Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Divide and Rule
(Aired 18 July 2011)

   For centuries the British Empire had a policy of governance which was referred to as ‘divide and rule'. It was a simple policy, divide a nation and make them so preoccupied attacking and fighting among themselves that they can be ruled with ease.

   This happened to us long ago starting from 1953 only around 4 or 5% of us would have been of age say 7-10 years old at that time which would have made us aware of what went on in this country in 1953. If what I am going to say tonight happened starting from 1953 then the wounds of the division which were created has been deliberately handed down, embellished by whichever side the PPP or the PNC, the two parties which caused the division in the first place, is describing what happened here in those years but frankly they were manipulated by the British, since it was the British's  stated position that in this hemisphere they were advised that the Americans would be very unhappy if Cheddie Jagan was to run this country, since he was in their view a Communist very much aligned to the USSR. This feud between indo Guyanese and afro Guyanese has survived to this day and in the end whatever you see going on, bad governance, corruption, heavy taxes, expensive electricity, collapse of the rule of law, a non-functional democracy, indeed even fascism in the way this country is ruled today are all the direct result of this feud that has been going on between these two ethnic groups since 1953. We have the CIA declassified documents of the period which verifies that this is what happened. Dr. Jagan's own book the West on Trial also acknowledges that it is what happened.

   I am using 1953-5 as my starting pint of this feud since it was in 1953-5 that the PPP which comprised both Afro Guyanese and Indo Guyanese then divided the nation into Jaganites and Burnamites. We have and are paying the full price for this division up to this day through poverty and backwardness.

  The Christian bible tells us in the gospel of Matthew 12.25  that "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand" 2011 years ago Jesus Christ uttered these words and throughout history it has held as a fact. There are other sayings which we have always known, our unions for example have been telling their members that united we stand, divided we fall.

   So let's look at the division that exists in this country today in the labour movement, I have already outlined the divisions which were attempted in the churches and I will speak more on that in a subsequent commentary.

   I have accused the President of Guyana as being the most divisive national leader anywhere in the Caribbean and perhaps even further abroad his reason for doing this is to keep the afro Guyanese and the indo Guyanese at each other throats, whilst he and his colleagues and close friends loots the treasury because he feels that whatever he does the PPP will always be elected, since no matter what he does the popularity of Cheddie Jagan among Indio Guyanese can reach out from the grave and it is his inalienable right to get the Indo Guyanese to vote for him and the PPP supporters who knew Jagan know that he would never have condoned the corruption going on in this country today. I don't know where Dr. Jagan's house is located in Guyana, but Jagdeo's castle in Sparendam is intended to be left as a monument to his 10 years of unproductiveness in power of and so will the mansions in Pradoville and Eccles.    

    To expose the genesis of this division we have to go back to 1950's when the PPP was formed, in the first general election after the formation of the PPP in 1953 the PPP won 18 of the 24 seats in the national assembly, of course Forbes Burnham was with the PPP then. The first labour relations bill was tabled in the national assembly on 29th September 1953 an earlier attempt was made on 24th September 1953 but the speaker ruled that the bill was too controversial. The bill was nevertheless retabled and passed in the assembly on 8th October 1953.

   The next day 9th October 1953 the British suspended the constitution and an interim government which did not pursue the labour relations bill was installed. The reason, which my researches have disclosed, for this suspension of the constitution and removal of the PPP from power happened because the British perceived that the Jagan led government with the the passage of the labour bill on 8th September 2008 was setting the stage to control all of the power space in British Guiana i.e. Political, Economic, Social and Industrial which in the view of the British in 1953 could lead to the establishment of the first communist state or satellite state of the USSR in the western hemisphere or more specifically the English Speaking Caribbean. And they were determined not to allow it.

After the suspension of the constitution on 9th September the British Guiana trade union congress [GTUC] was dissolved on the 30th of October 1953 but was almost immediately re-registered on 11th December 1953.

 After the suspension of the constitution the British engineered a split in the PPP which established by 1955 the divided nation we live in today and which will never prosper until this division is healed.

