PPP Reelection and Debacle
The 1961 elections were a bitter contest between the PPP, the
PNC, and the United Force (UF), a conservative party representing
big business, the Roman Catholic Church, and Amerindian, Chinese,
and Portuguese voters. These elections were held under yet another
new constitution that marked a return to the degree of
self-government that existed briefly in 1953. It introduced a
bicameral system boasting a wholly elected thirty-five-member
Legislative Assembly and a thirteen-member Senate to be appointed
by the governor. The post of prime minister was created and was to
be filled by the majority party in the Legislative Assembly. With
the strong support of the Indo-Guyanese population, the PPP again
won by a substantial margin, gaining twenty seats in the
Legislative Assembly, compared to eleven seats for the PNC and four
for the UF. Jagan was named prime minister.
Jagan's administration became increasingly friendly with
communist and leftist regimes; for instance, Jagan refused to
observe the United States embargo on communist Cuba. After
discussions between Jagan and Cuban revolutionary Ernesto ""Che""
Guevara in 1960 and 1961, Cuba offered British Guiana loans and
equipment. In addition, the Jagan administration signed trade
agreements with Hungary and the German Democratic Republic (East
From 1961 to 1964, Jagan was confronted with a destabilization
campaign conducted by the PNC and UF. Riots and demonstrations
against the PPP administration were frequent, and during
disturbances in 1962 and 1963 mobs destroyed part of Georgetown.
Labor violence also increased during the early 1960s. To
counter the MPCA with its link to Burnham, the PPP formed the
Guianese Agricultural Workers Union. This new union's political
mandate was to organize the Indo-Guyanese sugarcane field-workers.
The MPCA immediately responded with a one-day strike to emphasize
its continued control over the sugar workers.
The PPP government responded to the strike in March 1964 by
publishing a new Labour Relations Bill almost identical to the 1953
legislation that had resulted in British intervention. Regarded as
a power play for control over a key labor sector, introduction of
the proposed law prompted protests and rallies throughout the
capital. Riots broke out on April 5; they were followed on April 18
by a general strike. By May 9, the governor was compelled to
declare a state of emergency. Nevertheless, the strike and violence
continued until July 7, when the Labour Relations Bill was allowed
to lapse without being enacted. To bring an end to the disorder,
the government agreed to consult with union representatives before
introducing similar bills. These disturbances exacerbated tension
and animosity between the two major ethnic communities and made a
reconciliation between Jagan and Burnham an impossibility.
Jagan's term had not yet ended when another round of labor
unrest rocked the colony. The pro-PPP GIWU, which had become an
umbrella group of all labor organizations, called on sugar workers
to strike in January 1964. To dramatize their case, Jagan led a
march by sugar workers from the interior to Georgetown. This
demonstration ignited outbursts of violence that soon escalated
beyond the control of the authorities. On May 22, the governor
finally declared another state of emergency. The situation
continued to worsen, and in June the governor assumed full powers,
rushed in British troops to restore order, and proclaimed a
moratorium on all political activity. By the end of the turmoil,
160 people were dead and more than 1,000 homes had been destroyed.
In an effort to quell the turmoil, the country's political
parties asked the British goverment to modify the constitution to
provide for more proportional representation. The colonial
secretary proposed a fifty-three member unicameral legislature.
Despite opposition from the ruling PPP, all reforms were
implemented and new elections set for October 1964.
As Jagan feared, the PPP lost the general elections of 1964.
The politics of apan jhaat, Hindi for ""vote for your own
kind,"" were becoming entrenched in Guyana. The PPP won 46 percent
of the vote and twenty-four seats, which made it the majority
party. However, the PNC, which won 40 percent of the vote and
twenty-two seats, and the UF, which won 11 percent of the vote and
seven seats, formed a coalition. The socialist PNC and unabashedly
capitalist UF had joined forces to keep the PPP out of office for
another term. Jagan called the election fraudulent and refused to
resign as prime minister. The constitution was amended to allow the
governor to remove Jagan from office. Burnham became prime minister
on December 14, 1964.
Data as of January 1992