began its work, the Party decided to implement it. This, of course, did not go down well with the colonial authorities and the opposition forces, which tried their best to delay or oppose this programme. For these forces arrayed against the PPP, the programme was seen as "communist" and therefore it must be firmly opposed.

The PPP then set about to bring relief to rice farmers who were renting lands from large landlords. The House passed an amendment to the existing Rice Farmers (Security of Tenure) Bill to assist rice farmers during droughts. The amendment also sought to protect and secure the rights of tenant rice farmers.

In the original legislation passed in 1945, landlords were not penalised if they did not maintain the infrastructure - dams, drains and canals - in good condition. The amendment gave the landlords time to do the work. If they did not comply, the Government would do the work and recover the cost from them. However, the State Council rejected this bill with Lionel Luckhoo, one of its members, describing it as "totalitarian dictatorship".

The PPP Government campaigned to remove Church control of schools, as it had stated in its election manifesto. It did not propose an end to religious instruction, but proposed that the schools should be directly supervised by the Government and local education committees. This system was more democratic than was then existing, since schools run by a particular Christian denomination did not allow other Christian groups to give religious instructions in their schools.
And none of the Church controlled schools allowed Muslim and Hindu groups to offer their religious instructions to children, even though a very large proportion of Hindu and Muslim children attended these schools.

The Government also tightened on the expenditure of the Public Works Department which was known for its wasteful spending. This cutback included heavy spending on the building of large houses for senior Government officials.

It also set up committees to investigate problems of domestic workers and to make proposals for the revision of the Workers' Compensation Ordinance. And for the first time, ordinary people were appointed to Government boards and committees.

Another action of the PPP Government aimed at helping the poor was to commence a revision of the fees for doctors under its employment. It also instituted a policy of refusing additional leases of State owned lands - or Crown lands - to landlords who already had large landholdings.

There was also a cut-back on unnecessary expenditure of public funds. ..........

As part of this cut-back, the Government also decided in July not to send delegates to meet Queen Elizabeth II on her November visit to Jamaica. The Government felt that this was unnecessary since it had already sent a four-member delegation in June, just a few weeks before, to attend the Queen's coronation in June in London at a cost of $100,000.

The refusal of the Government to send a delegation to greet the Queen in Jamaica was also described by Alexander Bustamante, the Chief Minister of Jamaica, as "an insult to the Crown". The Guyanese press also used this statement to expand its hostility to the Government

In other words, Winston Churchill was pissed off.
So pissed off, in fact, that six months into the new
Government Britain suspended the Constitution and reinstated
the colonial government.

The PPP Government, in office for only 133 days, was effectively overthrown by a combination of British emergency orders and heavily armed British troops.

There was more to it than that, obviously, but i don;t want to bore you. Anyone who wants can read the details here (http://www.guyana.org/features/guyanastory/chapter130.html).

Things were back to square one.

03-07-2008, 10:25 AM

The pressure of the United States on Great Britain played a significant role in the decision to remove the PPP Government from office. The United States, heavily influenced by the anti-communism doctrine of Senator Joseph McCarthy, felt that the PPP Government's programme and policies were communist, and was convinced that Guyana could form a base for Soviet expansionism in the Americas. The United States was of the opinion that a "communist" Guyana could threaten the supply of bauxite, then a strategic military resource, from Guyana and Suriname to the United States. At that period these two countries supplied roughly 66 percent of American bauxite imports. A Soviet base in Guyana, according to the anti-communist ideologues in the USA, could also threaten the Panama Canal.

Thus, the PPP Government posed a threat to American interests and it had to be removed. The British Government willingly compiled by attacking the PPP's programme and legislative actions as communist, even though these were proposed before the 1953 elections, and fully supported by an overwhelming majority of the electorate.

And this, form the same website:

The political policies of the United States administration played a decisive role in influencing the British Government to remove the PPP Government from power in Guyana. The British Government acted under pressure from the US administration which, by then, had given itself the "right" to oppose any policy which it felt was not supportive of imperialist interests.

Since 1940, the United States had established a firm political and military interest in Guyana, and during the Second World War, the British Government allowed the USA to set up a naval base on the Essequibo River and an air base at Atkinson Field at Timehri (which after the war was transformed into an international airport). The United States continued to maintain its military facilities at this airport even after the war ended. (It was not until the 1970s that the military "rights" the USA held regarding the use of this airport were finally rescinded).

The early 1950s was the period of the communist witch hunt initiated by Joseph McCarthy and his political supporters in the USA. Any progressive tendency was labelled by them as communist, and this label was soon plastered on the progressive policies of the PPP. Locally, the label already existed, and the Party and its leaders were always attacked since its inception by local anti communists.

In the United States concerns began to be voiced as soon as the PPP won the general election in April 1953. The American press, in particular, began to show deep interest in Guyana. Time magazine wrote that a Communist Government was being established in the British Empire, thus warning Britain of the "danger". And Americans were warned that a Communist Government was being set up at America's back door. Communism, they were told, was the opposite of democracy. Around the same time, an American journalist of international repute, Drew Pearson, expressed alarm that while the US Government was trying to preserve democracy in the Far East and elsewhere, it was allowing a communist government to be established in its neighbourhood.

The US State Department also began to take a strong interest in Guyanese affairs. The US Vice Consul stationed in Trinidad made repeated visits to Guyana after April 1953. No doubt, the US Government was also worried that if Guyana became communist, it may pose a security threat for the Panama Canal, since in their estimation, Russia would be able to obtain port facilities in Guyana.

03-07-2008, 10:27 AM
Here is some stuff I did not know myself:

Despite the intense anti-communist campaign against the PPP by the British Government and its supporters in the USA and the Caribbean, strong criticisms all over the world against the British action in suspending the constitution forced the British Government to debate the issue in Parliament. As already stated, the British Government also issued a White Paper which tried to build the case for the suspension of the constitution, but this document was filled with suppositions and distortions.

