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Bacoo - A spirit of small stature that pelts stones at houses and moves objects within a house. He is supposed to live on banana and milk. Stories abound of the existence of bacoos in Georgetown and other areas in Guyana. Could have come from Surinam and are said to be trapped in a corked bottle unless released. Active mainly at night, it is said that a satisfied bakkoo will answer the wishes of its owner. 'Baku' in many West African languages means 'little brother' or 'short man'. It also is related to the word the word 'bacucu' meaning 'banana'. In West Africa, the short races (such as the pygmies) were believed to have magical powers. This seemed to have been brought to Guyana, where the short races, or 'bakus', were still regarded as having magical powers. (Courtesy Wayne's Guyana Outpost)
Ole Higue - The story is that the ole higue, the Guyanese form of a human vampire, capable of discarding her skin takes the form of an old woman living in a community. At night she transforms herself into a ball of fire, flies from her own house up into the sky and then lands on the roof of another house where there is a baby in a cradle underneath a sheet whose blood she will suck dry and then go home. The suspicions of the community are soon aroused and the school children cry "ole higue" at her; they make chalk marks, on the bridge to her house, the door, the jalousie window. But the legend goes that she crosses these marks bravely. Then the community sets a trap. When the ole higue flies abroad another night she finds that the baby in the cradle is clothed in a blue night gown. There is a heap of rice grains near to the cot and the smell of asfoetida. These cast a spell on the ole higue who has to count the grains of rice, and if she loses her way, she has to start counting again. The light of morning comes and the ole higue still has not finished counting the grains of rice. People burst into the room pick up cabbage broom and begin to belabour the ole higue. They beat her to death, with great emotion "You gwine pay for your sins before you die" they say. The Old Higue waits until the early hours of the morning and when everyone is asleep; then the Old Higue sheds its human skin; then the Old Higue travels in a ball of fire searching for victims; then the Old Higue slips through the keyhole of the house of its chosen victim; then the Old Higue sucks the blood of a child dry, dry, dry! Oh, the deep fear of it is enough to cause a child to remain awake all night, every night. (Courtesy Wayne's Guyana Outpost)
Creole Chips (1937)
Corentyne Thunder (1941)
A Morning at the Office (1950)
Shadows Move Among Them (1951)
Children of Kaywana (1952)
The Weather in Middenshot (1952)
The Life and Death of Sylvia (1953)
Kaywana Stock: The Harrowing of Hubertus (1954)
The Adding Machine (a short fable) (1954)
My Bones and My Flute (1955)
Of Trees and the Sea (1956)
A Tale of Three Places (1957)
Kaywana Blood (1958)
The Weather Family (1958)
A Tinkling in the Twilight (1959)
Latticed Echoes (1960)
The Mad MacMullochs (1961)
Thunder Returning (1961)
The Piling of Clouds (1961)
The Wounded and the Worried (1962)
Uncle Paul (1963)
A Swarthy Boy (autiobiography) (1963)
The Aloneness of Mrs. Chatham (1965)
The Jilkington Drama (1965)
With a Carib Eye (travel)(1965)
On behalf of the Mittelholzer family and for my own research purposes I am looking to acquire anything regarding Edgar Mittelholzer and older books about Guyana. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com
A man with dreams and vision came
To fight âgainst Colonial powers, for Guyanaâs name
A titanic great and strong
Who toiled and toiled so long â
Yet with fortitude and poetic speed
âGainst those who conspired, he succeed.
A minute to give is not enough
He fathered the Nation
A minute to give is not enough.
Your dreams enfold the clouds beyond Guyanaâs land
The illustrious President Cheddi Jagan
Gone to the Caribbean, the whole world to see
The poet to say, âThe dreamerâs dreams enlightened meâ
An epitaph to Cheddi
âA stalwart of humanityâ
A minute to give is not enough
He fathered the Nation
A minute to give is not enough.