   I will now fast forward to the 1960's there was a general election in 1961 by which time the PPP government were fighting not only the British but a collation between Burnham's PNC and D'Aguair's UF all of whom waged a bitter anti-communist campaign against the PPP. At around the same time, the Jagan Government had introduced legislation for the take-over of 51 primary schools which were administered by Christian churches. Some leading Christians saw this move as communist-inspired and they formed the Christian Social Council to oppose it. (The legislation was passed just before the Legislative Council was dissolved). This Christian group including the Catholic Church also joined in the election campaign by openly urging church congregations to vote against the PPP which it claimed was against religion. I am saying that it is happening again now in 2011. I have spoken to numerous church leaders over the past 4 months since returning but Church groups see themselves today as being above the political fray, that is not so it is part of our history and I have said it over and over again evil triumphs when good men do nothing.

     But in the end Jagan won the 1961 election and the PPP was declared the winner with 20 seats. The PNC won 11 and the UF the remaining 4. However the overall results of the elections showed that the PPP won 42.6 percent of the total votes cast while the PNC obtained 41 percent and the UF 16.3 percent. The attainment of this low percentage of the total vote by the PPP was not unusual in countries which had "first-past-the-post" or constituency systems of elections. A similar situation existed at the very same time in Great Britain where that Government held a majority of seats but with a minority of the votes cast. There is no doubt that this was why the British decided to give Guyana a proportional representation type of elections, to defeat the PPP it is the only one I can find anywhere else on the dissolution of the British empire but certainly none in the Caribbean.

     a labour relations bill was again tabled in the assembly and was passed on 22 April 1963, but it was opposed by Burnham who led a walk out of the house of assembly as a result of this, the bill did not go to the upper house or Senate and was quashed i.e. in those days we had two houses a bicameral legislature a lower house called the house of assembly and an upper house called a senate, I bet that a lot of you did not know that; I have to confess that even I did not know it.   

     The entire bill was obnoxious but one of the main contentions leading to what happened next was a provision in the PPP's labour relations bill which would allow the minister of labour to recognise or derecognise any union whether the workers wanted it or not i.e. he could impose a union on a section of the country's workers without a poll. 

  Things deteriorated swiftly after this, the BGTUC called a strike on 22nd April 1963 referred to later as the famous 80 day strike which ended on 7th July 1963. Needless to say the churches and the opposition supported the trade union's strike.

     The British declared a state of emergency on 8th May 1963, 16 days after the start of the general strike.

   By the 28th of May 1963 a constitutional crisis developed in the country when the Speaker suspended four legislators including Premier Cheddie Jagan.

The House of Assembly was prorogued on 18th June 1963 in the middle of the strike which ended on 7th July 1963.

  In February 1964 the PPP in a last ditch effort to recover lost political ground called a strike in the sugar industry to recognise the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union. This led to a series of violent actions and by 13th June 1964 more than a dozen people were killed. By 13th June 1964 the constitution was virtually suspended again and the British advanced the national elections to December 7th 1964 for the first time under Proportional Representation.

The rest is history. The [plan worked and the Communist PPP were defeated.

    In 1989 the Berlin wall fell signalling the end of the communist USSR, this meant that they would no longer be interested in financing Guyana as the gateway for communism incursion into Brazil and Venezuela, so the Americans  began to undo some of the damage of the cold war in which Jagan was perceived as a clear and present danger to this country becoming an outright communist state so they financed the Carter Centre to remove some of the dictators they had allowed to function during the cold war. The Carter Centre then intervened to put Guyana on a democratic path by first of all making Desmond Hoyte agree to a series of reforms most of which are contained in the 1990 representation of the people's act which would make the Guyana elections free and fair. Up to 1992 the PPP were in opposition for 28 years and throughout most of that time they did everything within their power, financed by the USSR, to destabilise the PNC government under the guise that the PNC were rigging elections.

   But two important enemies which had damaged them in the past had to be made impotent the trades Union congress and the churches especially the Christian churches. The mechanisms they used to do this is clear strengthening FITUG and weakening the Guyana Council of Churches, and they have made huge inroads but we have to undo it and we have to undo it. We have to make the TUC strong again and we have to make the churches strong again.