The Parliamentary debate was fixed for 22 October 1953, and the PPP decided to send Dr. Jagan and Forbes Burnham to London to provide information to the opposition and also to put the Party's case to the British public. But all impediments were placed in their way to prevent them from reaching London. The Governments of Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and the United States stated that they would refuse them to transit through their ports. As a result the major American, British and French airlines refused to take them as passengers. They managed to obtain seats on the Dutch airline (KLM) from Suriname, but because the Suriname Government refused to allow them to overnight, they had to charter a special plane, at very high costs, to take them directly from Guyana to the airport in Suriname on the day of their departure.

On the other hand members of the opposition groups found no problems to get to London to thank the British Government for removing the PPP Government. These persons included John Carter, Lionel Luckhoo, John Fernandes, and Rudy Kendall - all of the National Democratic Party - and John Dare of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.

03-07-2008, 10:32 AM
The short version of this is that the British Government decided to nurture Forbes Burnham, seen as less dangerous of the two leaders. The party split into two: a Burnham PPP and a Jagan PPP.

In planning for the establishment of the Interim Government, the British Government was confronted with a dilemma. Could it establish an Interim Government which was favourable to the people without including members of the majority People's Progressive Party which it had condemned as communist? It was the view of the British that the only way PPP members could be included was either if a split occurred in the Party, or if those regarded as non-communist would cooperate.

Clearly, the British had already set into motion plans to split the PPP since they felt that having some "safe" members of the PPP in the planned Interim government would add some respectability to it. They hoped that the inclusion such persons would enable the colonial authorities to win the confidence of the people. Apparently, however, the time period was too short to bring such plans to fruition.

The promises and lavish spending of the Interim Government were not successful in drawing away support from the PPP. Actually, the strength of the Party grew; the Interim Government was met with such disfavour that it threw into the camp of the PPP persons who were hitherto neutral or against it. And despite the many efforts to restrict and destroy the PPP, the Party won a majority of seats in most of the Village Councils in Local Government elections held during the beginning of 1954.

Again, details can be read here. (http://www.guyana.org/features/guyanastory/chapter135.html)

03-07-2008, 10:40 AM
Unfortunately, the rift in the party led to a rift in the electorate--along racial lines. This rift has not healed to this day.

The next election was in 1957.

Indians voted for Jagan, Africans for Burnham. Since there were more Indians than Africans, Jagan won.

Of course, there were many exceptions to the racial voting. My own family was not Indian, but very pro-Jagan. especially my father and his brother.

One of my earliest memories--I was six years old!--is of adults standing around a radio and the shout that went up when Jagan was announced the winner.

03-07-2008, 10:46 AM
Meanwhile, Jock Campbell was quietly implementing reforms of his own. One of his main missions was to improve the housing of sugar labourers.

Here's what one reviewer of his biography says:

Coinciding with the aspiration of many an estate labourer of owning a house and a piece of land, was Jock Campbell’s idea of placing land, property and cane cultivation in the hands of the humble cane cutters among whom my father took his place. My father produced canes in the backdam and in the rum shops he consumed the juice with the same industry.

In 1956 he and 56 others were alotted 15 acres of cane fields and a 12 feet by 20 feet two storey concrete house which was like the queen's palace when compared to the huddle from which he was plucked. Childhood memories of cricket and cane still warm my winter nights.

After several years the house became the property of the farmer. (my bold)

The thing is, Jock was a walking contradiction. He was a capitalist with socialist ambitions. He and Jagan had the same goals; and he liked Jagan immensely. He also loathed Burnham.

Here's what the same reviewer says:

Professor Seecharan’s 675 page book will generate a lot of discussion. Many may argue that his work seem to deify Sir Jock Campbell and villainise Dr Cheddi Jagan who is presented as someone bent on undermining the most meaningful work of the Booker Reformer. A letter to Ian Macdonald from Jock Campbell could bring us nearer to the truth:

"I suppose I could claim that if I could not get the confidence of shareholders and bankers I could not do all the things I wanted to do. But the truth is that Guyanese pressures forced the pace; and enabled me to gain acceptance of reforms that never would have been accepted in a quiescent Guyana."

The conflict and contradiction generated by the interactions between the beneficiaries and subjects of empire called forth certain liberatory effects in the interest of the masses. Jock and Jagan were, in a sense, simultaneously adversaries and joint architects of the new configurations that unfolded in the sugar belt.

03-07-2008, 10:55 AM
The election defeat came as a huge shock to Burnham. In a nutshell, his PPP faction morphed into a new party, the People's National Congress (PNC) and ran for election again, in 1961. And lost again, to the PPP.

Meanwhile, Britain and the US were discussing what to do about Jagan.

In Washington, some American political leaders were already describing Dr. Jagan as a communist, and they were worried that even though he was the most popular Guyanese leader he would not follow the democratic path. ...
The British Government had insisted that Dr. Jagan was a more responsible leader than Forbes Burnham. The British had communicated their feelings to the Americans at the highest level, explaining that both governments should give Dr. Jagan economic support to prevent him from making approaches for support from the communist bloc.

Dr. Jagan arrived in Washington on late October 1961. He appeared on the popular "Meet the Press" television programme, and because he made no critical remarks of the Soviet Union, the Kennedy administration immediately felt less enthusiastic towards providing any economic assistance to him. President Kennedy, who watched part of the "Meet the Press" show, told his advisers that he would make no commitment until he met with Dr. Jagan.

That meeting between President Kennedy and Dr. Jagan took place at the White House on the 25 October. At this meeting, Kennedy was accompanied by his special assistant Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and George Ball, the Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs at the State Department. Dr. Jagan outlined the economic issues affecting Guyana and explained that as a socialist he believed that state planning would be most instrumental in overcoming the economic and developmental problems facing the country. Kennedy replied that the United States was not interested in forcing private enterprise in countries where it was not relevant. He added that the primary purpose of American aid was to support national independence and to encourage individual and political freedoms. For the United States, he said, it was important for a country to maintain its national independence. "So long as you do that, we don't care whether you are socialist, capitalist, pragmatist or whatever," Kennedy declared. "We regard ourselves as pragmatists."