Poem by: James C. Richmond
To teach some history about Guyana, in poetry and prose
To tell about the 1200âs, when Waraus, Arawaks and Caribs settled and rove
And alas, Columbus came and sighted Guyanaâs shores
Then came Sir Walter Raleigh to explore
He entered Orinocco River in search of El Dorado, the City of Gold
Essequibo the Dutch did stole
And in 1640 the African Soldiers, to Guyanaâs land as slaves
Then the Dutch settled on Pomeroon Riverâs enclave
Only to war âgainst England and crave
Settlements were established in Essequibo and Berbice in 1743
In â63, CUFFY tried to set the captive free, to set the captive free
The British captured Demerara for fame
Then the French and Dutch tried the same game
In Demerara and Berbice the Dutch reigned supreme
Only to see Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice fall to the British scheme
In 1822 New Amsterdam became
Then the East Coast Demerara uprising
In 1835 the arrival of the Portuguese
Then 1838 the East Indians relieved
The Germans succumbed to diseases
Then came the Chinese
1966, the Independence date
And in 1960 a Republic State
Now and forever, Guyana awaits.
Poem by: James C. Richmond
To order James' CD entitled, 'Emerging Sound' which contains 49 poems and costs only $10.00 please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and help support one of the most talented artists and creative voices that Guyana has to offer...
A simple friend has never seen you cry.
A real friend has shoulders soggy from your tears.
A GUYANESE FREND CAUSE DE DAM TEARS IN DE FUST PLACE
A simple friend doesn't know your parents' first names.
A real friend has their phone numbers in his address book.
A GUYANESE FREND KNOW WHEA DEY LIVIN, WAT DEM COOKIN', ON WAT DAY, AN WILL SHOW UP AT THEY DOORSTEPS TO EAT IT
A simple friend brings a bottle of wine to your party.
A real friend comes early to help you cook and clean.
A GUYANESE FREN COME LATE, BRING A BUNCH UH PEOPLE AND DEN EAT ALL DE FOOD AND DRINK ALL DE RUM
A simple friend hates it when you call after he has gone to bed.
A real friend asks you why you took so long to call.
AH GUYANESE FREN SCREENIN DE CALL AN DONT ANSA WEN IS YOU
A simple friend seeks to talk with you about their problems.
A real friend seeks to help you with your problems.
A GUYANESE FREND WILL LISTEN TO YUH PROBLEMS AN CRY WID YUH, EVEN OFFA TO HELP YUH, DEN TELL EVERYBODY, AN ADD A LIL JUICE TO IT
(Courtesy of Asif De Rebel)
Walter Rodney was born in Georgetown, Guyana on March 23, 1942. His was a working class family-his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress. After attending primary school, he won an open exhibition scholarship to attend Queens College as one of the early working-class beneficiaries of concessions made in the filed of education by the ruling class in Guyana to the new nationalism that gripped the country in the early 1950s. While at Queens College young Rodney excelled academically, as well as in the fields of athletics and debating. In 1960, he won an open scholarship to further his studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He graduated with a first-class honors degree in history in 1963 and. he won an open scholarship to the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In 1966, at the age of 24 he was awarded a Ph.D. with honors in African History. His doctoral research on slavery on the Upper Guinea Coast was the result of long meticulous work on the records of Portuguese merchants both in England and in Portugal. In the process he learned Portuguese and Spanish which along with the French he had learned at Queens College made him somewhat of a linguist. In 1970, his Ph.D dissertation was published by Oxford University Press under the title, A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800. This work was to set a trend for Rodney in both challenging the assumptions of western historians about African history and setting new standards for looking at the history of oppressed peoples. According to Horace Campbell "This work was path-breaking in the way in which it analyzed the impact of slavery on the communities and the interrelationship between societies of the region and on the ecology of the region." Walter took up his first teaching appointment in Tanzania before returning to his alma mater, the University of the West Indies, in 1968. This was a period of great political activity in the Caribbean as the countries begun their post colonial journey. But it was the Black Power Movement that caught Walter's imagination. Some new voices had begun to question the direction of the post-independence governments, in particular their attitude to the plight of the downpressed. The issue of empowerment for the black and brown poor of the region was being debated among the progressive intellectuals. Rodney, who from very early on had rejected the authoritarian role of the middle class political elite in the Caribbean, was central to this debate. He, however, did not confine his activities to the university campus. He took his message of Black Liberation to the gullies of Jamaica. In particular he shared his knowledge