A Truth Commission is needed to help cleanse our past

Dear Editor,

Having lived through the 1900s as General Secretary of the People’s National Congress, I found the Stabroek News Editorial of October 24, 2007 titled, “Ashes of the Past”, a well written article, obviously done by someone possessing high professional competence and journalistic integrity.

However, my good friend, the General Secretary of the PPP, Donald Ramotar choose to denigrate the contents, showering some rather harsh and unkind aspersions.

I chose not to deal with every detail of my good friend, Donald’s asseverations, whose memory, or source of information seem rather twisted, save to ask our young people and old readers to judge the truth of that period, and, about the incident that took place on June 12, 1964. An incendiary device was thrown into the Hadfield Street home of Mr Arthur Abraham killing a patriotic family of seven (7), only one escaped.

I write feelingly because, around that same time, an incendiary device was also thrown into our family home at 58 Howes Street, Charlestown.

Luckily because of the layout of the house, my being on constant alert, and with certain appurtenances, my family and self were spared the Abrahams’ fate with only damage to the inside of the property.

Dear Donald, as you point fingers, who do you think, suspect, or know hurled that device into my parents’ home, where I lived and was at home at the time?

But from now, I simply wish to paint a brief picture of the environment at that time, so as to relieve us of the daily distortions and rewriting of our history coming from our friends on Robb Street and Homestretch Avenue.

The Background

After Dr Jagan’s return from the failed 1962 Independence Conference in London, he was furious that Independence was not granted immediately under his leadership. The next year, he introduced the controversial Labour Relations Bill. This angered the militant Trades Union Congress.

As May Day approached, the TUC sought permission to hold its traditional May Day Rally. The PPP Administration refused to grant the TUC permission – no valid reason was given – more tension.

Later that year, in late October 1963 another Conference for Independence was held in London. After several days, the three Leaders, Jagan, Burnham and d’Aguiar could not agree on a number of major issues.

At this Conference it was soon clear that the three leaders were maintaining their position on certain issues related to independence. Dr Jagan asked the British Government to break the deadlock.

D’Aguiar supported this. However, Burnham resisted, urging that the three leaders, as the people’s representative be allowed to settle all outstanding matters.

Mr Duncan Sandys, Secretary of State for the Colonies cautioned Burnham that failing to agree to give the Colonial Secretary the right to arbitrate would further delay Independence, and that, he, Mr Burnham would be held responsible.

Reluctantly, Mr Burnham agreed to the British formula.

The last paragraph of the memo reads: “We are agreed to ask the British Government to settle in their authority all outstanding constitutional issues, and we undertake to accept their decisions.”

Signed

Cheddi Jagan

Linden F.S. Burnham

Peter D’Aguiar

A menu of measures were set out thereafter including elections under PR before Independence.

Dr Jagan seemed unhappy with several of the decisions and on his return to Guiana, in his own words, called for a “hurricane of protests.” “The City and Coastal belt were dotted with slogans. “PR or CR (Cut r-xss) – “PR or Death” – “We will rather die than have PR” slogans and placards produced by the PPP.

For the next 12-13 months, this translated into violence and ethnic discord.

As part of the strategy, the PPP backed Union GAWU called a strike throughout the sugar belt – burning of cane was routine.

At a shareholders’ meeting held on June 30, 1964, Sir Jock Campbell, who at all times seemed to support Dr Jagan said, “The strike did not win widespread support. The PPP lost face. They struck not only against the estate authorities – they struck with violence and so actively stimulated the escalation of renewed inter-racial hostilities and showed great unconcern for life and limb.” This was a friend of Dr Jagan and his Government speaking.

Dear Donald, you forgot to explain the sudden transfer of P.S. Abraham from the Premier’s office to the Ministry of Works in essence a demotion. Heaven help those held in high esteem by the PPP. This was a significant point made in the Stabroek News Editorial.

What he must tell us, is why did the PPP Administration move Mr Arthur Abraham from being PS in the Premier’s. Is that how you treat someone you hold in high esteem?

Briefly, this was the general environment that will help us to judge whether Ramotar’s letter is based on truth, or the regurgitation of old PPP propaganda stored in their archives.

He talks about an X13 plan – there is not a single incident that can be linked to this oft-repeated plan. What was perhaps no more than a fanciful document allegedly taken from some desk drawer.

That same month in 1964, Messrs Dounauth Hetram, Dr Balwant Singh, Goolkhan, Shakoor Manraj and Tanki Persaud were charged for sedition for an inflammatory document titled, “Attention Indians.”

The PPP must stop this charade and deception of presenting a picture that they were the innocent angels and others the devil.

One other aspect, he states that Mrs Jagan for whom I have the highest regard, “resigned in protest from her own government as Minister of Home Affairs at that time because of her inability to influence the Police to take steps to stop the violence directed against the PPP and its supporters.”

The operative word is ‘influence’, translated – as we see today – this really means, we wanted total control of the Police Force to do our bidding.

What the General Secretary of the PPP can do if he wishes to help heal the nation, is first, to ask all of his colleagues from the President down to GINA etal, to end this demonizing of the PNC, Mr Burnham and others, and the rewriting of our history.

Let us have a Truth Commission so we can all be cleansed and hopefully forgiven.

Let the whole truth prevail.

Yours faithfully,

Hamilton Green, J.P.

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