The two leaders then discussed the issue of nationalisation. Kennedy said that the US had no problem with this but would expect compensation to be given. A lively exchange on Dr. Jagan's political ideas followed, and the Guyanese premier spoke of his commitment to parliamentary democracy. Kennedy said that the United States would be supportive of genuine non-alignment, but would be opposed to a total commitment by Guyana to the communist bloc. He then questioned Dr. Jagan about his views regarding relations with that group. The Guyanese leader retorted by asking him if the US would view a trade agreement between Guyana and the USSR as an unfriendly act. Kennedy responded by saying that it would be a matter of concern if such an agreement compromised the economic independence of the (weaker) country.

In terms of aid to Guyana, Kennedy did not raise any discussion as to specific amounts, leaving that matter to be dealt with by Schlesinger, Ball and other officials at follow-up meetings.

03-07-2008, 11:24 AM
In 1961, the PPP passed a new budget.

On the 31 January, 1962 the Government introduced in the House of Assembly a budget to provide the money needed to meet the wage agreements with the CSA and the FUGE (amounting to about $4 million). The budget was also aimed at strengthening the country's financial position. The Government announced that no action would be taken on the budget until 12 February so that the public would have enough time to study it.

In addition, the budget planned to raise money to finance an industrialisation programme to help solve the urban unemployment problem. Roughly, the Government needed to raise about $110 million to help meet this need.

The budget proposals were based on the recommendations of the Cambridge-educated economist and tax consultant, Nicolas Kaldor, whose services had been obtained by the United Nations. Kaldor had advised the Governments of India and Ghana, among other developing countries, on the restructuring of their tax systems. The proposals of the budget were aimed at preventing the unnecessary outflow of capital; blocking loopholes in the tax system; preventing the evasion of tax payments; and improving the balance of payment position.

Urban Africans felt that this budget was unfavourable to them.
What followed is the ugliest part of Guyana's history.
The country erupted in violence: almost exclusively African against Indian. Inidan girls were attacked and raped on the street, Indians homes were burnt down and looted, Indians were murdered on the open streets.

I was in England at school at the time and so I did not witness it myself, but members of my family told me they were relieved I was not there since I "looked Indian" and might also have been attacked.

The disturbances were followed by an 80-day general strike. The country came to a standstill; and it is no secret that the strike was financed by the CIA.

I am fast forwarding now as the details are very boring... see the short version below...

The 1963 constitutional conference was called by the British Government to work out plans on a date for the independence of Guyana. At the Conference which began at Lancaster House in London on 22 November, Dr. Jagan, as Premier and leader of the PPP, insisted that Guyana should have immediate independence; that in future elections, the voting age should be reduced to 18 years; and that the electoral system of separate constituencies, as existing then, must be retained.

However, Burnham and D'Aguiar, the PNC and UF leaders respectively, counter-proposed that there should not be immediate independence; there should be elections before independence; the voting age must not be reduced from 21 years; and the electoral system must be Proportional Representation (PR), by which the entire country would become one constituency, and seats in Parliament allocated on the proportion of votes obtained by each contesting political party.

It was clear from the outset that the opposition was not willing to compromise and was definitely not interested in pursuing independence for Guyana. Faced with this situation, Dr. Jagan called for mediation by a Commonwealth team...

With the talks reaching a deadlock, the three leaders decided to ask the British Colonial Secretary, Duncan Sandys, as chairman of the conference, to arbitrate a solution based on the objective of the conference - i.e., the final independence of Guyana. The request was made in the following joint letter, drafted by Sandys:

" We regret to have to report to you that we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that there is no prospect of an agreed solution. Another adjournment of the conference for further discussions between ourselves would therefore serve no useful purpose and would result only in further delaying British Guiana's independence and in continued uncertainty in the country. In these circumstances we agreed to ask the British Government to settle on their authority all outstanding constitutional issues and we undertake to accept their decisions."

The decision announced by Sandys shocked the world and was condemned by democratic forces internationally. It decided on everything the opposition wanted, and nothing the freely elected PPP Government had asked for.

As a result, Guyana was not to obtain immediate independence; the voting age was not reduced and the list system of proportional representation was made the electoral system for elections to be held in December 1964, a full year before the PPP Government's term was due to expire.


Undoubtedly, the decision of the British Government to give total backing to the Opposition was by no means a compromise since it took no consideration of the demands of the PPP. By deciding not to be an honest broker in supporting all the opposition demands, the British Government showed that it was willing to betray democratic principles in order to remove a freely elected democratic government in Guyana.

The British decision was also part of an agreement worked out between the British and the American Governments to remove the PPP Government from power. The American Government saw Dr. Jagan as a "communist threat", and President Kennedy and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan with their advisers held discussions on 30 June 1963 at Birch Grove in England on the merits of removing the PPP Government.

The Americans proposed proportional representation as the electoral system which could fulfil that objective, and no, doubt, the British finally agreed with them, as was reflected in the Sandys "solution".

This "solution" saw its genesis the year before when Burnham journeyed to Washington to meet with Kennedy's special assistant, Arthur Schlesinger, in May 1962. There a US-PNC deal was concocted. About the same time, US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk sent a strongly worded letter to the British" to indicate that the US was backing Burnham and that it wanted Jagan out of the Government. The US Government finally pressured the British Government not to grant independence to Guyana under the PPP Government, as was decided by the Sandys "formula".

(my bold)

Under the new voting system, the PNC won the next election in coalition with the UF (the capitalist party).

Forbes Burnham became President of Guyana.

Cheddi Jagan became Opposition Leader, and was to remain in that position for the next few decades.

British Guiana was granted Independence from Great Britain on May 26th 1966. It became known after that as GUYANA.

Burnham proved to be a dictator of the worst sort. He was corrupt down to his fingertips. Under him, the country slipped into economic ruin. Burnham's cronies grew rich, the poor grew poorer. Once or twice I went home for a while and the supermarket shelves were empty except fr matches and bleach. The Brain Drain was one of the worst consequences: most people of any skill or education left. Opponents were killed. Worst of all, every subsequent election was rigged--blatantly so. Ballot boxes were confiscated by the military after elections and reappeared hours later with a landslide majority for Burnham. The whole country went downhill--quickly.