of African history with one of the most rejected section of the Jamaican society-the Rastafarians. Walter had shown an interest in political activism ever since he was a student in Jamaica and England. Horace Campbell reports that while at UWI Walter "was active in student politics and campaigned extensively in 1961 in the Jamaica Referendum on the West Indian Federation." While studying in London, Walter participated in discussion circles, spoke at the famous Hyde Park and, participated in a symposium on Guyana in 1965. It was during this period that Walter came into contact with the legendary CLR James and was one of his most devoted students. By the summer of 1968 Rodney's "groundings with the working poor of Jamaica had begun to attract the attention of the government. So, when he attended a Black Writers' Conference in Montreal, Canada, in October 1968, the Hugh Shearer-led Jamaican Labor Party Government banned him from re-entering the country. This action sparked widespread riots and revolts in Kingston in which several people were killed and injured by the police and security forces, and millions of dollars worth of property destroyed.. Rodney's encounters with the Rastafarians were published in a pamphlet entitled "Grounding with My Brothers," that became a bible for the Caribbean Black Power Movement. Having been expelled from Jamaica, Walter returned to Tanzania after a short stay in Cuba.. There he lectured from 1968 to 1974 and continued his groundings in Tanzania and other parts of Africa. This was the period of the African liberation struggles and Walter, who fervently believed that the intellectual should make his or her skills available for the struggles and emancipation of the people, became deeply involved.. It was from partly from these activities that his second major work, and his best known --How Europe Underdeveloped Africa - emerged. It was published by Bogle-L'Ouverture, in London, in conjunction with Tanzanian Publishing House in 1972. This Tanzanian period was perhaps the most important in the formation of Rodney's ideas. According to Horace Campbell "Here he was at the forefront of establishing an intellectual tradition which still today makes Dar es Salaam one of the centers of discussion of African politics and history. Out of he dialogue, discussions and study groups he deepened the Marxist tradition with respect to African politics, class struggle, the race question, African history and the role of the exploited in social change. It was within the context of these discussions that the book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was written." Campbell also reports that " In he same period, he wrote the critical articles on Tanzanian Ujamaa, imperialism, on underdevelopment, and the problems of state and class formation in Africa. Many of his articles which were written in Tanzania appeared in Maji Maji, the discussion journal of the TANU Youth League at the University. He worked in the Tanzanian archives on the question of forced labor, the policing of the countryside and the colonial economy. This work-- " World War II and the Tanzanian Economy"-- was later published as a monograph by Cornell University in 1976". Rodney also developed a reputation as a Pan-Africanist theoretician and spokes person. Campbell says that "In Tanzania he developed close political relationships with those who were struggling to change the external control of Africa He was very close to some of the leaders of liberation movements in Africa and also to political leaders of popular organizations of independent territories. Together with other Pan-Africanists he participated in discussing leading up to the Sixth Pan-African Congress, held in Tanzania, 1974. Before the Congress he wrote a piece: "Towards the Sixth Pan-African Congress: Aspects of the International Class Struggle in Africa, the Caribbean and America." In 1974, Walter returned to Guyana to take up an appointment as Professor of History at the University of Guyana, but the government rescinded the appointment. But Rodney remained in Guyana, joined the newly formed political group, the Working People's Alliance. Between 1974 and his assassination in 1980, he emerged as the leading figure in the resistance movement against the increasingly authoritarian PNC government. He give public and private talks all over the country that served to engender a new political consciousness in the country. During this period he developed his ideas on the self emancipation of the working people, People's Power, and multiracial democracy. On July 11, 1979, Walter, together with seven others, was arrested following the burning down of two government offices. He, along with Drs Rupert Roopnarine and Omawale, was later charged with arson. From that period up to the time of his murder, he was constantly persecuted and harassed and at least on one occasion, an attempt was made to kill him. Finally, on the evening of June 13, 1980, he was assassinated by a bomb in the middle of Georgetown.. Walter was married to Dr Patricia Rodney and the union bore three children- Shaka, Kanini and Asha.
