Recently I enjoyed reminiscing with those of the older generation and hearing their stories of the struggles and sacrifices that took place during the fight for the independence of our Great Nation Guyana.
The story’s setting began in the living room of a small home on Camp Street where plans were being laid to shut down the ferries, train and buses (i.e. the transportation system of Guyana) during 1952. In attendance was Mr. John Ivan Edwards, trade unionist of the Transport Workers Union, Dr. Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. At the time all were very close friends and active members at the forefront of the PPP. They were also fully align-ed and committed to the fight for our Nation’s Independence. However, the British team being led by Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Sir Charles Campbell Woolley, the then Governor of British Guiana and Sir Alfred William Lungley Savage, the Governor of the British Colony of Barbados were focused on ending the disturbance of the independence movement in what was considered to be a key Colony of the British Empire. It was only 5 years prior in 1947 that the United Kingdom had lost India to independence and the pressure was building to stop such movements within the remaining colonies. The following year in 1953 Winston Churchill would transfer Sir Alfred to British Guiana to place increased pressure on the independence movement.
Returning to 1952. The trio of Edwards, Jagan and Burnham were beginning to make inroads into disrupting the transportation networks and thus also disrupting the business of the Crown in British Guiana. This would have a significant impact on the PPP obtaining control of British Guiana in 1953. In order to end the problem it is said that the UK lured trade unionist Mr. John Ivan Edwards to Barbados to attend a seminar where he drowned in knee deep water on the beach, thus ending his interference in the Crown’s business via the Transport Workers Union.
What was interesting in the discussion was how the older generation mentioned that the three men (Edwards, Jagan and Burnham) would work tirelessly together in good teamwork to accomplish their objectives. The British astutely dismantled this team starting with Mr. John Ivan Edwards who was in a multiracial marriage and had influence across various races and socio-economic classes. His funeral was a display of a sea of red when they walked his casket from the funeral home in Georgetown to Le Repentir Cemetery. This sea of red was the result of him being embraced by his fellow PPP Party Members, the Transport Workers Union and his Lodge colleagues. Both Burnham and Jagan were also present and the comradery between the two men was still alive and well in 1952. After all the three families had grown close over the years via their joint efforts to obtain independence for Guyana.
In 1953 after Sir Alfred Savage’s success in Barbados, Sir Winston Churchill would appoint him to British Guiana where he was successful in dismissing the newly elected PPP government which was led by Dr. Jagan (Chief Minister) and supported by PPP member Burnham (Minister of Educa-tion). The British also called the PPP government communist and suspended the constitution, taking back full control of the British Guiana colony with the help of British troops.
The strong alliance between the two PPP Ministers would never return and their separation due to race would take over for years to come. Mr. Edwards’ multicultural perspective was now missing and a clear divide could easily be made between the two gentlemen. It would be a great achievement today if we the Guyanese people could recapture the union of our Nation’s will, especially for the betterment of future generations in this current difficult economic environment and in an environment of strong opposition from Venezuela.
Dedicated to the memory of Mr. John Ivan Edwards. We forgive as we remember.
Thank you for your sacrifices Daada, Thank you for your sacrifices Grandfather,