03-07-2008, 11:34 AM
I'm going to backtrack a bit, back to Jock Campbell.

This is an incident hardly anyone knows about. There is also no public record of this conversation; the first I heard of it is in the above-mentioned biography of Jock Campbell. I am sure that if Jagan had played along with Jock the outcome would have been quite a different one. It was Jagan's mistrust of anything to do with Booker that caused his downfall.

Of course, if this conversation really happened, Jagan would not have wanted it to be made public. We only have Jock's word for it. It took place before the crucial constitutional conference, while there was still time. Here it is, in another dramatization from Last of the Sugar Gods:

For Jock Campbell, the idea of Forbes Burnham as the country’s leader was a nightmare. Burnham was the epitome of the wily politician with no greater aim than his own advancement. Jock knew there was only one way to prevent this: Jagan had to reassure both America and Britain that he was willing to compromise, to work with the benevolent capitalist force that Booker had now become. With this in mind, he invited Cheddi Jagan to a private talk .... It was time to get down to the nuts and bolts of Booker’s future in British Guiana. The two men spoke alone for two hours but made little progress.
Towards the end of the conversation Jock pulled out his trump.
“Listen,” he said slowly. “I’ll make you an offer. A unique offer.”
Jagan said nothing. He only watched. He was speaking to a quintessential capitalist; a breed not to be trusted.
“I have an idea,” said Jock. “I know it’s daring. I know it’ a revolutionary idea. But it could change everything. I’ll give you 51% of Booker shares. You, the government, holds those shares in trust with the unions. Bookers retain 49% shares and manage the whole enterprise. We’d have a two-tier board. I envision a shareholders’ board consisting of sugar workers, political parties, unions, and individual Guianese: that board would have controlling interest and lay down the policy. Then there would be the practical management board, on which the top board, the shareholder’s board, would also be represented; that’s us, Bookers. We’d…”
Jock spoke on, lit by an inner fire, carried away by the beauty of his idea. It was perfect; it was the very solution.
Jagan interrupted. “Have you discussed this with the Board of Directors?”
Jock shook his head.
“No. But I can convince them. I know I can.”
“What about Follet-Smith? Does he know, at least?”
Follet-Smith was the Chairman of Booker Sugar Estates; they were sitting in his very office, Jock sat in his very chair. He was a man of the Old Guard, a man of encrusted concepts and inflexible notions. He was one of the hopeless old men Jock had been struggling against ever since he’d headed Booker.
Again, Jock shook his head.
“I’ll take care of that - once I get your approval.”
It was an outlandish scheme, unheard of in the history of colonialism, unheard of in the annals of Marxist theory. It was revolutionary. Jock was, in effect, handing him Bookers on a plate, while guaranteeing the expert management and foreign capital needed to keep the concern going. Furthermore, it would convince both the USA and Britain that Jagan was flexible; that he was not a Soviet pawn, and would work with Western forces. It was a way out of the morass, and, as far as Jock could see, the only way.
Jagan was silent, his eyes on Jock. Despite himself, he liked Jock; this was a capitalist with a difference, a man who listened and, Jagan believed, cared. But still he was a capitalist; and Bookers was the quintessential imperialist concern. What Jock was offering made no sense whatsoever, neither from a Marxist nor from a capitalist point of view. It couldn’t be done. Finally, Jagan spoke:
“You’re joking, of course.”

03-07-2008, 11:57 AM
More about the Burnham regime:

THE judicial system also became replete with PNC sympathizers and members and as early as 1968, those who did not approve of Burnham were quietly forced to practice the legal professions in other countries. .... It was also necessary for the head of the judicial system, or attorney general, to favor Burnham’s opinions. The PNC presence in the judicial system was confirmed by the flying of the party flag on the Court of Appeals building.

This presence also stretched itself over to the media and unions. The Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and the Daily Chrocicle, Guyana’s primary newspaper, fell under the direct governance of the PNC. Newsprint for other papers, primarily for the PPP, was seized, especially at elections. Two Trade Orders (no. 86 of 1971 and no. 86 of 1972) infringed the freedom of expression once guaranteed under the Article 12(1) of the constitution. Although cost for damages was awarded to the New Guyana Company (publisher or the Mirror), in 1998-79, the court found that the fundamental right to import newsprint was not an essential part of the right to free expression.

.... under Burnham’s tenure, trade union activity became heavy suppressed, eventually forcing most unions to move in favor of the PNC. ....

Where the PNC could not impose its influence in union activities, it infiltrated the industry itself via other methods. This was particularly true in the rice and sugar industries, areas traditionally dominated by Indians. Both received less minimal financial support from the PNC; with time, the government replaced competent people at the Guyana Rice Board with its own supporters.

The previously profitable rice industry began to crumble due to a reduction in paddy prices paid to farmers, unavailability of machinery parts and foreign exchange to make these purchases, and the break from lucrative markets like Cuba. By the eighties, average acreage under cultivation plummeted from 250,000 to 90,000.

Burnham, for more than a decade, refused to recognize GAWU as the union of sugar workers, but in 1975, to win support in his aim to nationalize the industry, acquiesced a poll calling for this recognition. Yet, it did not prevent the police, army troops, and members of House of Israel from breaking up strikes, the suppression of trade union activities, and the PNC’s own attempt to form a new union for the sugar workers.......

Loyalty to the PNC became of paramount importance; criticism meant possible dismissal or harassment, and workers were strongly encouraged to attend PNC rallies, as reflected in this memorandum b....: “The importance of the attendance of this historic rally cannot be under-estimated. Your future and indeed the future of your children will be discussed and therefore you must attend.”