(Courtesy of http://rodney25.org/)
Fellow Guyanese, genealogists, historians, and interested persons who are attempting to unpuzzle the footssteps of their ancestors. The Guyana Genealogical and Biographical Society is a diverse group of dedicated volunteer genealogists. The members of the society are connected via World Wide Web. They attempt to access, to obtain, and to present genealogical, biographical and historical information concerning Guyanese, and others connected to Guyana. The society endeavours to associate itself with those who are interested in the related, social sciences. At the moment, the Guyana Genealogical and Biographical Society is seeking your input, articles of the history of your family, and links to genealogical interests to Guyanese. By this common sharing we hope preserve the peoples history of this great country.
Thus, you are asked to do the following;
Guyanese Genealogical Society
and visit the regularly updated web site.
2. Offer your suggestions
3. Write and send articles which will be published in the Guyana Genealogical and Biographical Society newsletter. Send articles, including the history of your family, history of your community, local heroes, village leaders, schoolteachers, postmasters, farmers, digitls of your schools, places of worship, commnities, newspaper clippings Announcements, births, deaths, marriages, anniversaies, cards, contents of your scrapbook; include the sources of information.
4. To read web logs of genealogical interests http://guygenbiosociety.blogspot.com
5. Email: email@example.com
6. Please add a link to the Guyana Genealogical and Biographical Society at your site.
7. Please forward to Guyanese institutions in Guyana, and Scholars especially the historians including those who contribute articles to your publications.
This is also a membership drive - Guyana Genealogical and Biographical Society is always seeking to increase its membership - which with meaningful participation would improve the flow of data, and the archiving of information.
Membership is free.
It is obtained by subscribing to the yahoo group forum at
Jon, Sharon, and M'lilwana
On the behalf of Guyana Genealogical and Biographical Society.
This group grew out of the need for Indians and People of Indian Origin to Post, Search, and exchange data about their family's history, genealogy, and accomplishments.
The discussions are open and all are welcome to contribute. This is the best place to obtain info on the indentureship of Indians in the Caribbean Basin.
Sancho of Nabaclis
son of Muriel, brother of Mariette Campbell, Sancho, Young, Martin & Ross.
Please visit:Guyana-Gyal's Blog
That is the sound of a thousand and one expressions without you speaking a single word.
Is the wordless sound of vexation. But depending on the context, with amusement on you lips, it can mean, âAhh man, you joking, who you think you fooling?â
With one long âstchuuuuupâ and you eyes looking thin and mean, you can cut a big man down to liâl boy size.
With a short âstchupâ and a snicker, you can tell a rival gyal that she is nothing.
âStchuuuupâ is the âsuck teethâ sound. Some does call it âstew teeth.â
Yesterday the whole day I suck my teeth.
We had a powercut, on and off, yesterday. But that ainât why I suck my teeth.
Yesterday I sew and embroider to replace them five handmade things that the ex-cleaning lady disappear with. I suck me teeth with every jab oâ that needle into the cloth.
Meaning: âHope she fall in mud and swallow a mouthful.â
Meaning: âI design, cut, bleed when the needle jook meâ¦and all this time she just skulking in the sidelines, waiting to reap what I sew...sowâ¦â
See? Suck teeth can convey anything. And some folks can take this form of expression to âartâ level. Like me Auntie A. now living in the U.SA. When she vex and suck she teeth, the sound unreel and fly out and wrap around the whole area. In it, you hear things you granny shouldnât hear. But remember! Auntie A. ainât say a word, so if you granny hear, that is okay too.
For years I use to wonder where suck teeth come from. Then one night I watching local tv [when we had a tv].
I been watching a African movie âbout some village women, they had a liâl argument. One oâ them get really vex. She release a potent suck teeth. In it, I hear every cuss word that I know and donât know. It did long and winding. Only Auntie A. coulda match that.
Aha, so that is where it come from, I think. I dunno, I just think so âcause I see it in that movie.
