This third and final part of the review of Colin Palmer’s book, Cheddi Jagan and the Politics of Power, published in October by the University of North Carolina Press, begins with the decade of the sixties and the formation of the United Force. Its leader, Peter D’Aguiar, was not embraced by the British but the Americans gave him a sympathetic ear.
The potent brew of D’Aguiar’s “zealotlike anticommunism,” “increasingly pungent racial divisions,” continuing economic challenges and the victory of the PPP at the 1961 elections, marked the beginning of the decade. The Government’s budget was designed to meet some of the economic challenges. Nicholas Kaldor, an internationally famous tax expert who had advised the governments of Turkey, India, Ceylon, Ghana and Mexico recommended new taxation measures.
Palmer’s conclusion on the budget and the Minister of Finance confirms unbiased opinion even at that time: “Jacob’s budgetary initiatives were driven by the need to make the government solvent……..The minister’s analysis was characterized by considerable depth, a command of the country’s economic condition, and a series of sober measures for its development…..the policy measures he hoped to introduce aroused angry passions reflected the unthinking animus of the newspapers to initiatives associated with the PPP and the demagoguery and irresponsibility of the opposition leaders.”
As a prelude to the privatization of the sugar industry, the Government of President Desmond Hoyte invited Booker Tate to manage it in the hope of arresting its catastrophic decline during the years of the PNC administration. Then as now the sugar industry employed about 20,000 people and provided a substantial portion of Guyana’s GDP and foreign exchange earnings. The plot to privatize, for which no mandate was sought or given at the 1985 general elections, unraveled when the PPP announced that it will not by bound by any such agreement. As it happened, the PPP won the elections, freely and fairly held for the first time since 1968.
The professional management of Booker Tate in the 1990s, the quality of which began to decline in the 2000s, saw a dramatic increase in wages and conditions and increased production. With a guaranteed market in Europe and guaranteed prices, a promising future for sugar once again appeared on the horizon. But dark clouds were beginning to gather. The cost of production remained unsustainably high because of low productivity, aging equipment, soil quality, labour issues and other problems. The growth of globalization was beginning to threaten sugar’s protected regime. A decision had to be taken about the future of sugar.
In the first part of my review of Colin Palmer’s Cheddi Jagan and the Politics of Power – British Guiana’s Struggle for Independence, which was recently published, I dealt with his analysis of the period of 1953, the suspension of the constitution and the effort of the British Government to destroy the PPP as a political party and Cheddi Jagan as a political leader.
These efforts were not successful. The Robertson Commission recommended a period of “marking time…..to create a healthy political environment.” “It was guided by the obsession to contain or destroy the PPP,” argues Palmer. During its hearings it displayed a dismissive and patronizing attitude to Guianese, which was deeply embedded in the consciousness of the entire colonial apparatus, including the Governors, whose private comments on Government Ministers, including Jagan, were unfailingly paternalistic. The interim government installed as a result of the recommendations of the Robertson Commission, represented the interests of the colonial elite and lacked credibility.
Two allegations of rape were made against Julian Assange, the head and founder of WikiLeaks, by two Swedish women some months ago. The allegations were investigated while Assange remained in Sweden and submitted himself to questioning. It was only when the file was closed without any action being taken by the prosecutor that Assange left Sweden, after the prosecutor agreed that he can do so. After the 250,000 US cables were released by WikiLeaks the cases were re-opened by another Swedish prosecutor. Assange was not charged but the Swedish prosecutor made known that he was wanted for questioning. At this time Assange was in the United Kingdom and his whereabouts were known. He offered to make himself available for further questioning at the Swedish Embassy in London but this was refused and instead, a warrant issued for his arrest. He voluntarily submitted himself to arrest in London and bail was refused.
Colin Palmer’s Cheddi Jagan and the Politics of Power – British Guiana’s Struggle for Independence, published a few weeks ago, is “an examination of the ways in which the colonial regime joined hands with the United States and local elites to destroy a political leader whom they distrusted and feared.” Colin Palmer is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University. His history begins in 1953 and ends in 1964 with an Epilogue encapsulating subsequent events.