October: the month that shaped Guyana

October 1953
The first election under universal adult suffrage was held in British Guiana on April 27, 1953. It was won by the Peoples’ Progressive Party which had been formed in 1950 during an era of anti-colonial upsurge in the British Empire, particularly in South Africa, Malaya and Kenya. Cheddi Jagan had expressed solidarity with the anti-colonial struggles in these countries in his speech at the opening of the Legislative Assembly on June 17, 1953. Many at that time, and for the rest of his political career, would have preferred that he remain silent about the foreign domination and oppressed.

The government lasted until October 9, 1953, when the constitution was suspended and the government removed from office. The historical background and secret communications surrounding this traumatic event have been well researched and publicised. The government held office at the sufferance of the British government whose local representatives were merely watchful and cautious. But anti-communist agitation by leaders wedded to colonial privileges, perfidiously exploiting the hysterical atmosphere created by the Cold War, one of whose architects, Winston Churchill, was the Prime Minister, resulted in the suspension of the Constitution. History has already delivered its judgment on the events of 1953 and the leaders of the PPP, but profound and relevant lessons remain for the Guyanese people…..

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The government’s attitude to the Constitution is deeply troubling

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