Anyway, in Guyana now, whether you ancestors born in Africa, China, India, Portugal or England or here, suck teeth is the cross-culture language without words. Liâl children do it; old people with only gums suck they teeth too; aunties, uncles, mothers, fathers and all the rest, do it.
To suck you teeth, you got to pout you lips in a liâl pout, clench you top and bottom teeth close, close. Push the tip oâ you tongue against you teeth. Suck in air. Stchuuuuuâ¦.when you want to finish close you lipsâ¦uuup.
When you become expert, you can even do a side-of-you-mouth suck teeth. This you do when you joking with you friends and one oâ them say something nutty.
What is that sound?
Suck teeth around Blogland.
If you're homesick [and there's no one more homesick dan all you Goyanese living in Foreign]...here's what's been cooking up in our home by de sea:
This week's menu:
Kathar curry cooked in cokenut milk.
Boiled and fried breadfruit wth mackerel.
Dhal an' rice an fish choka.
Bhagee and dhal and roti.
And don't forget the bird peppa. Or marawiriwee peppa sauce. Wid de lime achar.
Oh...a lil dessert...home-made sour sop ice cream.
Now folks, if you come back home, don't think you can cut 'awkcent' on we here anymore. The latest way to speak in Georgetown is with a 'merican twang. 'Specially wit dem radio or tv announcers.
[If you listen you will hear, from the corner of your ear: "Foofa fuffa fafafa GOTTA faffaf YOU GUYS fuffa faaafa GONNA." At least the 'merican-speak of dem announcers comes through loud and clear.]
Well...I gotta go. There's a cacophony of neighbours' dogs...barking, yipping...I wonder if the Suriname Princess across the road is back with her galloping hoot of a hound...she sneaks him over to our trees to do his # 1 and # 2. No laws to protect people here from un-princess behaviour.
The dawg almost attacked my cousin last night at our gate. And the Princess stood by, watching.
More on others t'ings lay-der.
Hear this one now.
One night, my mother talking to L., one oâ my friends brothers, on the phone.
They gyaffing, gyaffing.
I hear she talking plenty about arthritis and cod liver oil with Omega 3.
Suddenly my mother says in this amused, exasperated tone:
"Man L., look! Haul you ears! Who tell you that?â
So I bat me ears.
âLâ¦you ever hear âbout a thing name osmosis?â
[Later she tell me that he ask:
âWhat name so?â]
She explain...was one lecture about osmosis she give L, about the body absorbing harmful chemicals.
After she hang up, I ask she what happened.
âThe other day L. meet a lady who have arthritis. He tell the lady to drink cod liver oil. He tell she that it very good for arthritis, that his sister friend mother does use it, and it really help.
But the lady tell L. no, she have something better than cold liver oil with Omega 3!
She does spray CRC on the arthritis foot.â
I laugh so til I nearly...!
âCRC? CRC? That is like WD 40. People does put it on metal to get rid of rust.â
âExactly,â my mother say.
âBut after the lady tell L. how she does use it, and she tell he how it help she, he decide he got to convince me to spray CRC on me arthritis. That is when I tell he to haul he ears.â
But you think L. stop?
Nah. He ain't stop there at all.
He continue telling my mother [and let me tell you, L. does talk s-l-o-w slowwwww] how plenty people tell he âbout the CRC.
"That thing does really work for true, mums, it does work. Is everywhere I go people tellinâ me about it.â
âSo L., tell me, you would use it?â
Whenever L. donât want to say ânoâ he does say:
He tell my mother:
âWell mums, y'know...â
It had to happen one day.
One of our words...actuallyâ¦itâs quite West Indianâ¦is âofficialâ.
To poke, to jab, to stab.
It jook its way into the English dictionary. I think the English Oxford Dictionary. Thatâs the rumour. If anyone finds it, lemme know.
[Jook is what Comebackee did to her niece at a family gathering. She jook she, and jook she in she ribs with a long, bony finger. âYou, you,â she said angrily, and emphasised each âyouâ with a not quite pleasant jook.]
[Comebackee, incidentally, is a fictitious character in the making. If you do have one such person in your lifeâ¦thenâ¦
There is also the unofficial âchookââ¦a gentle jook.