By 1979, Martin Carter who had now become a fierce critic of the Burnham regime, who would be beaten up by PNC’s loyal thugs, wrote in the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) paper, Dayclean, 1979; “The PNC’s method of ensuring self-perpetuation consists of indulging in a deliberate policy of degrading people.” Under Burnham’s PNC, corruption, he noted, had become “a way of life, in which people were made to accept that stealing, cheating, lying, bearing false witness…was a positive sign of loyalty to the regime…”

By 1976, the socialist revolutionary plan to “feed, house and clothe” Guyana began its final plummet. The ETB became a channel that stifled trade due to party favoritism, and the imported economic model faltered due to a lack of international investors (unlike in the US territory).

Millions spent in nationalization resulted in staggering losses as most projects failed. The hydroelectric dam in Mazaruni amounted to a US$100 million loss. Ineptitude, corruption, and willful mismanagement (yearly audits neglected etc.) resulted in little production, forcing the government to turn to the IMF/World Bank by 1978.

By the time of Burnham’s death, Guyana was some US$2 billion in arrears (US$150 million to Trinidad and US$100 million to Barbados). In addition, despite the lavish foreign tours Burnham undertook with enormous entourages and social projects that failed, millions remained unaccounted for by the PNC.

.... Burnham’s sprawling but extravagant Hope Estate (Hope, ECD), which included such things as a helipad, and where public servants (primarily weeders and cleaners) were brought to work, was once such acquisition.

Throughout his political reign, Burnham had maneuvered as necessity dictated. Or, as Mr. Partrick Walker (head of a British parliamentary delegation to Guiana in 1953 after the constitution is suspended) noted, Forbes Burnham would “tact and turns, as advantages seem to dictate,” and that “his whole political approach is opportunistic.”

In the West Indies and Africa (Burnham, Nkrumah, and some West Indian leaders had met secretly in 1957 [despite Jagan’s initial request to such a meeting, he is ignored], during the independence celebration for a new Ghana), he convinced Black leaders that a PPP government meant an “Indian” state. In Washington and London he criticized the PPP as communist and in Havana and Moscow, Burnham announced himself as an anti-imperialist. He benefited from critical US support while having ties with Cuba. Burnham was, in essence, a politician.

It explained why, despite setbacks, the appetite of Burnham the man remained undaunted. His face became synonymous with national colors for national celebrations. He started Mass Games, based on Korean mass dramatization that bordered on propaganda, in which thousands of youths are used to praise their leader and the revolution in splendid costumes, colors, and patriotic fervor. For this, Korean technicians were imported as our students are trained to depict Burnham’s image in revolutionary motifs.

Burnham’s interest in diamonds and precious metals that became obvious as early as 1965 when, on a trip to an Amerindian village, he said to the locals, “I know of those who come with the Bible and leave with the diamonds,” grew.

Rumors of his massive personal wealth became confirmed when he is listed in international magazines as one of the world’s richest Black men. .... his reputation of being an unscrupulous individual who enjoyed imposing his will on others magnified. A former University of Guyana (UG) lecturer, Mr. Colin Cholmondeley, noted that Burnham “derived a kind of sadistic pleasure in making people be at his beck and call. He would call ministers, bureaucrats and treat them with such abandon…He dedicated himself to subordination.”

This is one reason for Black supporters referring to Burnham as the “Kabaka” (from Ugandan Baganda tribe, a kingly title), when he began making public appearance in flowing, white robes usually worn by African tribal leaders. The Comrade-Leader also wore dashikis. His strong affinity for Africa, his ancestral homeland, had long been in existence but it is as national leader that Burnham increased his interest in the freedom movements in the oppressed continent.
Not to be ignored, he welcomed cult leader Jim Jones (paid US$2 million to the government) and Black militant, David Hill (Rabbi Washington), despite the latter having a criminal record in the US, to have residence in Guyana. .....

03-07-2008, 12:00 PM
Bunham died unexpectedly in 1985 during a minor throat operation.

As the mid-eighties approached, Burnham made fewer speeches. One reason was a failure in his voice. In August 1985, after importing all the required machinery and an entire Cuban team of specialists, he underwent surgery to his throat. The operation failed. He died on August 6, with the operation at the Georgetown Hospital, still an obscure affair. No Guyanese doctor was allowed to operate on him, and it is alleged that only his son-in-law (a doctor) was present. The Trinidadian Guardian, on August 11, 1985, in a special article read: “There is always sorrow in death and its uncertainties, and it is traditional and correct to hope that one will be kind to the dead. Forbes deserves no less. His methods and systems, however, deserve no sympathy or support…” (My bold)

03-07-2008, 12:08 PM
He was succeeded by his second in command, Desmond Hoyte, who appears to have made a genuine effort in bringing Guyana back to democracy. He held a general election in 1992.

This election was supervised by international observers.

n December 1989, Jagan, in a letter to US President George Bush, pleaded for the US to send a strong signal that it wanted free and fair election in Guyana. Bush had earlier expressed the hope that the 1990s would be a "decade of democracy" and in his message to Hoyte on Guyana's Republic Day on 23 February 1990, he expressed hopes that the upcoming elections would be held according to democratic norms. This message was repeated by the US State Department, and soon after eight Democratic Members of Congress and six Senators wrote separately to Secretary of State James Baker requesting that US aid to Guyana be tied to free and fair elections.

With Hoyte showing no interest in inviting the Carter Center to observe the elections, PPP leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan wrote to former US President Jimmy Carter, the chairman of the Council of Freely-Elected Heads of Government, an informal non-governmental group composed of 21 leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere, to signal its interest in observing Guyana's elections.

In July 1990, Jagan met with Dr. Robert Pastor, Executive Secretary of the Council, at the Carter Center in Atlanta and requested the Council to send observers. But Pastor informed him that the Council might agree only if it received invitations from all major parties.

Eventually on 13-14 October 1990, Carter led a small delegation to Guyana to examine the electoral conditions and determine whether his organisation should observe the electoral process. The delegation held separate meetings with Hoyte and Jagan and also with members of the Elections Commission.

Just two days before Carter arrived, Hoyte had declared that counting of votes at the place of poll was a "logistical nightmare" and refused to give it any consideration. But after Carter's lengthy discussions with Hoyte, the Guyanese President, despite his previous adamant opposition, finally agreed to a preliminary counting of ballots at the polling places and to a new house-to-house registration of voters to replace the existing list. No doubt, Hoyte's change of position resulted from both internal and external political pressures exerted on him.