[Down Under a âchookâ is an old fowl, an old gal. Iâm not sure at what age a gal moves from being a chick to a chook.]
Well, jook has been on the scene for a long time, and itâs a good word. But even in olâ Guyana weâve been busy cooking up new words for new things. Language, you see, never freezesâ¦unless itâs Latin.
Remember the good olâ fireside mud stove? Then we got hot about the kero stove, then the gas stove? One or two folks here even burn their pepperpot on an electric stove.
Well, hehâ¦most people now, no matter how them poor, them have, along with the stove, them have the new one.
They will saveâ¦
and saveâ¦and buy on credit, the michaelwave.
To âhot upâ food!
Some innovative people have found another use for the michaelwave.
It can make the sada roti swell.
But anyway, a lot of folks who want more than just a michaelwave in their life will do anything to backtrack.
Donât even bother to think this means to go back, to reverse, to back up.
To backtrack means to go forward.
To move ahead in life.
To leave Guyana and live in the USA, Canada, England, to any big country. illegally.
Conversations can go like this:
âHow auntie Merle?â
âYou no know? She gone away, she living in âmerica.â
âWhen she go?â
âLonnnng time now.â
âShe son send for she?â
âYyyes, he help sheâ¦she backtrack.â
[Some folks will legally get a visa, go on vacation abroad and stay and hide. That is not backtracking.]
Backtracking has a system of its own. If you ask around, âhow do you backtrack?â most folks will say, âMe no know, me no really know.â Then they say they think you must find a man who will get you a passport. The passport must have a photo of someone who looks like you. To get this passport you must sell your cows, your house, your mother.
The man will train you, grill you. When you land in the country of your choice you will know what to tell the immigration people.
[How the man obtains these passports is beyond my imagination. Many, Iâve heard, are stolen. Or folks with legit passports and permanent visas rent theirs.]
After you backtrack to the country of your choice, you spend your entire life working to buy back your cows, your house and your mother.
Then you have those folks who went abroad very legally.
Over the years they get homesick. They dream of retiring here. They save forever. Then they come back.
They are the comebackees.
Ay yai yai.
A mosquito just bite me foot bottom. You ever notice if you have a mosquito bite on your foot bottom, and if it swell up and get hard and red, and if you jook it, not just scratch itâ¦jook itâ¦how it does feel niiiiiice?
Aunt in the USA wrote:
"Well Missy, I ain't know where you did living.
I have a Collins English dictionary (1983 ed.) that have that same, same word 'jook'.
It on page 789.
'jook' or 'chook' Caribbean informal 1. -vb. to poke or puncture the skin 2. n. a jab or the resulting wound. Who say we ain't in the dictionary? We even on the internet all over."
Thank you, aunt. I will google it lay-der to checkid oud. [See? I speak American too.]
Please visit:Guyana-Gyal's Blog
Please visit:Martin Carter Blog
Martin Carter's earliest poetry was shaped by the turbulent days of anti-colonial radicalism and protest in Guyana (British Guiana) during the 1950s. During the thirty years since then, especially since the publication of his hallmark Poems of Resistance ( 1954), his has been the voice of radicalism in Anglophone Caribbean poetry. This preeminence as the poet of revolution has generally tended to be emphasized by the fact that revolutionary rhetoric in general, and revolutionary literature in particular, has been a rarity in the English-language Caribbean (with all due respect to the ethnic intensities that have become de rigueur in the literature during the last twenty years). Indeed, this very uniqueness probably accounts for the fact that Martin Carter's preeminence as the poet of revolution has not been seriously eroded by the muting of his revolutionary voice over the twenty years since Guyanese independence.