With these agreements in place, the Council of Freely-Elected Heads of Government agreed to observe the forthcoming elections. And soon after, the Carter Center established an office in Georgetown to monitor preparations for the elections.

On election day there was widespread rioting and general disturbances...

Just before 8:00 p.m., President Carter went to the Elections Commission office, from where he spoke by telephone with the Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis and President Desmond Hoyte demanding that armed police be sent immediately to defend the Commission. It was only after his telephone calls that the riot police arrived on the scene. Within minutes, the mob was scattered with volleys of warning shots and barricades were erected. Almost immediately, the disturbance at the Commission ended and the technical staff returned to continue their jobs.

03-07-2008, 12:15 PM
Later than day....
President Carter told a press conference that while the delay in reporting returns was a source of frustration, his team had seen no evidence that the integrity of the count had been compromised. This position was also announced by the Commonwealth team at a separate press conference some time after. Carter also revealed that he had shared the quick-count results with Hoyte and Jagan, and that both had agreed to hold the information in confidence.
By 1:00 p.m., Collins finally notified Hoyte and Jagan that it appeared the PPP was going to win the election, and made a public statement to that effect at 3:30 p.m.

President Carter later that day asked both Jagan and Hoyte to name senior representatives to begin plans for an orderly transition. Soon after, at his final press conference, he announced that his team had found that the elections were conducted freely and fairly, and that President Hoyte and Dr. Jagan had named representatives to plan for the transition.

That evening, Chairman Rudy Collins announced that with 95 percent of the ballots counted, the PPP/Civic had won the presidency with about 54 percent of the vote.

On 9 October, the leader of the PPP/Civic, Dr. Cheddi Jagan took the oath as President, thus becoming Guyana's first freely elected Head of State.

At a ceremony at State House in Georgetown witnessed by ex-president Desmond Hoyte and large numbers of PPP/Civic supporters, President Jagan said:

We went to the elections with the slogan: "Time for Change: Time to Rebuild." We have attained the first objective of a change in government. Now, all of us together, whatever our party, political affiliation, whatever our race or ethnicity, whatever our creed, must put our shoulders to the wheel. It is time to embrace each other and work arm in arm to rebuild our beloved Guyana. . . . We must move forward together and make into reality our motto: "One People One Nation, One Destiny.

In this exciting adventure, I expect the fullest co-operation not only of our many friendly countries and our overseas brothers and sisters, but also all progressive minded personalities and organizations: investors, experts and advisers. We do so without rancour, without recrimination, without victimization, without in any way trying to cast blame.

In this regard I hope to develop a constructive relationship with Mr. Desmond Hoyte and the leadership of all parties in order to deepen our democratic process, and accelerate our economic development.

For the first time in 28 years Guyana experienced free and fair elections. The long struggle for the right to freely choose a government was finally won. Democracy which had been snatched away from the people, through a series of rigged elections in 1968, 1973, 1980 and 1985, was once again restored. Nurturing and strengthening this newly won democracy would be their challenge in the years ahead.

Once again, the short version:

On 9 October, the leader of the PPP/Civic, Dr. Cheddi Jagan took the oath as President, thus becoming Guyana's first freely elected Head of State.

03-07-2008, 12:29 PM
Now for some more photos:

Burnham at his zenith:
Jagan as President:

03-07-2008, 12:34 PM
A footnote to the Jock Campbell story:

Bookers was nationalized in 1966 and Campbell returned to England, disappointed and disillusioned.

A couple years later he was playing gold with his good friend Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, who was terminally ill with cancer.

Fleming asked Jock for advice on securing his estate for his family from heavy taxation. Jock initially advised Fleming to turn to accountants and merchant bankers, but then had a new idea: Bookers could act as bankers for Fleming, beneficially for both parties.

As a result, Bookers acquired a 51% share in the profits of Glidmore Productions, the company handling the profits for worldwide royalties on Fleming's books, and the associated merchandising rights - but not the film rights.

Thus was born the Bookers Author Division, with the injunction:

It should make money, not to mention being entertaining, and there could be advertising interest in it for some of our companies.

Bookers later acquired the copyrights of other well-known authors, including novelists Agatha Christie, Dennis Wheatley, Georgette Heyer and the playwrights Robert Bolt and Harold Pinter. It was the copyrights of Agatha Christie which, over time, contributed most to the profit of the Authors Division.

The Booker Prize was launched in 1969, after the publishers Jonathan Cape suggested that Bookers might sponsor a major fiction prize. A new sponsor for the prize was announced in April 2002, the Man Group, after which it became known as the Man Booker Prize.

And so, indirectly, Jock Campbell was responsible for the founding of the Booker Prize.

03-07-2008, 12:47 PM
After his election Cheddi invited investors into Guyana and gradually changed it into a market economy.
He died in 1997, and was succeeded as President by Sam Hinds, his Prime Minister, an African.
Elections were held and Cheddi's widow Janet ran as the PPP candidate, and won the election. Janet not only became the first female President of Guyana, but she was also the first U.S.-born and white woman to lead the nation.

Janet retired a few years later for health reasons, and handed the Presidency to Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo.

Janet Jagan has long been involved with the literary and cultural life of Guyana. She published early Martin Carter poems in Thunder (which she edited) and supported the publication of early Carter collections such as The Hill of Fire Glows Red. She had long been a teller of stories to her children and grandchildren and was strongly concerned that Guyanese children should have books that reflected themselves. In 1993 Peepal Tree Press published her When Grandpa Cheddi was a Boy and Other Stories, followed by Patricia, the Baby Manatee (1995), Anastasia the Ant-Eater (1997) and The Dog Who Loved Flowers.

In 2003 she thought that I should enter for the Guyana prize for Literature and invited me back to Guyana for a launch of my books. I was not eligible for the prize as I have German citizenship, but it was great to receive her support:


03-07-2008, 12:52 PM
As stated early in this thread,, things are not going well. The present President is Bharrat Jagdeo and according to my mother he is not doing a good job. But I don;t want to go into that here and now. The decades of mismanagement have left the country in a mess and it will take a lot of work to bring harmony.

Guyana was once regarded as the jewel of the Caribbean. Its capital city was just gorgeous... now it is neglected and dirty. People were laid back, friendly, hospitable; now they live in fear and poverty.

Now the main story is over I'm going to move on to other aspects... the incredible wildlife and waterfalls, and also my own personal reflections. The latter was always the most popular part of my talks in Germany! Coming next!!!!

03-07-2008, 06:02 PM
This is some fascinating material, aruna. These men were so vital and dedicated, such big thinkers - I can't help but wonder, 'If only ...'

03-08-2008, 10:50 AM
OK, let's take a break from all the words.
Guyana has fantastic flora and fauna. My memory is of growing up in an abundance of flowers and trees, being out of doors all the time, inthe rainy season, rain pounding on the rooftops and playing in a flooded yard; animals, animals, animals. And birdsong, and the sea, swimming in jungle creeks where the water was black and cool and clear.

Here are some of the living creatures:
Boa Constrictor:http://i66.photobucket.com/albums/h266/arunadasi/guyana/boa.jpg


Araparaima (largest fresh water fish in the world)
Toucan http://i66.photobucket.com/albums/h266/arunadasi/guyana/TocoToucan.jpg
Sakiwinki monkeys

Golden Frog


03-08-2008, 10:54 AM
That Golden Frog is only one centimeter long. It lives in only one place in the world, Kaieteur Falls in Guyana. It spends its entire life in giant bromeliads (many are five to ten feet tall.) living in good hiding places among the leaves and the pools of water that collect at the base of the leaves. Like other poisonous South American dart frogs it is brilliant colored. The poison comes via eating insects which have, in turn, eaten certain plants containing the toxins. Indigenous people collected poison from slime that oozes from the skin. The poison is used on blowgun darts and arrows. The poison is like curare and affects the heart and may kill even large animals quickly.


03-08-2008, 10:57 AM
Oops.. sorry that turned out so huge! If it is a problem I'll try to change it.
Anyway, back to Kaieteur Falls.

This waterfall is hidden in Guyana's rain forest. You cannot get there except by a seven day hike through the jungle, or by airplane.
It is supposed to be the highest single drop falls in the world. It is five times higher than Niagara.

03-08-2008, 10:58 AM
Kaieteur Falls:

Detailed Information:

"Kaieteur Falls, easily one of the most powerful falls on the planet, has the rare combination of great height and great volume. Only India's Jog Falls can rival this combination. The falls consist of a sheer plunge of 741 feet, followed by a short series of steep cascades, which is often included in some measurements of the falls (which brings the total up to 822 feet)."

here's a short video of the falls in action. (http://youtube.com/watch?v=_V3AfjPVGgA&feature=related)


03-08-2008, 11:25 AM
Now, back to Georgetown, which is where I grew up. You saw Old Georgetwon, now for contemporary Georgetown.
I remember a wide, airy town swept with Atlantic breezes. tall white wooden houses on stilts, huge gardens full of trees and flowers, sitting on our front staircase reading a book...

The Dutch built our houses in Dutch Colonial style. They are on stilts as protection from flooding. Remember those canals? They were filled in, the streets made into avenues lined with flambouyant trees flowering red in season.

This is the Town Hall...
And St George's cathedral, the tallest wooden building in the world:

03-08-2008, 11:35 AM
Now for my favourite buildings growing up:

of course> THE LIBRARY! I was here almost every day!
Parliament Building.
My mother was a Hansard Editor and worked in Parliament, recording and managing the stuff that went on there. Her office is just left from the central columns.
In the right wing, just on the corner, was the Prime Minister's Office. That;s where Burnham sat. I used to bump into him now and then.

Bishops High School. This was a state school for girls. There was also a state school for boys, and a Cathoilic high school for boys and girls, one each. Now all the schools are co-ed. Guyana now has a very high literacy rate, about 98%. Back then, we had the English School system which qualified us fr University anywhere in the world. Now we have our own University.

Finally, my own house. This is where I grew up, with a granny and several aunties and my mother.

03-08-2008, 11:42 AM
Now we come to the family. My ladies in Germany loved these photos. They always said they were quite different to anything they expected. Remember that this was TROPICAL GUYANA. Yet they are all dressed as if they are in England. England was the Mother country; the English set the standard for everything, and all that was nor English was worthless.

This is my maternal great grandmother. She was Amerindian, married an Englishman, that is my great uncle Carl. Note the jacket, waistcoat and tie!
My paternal grandmother. She was mixed race but looked white. With my cousin Ron.
Granny with her sisters.
Wedding of above granny, with her sister and his brother. The groom is, of course, my granddad..
First kids. On the left in front is my dad.
First seven kids. The last is missing; eight boys in all! On the left again is my dad, David.
My dad with three of his brothers, as soldiers in WWII. All eight of them volunteered to fight for Britain. One of them died in Singapore.

03-08-2008, 11:51 AM
O, I almost forgot: my mother.

She was not like other women. She didn't marry till she was past 30, had me with 34, no other kids. By then she had already earned and built her own house; my dad moved in with her, not the other way around. She left him when I was three because she didn't want to be a stay at home mom, which was what he wanted. In those days getting divorced was very rare and single moms were unheard of. Both she and dad were, gasp, atheists, unheard of in those days.
She is now 90, lives all by herself in that very same house, looks after herself almost without assistance. We communicate mostly via email.

03-08-2008, 12:02 PM
Thought I'd return to Janet Jagan. There is an excellent documentary film about her life,
Thunder in Guyana. (http://www.guyanafilm.org/)It has some excellent reviews on that website , including a New York Times review. It was made by her niece, Suzanne Wasserman, and tells quite an extraordinary story.

Here's the synopsis:

Janet Rosenberg was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. In 1942, 23-year-old Janet met and fell in love with a handsome man from a South American country no one in my mother’s family even knew existed. Born in the tiny colony of British Guiana (Guyana after 1966),on South America’s northern coast, Cheddi Jagan was the son of East Indian immigrant indentured sugar plantation workers. She was a nursing student at Cook County, he was a dental student at Northwestern University and they were both involved in radical politics.

They married in 1943 despite the strenuous objections of her Jewish and his Hindu parents. Together, they planned to go to British Guiana as socialist revolutionaries to fight for independence. Janet’s father, my great-uncle Charlie, threatened to shoot Cheddi on sight; my great-grandmother had a stroke.

Considered the founders of Guyana, Janet and Cheddi Jagan spent the next half century as political leaders of the country. In 1950, they founded the multi-racial People’s Progressive Party, the first modern political party in the colony. In the historic election of 1953, the first election that provided for universal adult suffrage, Cheddi was elected Chief Minister and Janet was elected the country’s first female minister and deputy speaker of parliament.

Janet made international headlines that claimed "Guiana Red Line Laid to Chicago Born Blonde." Called the "Second Eva Peron" and the "Woman in White," another article claimed "Parents Describe Girl as 'Storm Center of Guiana.'" To her own parents, Janet sent a Western Union telegram that read "Cheddi, myself and Party won overwhelming victory."

They governed for 133 days, until British Prime Minister Winston Churchill deposed them. They both served time in jail and under house arrest. Remaining the most popular leader in the colony, Cheddi Jagan was re-elected and became Prime Minister in 1961. This time, the Kennedy administration intervened.

The CIA instigated labor unrest, disinformation and race riots that left hundreds dead or injured. With pressure from the United States, Britain, in 1964, pushed through constitutional changes that made it impossible for Jagan to retain power despite his continued popularity. In the first free and fair elections in almost three decades, Cheddi Jagan was sworn in as President of Guyana in 1992. In the winter of 1997, he passed away. Despite reluctance, Janet agreed to accept the Presidential nomination of her Party. On December 15, 1997, she was elected President of Guyana. The first foreign born and first woman to serve this role, many consider her the mother of the nation.

Far from being a simple biography of an unconventional woman, this film seeks to interweave the threads of my family’s history, Janet’s incredible life story and the complex history of the little understood country of Guyana. This will be accomplished through my unique perspective as an historian and as a relative.

I add this because right now I am considering writing her biography for my next book; taking a break from fiction. But I am in two minds, a bit scared. Wondering if there is a market for such a book.

03-08-2008, 09:47 PM
Sharon, this is one of the best threads in all of AW. A slice of the world that's largely unknown, comprehensible and important, but most significantly, widely applicable in its morality.

Thank you for doing this.

03-09-2008, 12:26 PM
Well, I attended a WDP service, here in England on Friday.
It was very disappointing.

Last year, I went to the WDP service in Germany. That year it was all about Paraguay. 45 minutes before the service started they had a whole session devoted to Paraguay. Slide show, a film, and someone who had lived there giving a talk; then the service, then more Paraguay, Paraguayan food, Paraguayan music, etc.

This year, they will have done the same for Guyana, all over Germany and Switzerland and probably Austria as well.
In England, they just were not interested in Guyana. I had written to their national committee to say I had worked in Germany and offering to help in any way; I told them I had lots of Guyanese friends in England who would be glad to help. I think the natural thing to do would be for them to reach out to Guyanese and invite them to the service, ask them to say a few words? NOTHING!
I only got one single invitation to speak at a service; in a town two hours form where I live. They presented nothing on Guyana, only a page of information on the service sheet. It was just a church service whee they prayed for Guyana, they didn't try to bring the country closer to the congregation. I was asked to speak for 15 minutes. That was it!

Also,they had changed the service, replaced most of the songs. The service was written in Guyana and is supposed to be the same all over the world. I know the hymns and songs by heart because the Germans practiced them again and again, even translating some of them into German. They made a CD of the songs. But in England they were replaced with something else. That is a horrible break with WDP rules.

The congregation was mostly senior citizens, which does not bode well for WDP survival in England. In Germany many young people are involved. They see it as a chance to find out in depth about another country.

It is really a pity that it will die out in England.

A Guyanese friend sent me a mail, this is what she said: I am in Switzerland (a village called Marbach) where (her sister in law) did a great presentation for World Prayer Day. It was at 9am and we were worried that people would not come. However, the local church was full and over 40 stayed for food Dorothy had cooked - pepperpot, cook up rice, black cake, cassava bread (that I sent her form Guyana!), sweetbread and pine tarts.

I would be interested to know how it is celebrated in the US. Because that is where it originated.

Next year it is Papua New Guinea, another country most people know nothing about..

03-09-2008, 12:34 PM
Oh, and a nice side effect of the German enthusiasm s that I got a HUGE promotion for my books over there! Just type in Zaubergarten (the name f my first novel) and Weltgebetstag in google and you will get things like this: http://www.ekd.de/medientipps/55572.html

They made it their recommended book and even got a "reader's guide" written; they suggested that people read t in reading groups. At many of my talks they organised book sales and I was signing till my fingers got sore: invariably, the books sold out. I wonder what the publisher thought of this new surge in interest, 8 years after publication!
Also, the Catholic magazine died a feature on Guyana and recommended the book as well; it has a circulation of 200 000!

03-12-2008, 11:16 AM
Just wanted to add these two videos of Guyana.

This one shows life in an Amerindian village - the Wai Wai Indians preparing cassava (manioc) (http://youtube.com/watch?v=nQNkn_D3SiE&feature=related)

And this one is a fishing expedition in the rainforest. (http://youtube.com/watch?v=Xul6hhZ-u_I&feature=related)

03-12-2008, 05:16 PM
I wonder what the publisher thought of this new surge in interest, 8 years after publication!

:) (c) 2000; reprinted 2008. (>!<)

Please keep reminding us to pray for Guyana. Every time I see your thread, I do. My memory isn't what it should be these days ... as a matter of fact - I think I'll go write a note to myself - right now. :)