This silence, or near silence, may be linked to the profound disillusionment which has engulfed so much of the Third World intelligentsia, including that of the Caribbean, since the achievement of (nominal) independence. In Guyana that disillusionment has been especially intense in the wake of racial violence between Blacks and East Indians, political stagnation and repression, and the economic as well as social malaise which has undermined the experiment in cooperative republicanism. In this period the Guyanese government has been accused of seizing and maintaining its power by means of a fraudulent electoral system gerrymandered in cooperation with the British and the Americans; and more recently, the government has been accused of complicity in the violent death of one of its most vocal and popular critics, historian/activist Walter Rodney (1980). Against such a background Carter's relative silence as revolutionary poet may be interpreted either as prudence or complete disillusionment--or both. But that silence is relative: Carter's days of overt revolutionism and rebellion may be past, as have been the days of active political involvement and direct participation in government; but he has continued to write and publish his poetry-poetry which sometimes manages to convey a special intensity of feeling and purpose by the very manner in which it studiously avoids a certain directness of statement. The voice itself may have been muted, but the fiery sense of engagement which has made that voice all but unique in Anglophone Caribbean poetry still burns.
Carter was born in 1927 and received his secondary school education at Queen's College. During his early twenties he joined the turbulent political movement for national independence, quickly becoming a leading spokesman for the more radical forces of the movement. This prominence inevitably led to his arrest and imprisonment by the British colonial administration in 1953. At the time of his detention Carter had already launched his career as a poet, having contributed works to A. J. Seymour literary magazine, Kyk-over-al, and to Seymour "Miniature Poet" series of poetry pamphlets ( Hill of Fire Glows Red). But it was during his imprisonment that he composed his most important collection, Poems of Resistance, which was eventually published in London, in 1954.
After his release from prison Carter remained active in the independence movement and in 1965 was a member of the colony's delegation to the Guyana Constitutional Conference in London, the final hurdle before the formal achievement of nationhood. Thereafter he served for two years ( 1966-67) as a member of Guyana's delegation to the United Nations. He has also served in the Guyanese government at home, most notably as minister of information and culture, finally leaving the government in 1971. Throughout this entire period he has maintained the dual roles of poet and activist, an appropriate choice in one whose most important writings have passionately advocated involvement and commitment. Consequently the years of political activity and government service also saw the appearance of the first half of his published output, followed by works ranging from the last of his outspoken collections, Poems of Shape and Motion ( 1955), to the cryptic reticence of Poems of Affinity: 1978-1980 ( 1980).
MAJOR WORKS AND THEMES
From as early as his first significant publications Martin Carter's distinctive voice of protest and rebellion is unmistakably clear. Unlike so many early collections, especially in the Caribbean, The Hill of Fire Glows Red avoids the neoRomantic idealization of landscape. Instead of the familiar pastoral clichÃ©s, the young Carter's landscape vibrates with historical memories, which, in turn, inspire an urgent demand for change. In "Listening to the Land" the poet hears a "tongueless whispering," the possible voice of a buried slave who embodies the past. The response to the landscape is activist rather than escapist, and when the young poet dreams, his are dreams of social change ( "Looking at Your Hands"). In earlier works like these it is fairly easy to grasp the dominant features of Carter's poetic personality. It is a personality in which the imagination of activist and artist is indivisible, and in some respects these poems are about the imagination and its transforming powers--it transforms the land itself into an insistent voice of history and, simultaneously, responds to the voices of history by envisioning change, including revolutionary change, as the desirable and inevitable consequences of that history. And, finally, the poet's own persona as the embodiment of the transforming imagination incarnates the vision of change. Accordingly, the revolutionary idealist envisions change as a creative process which produces vital forms (social and political structures) out of the chaos of colonial inequities, in much the same way that the poetic imagination creates living forms in art ( "The Kind Eagle").
In a sense the poems of The Kind Eagle ( 1952) suggest an interesting paradox: chaos and repression are reprehensible on the one hand; but on the other hand, they emerge as indispensable factors. In political terms the liabilities of history have inspired the kind of intellectual and political ferment which fuel an (apparently) inevitable process of fundamental change. Prison, both as literal experience and as colonial symbol, therefore inspires a fierce ecstacy in the title poem of the collection: "I Dance on the Wall of Prison!" ( Poems of Succession, 1977, p. 19; hereafter cited as POS). And by a similar token, the poetic imagination thrives on political adversity and on the reminders of historical injustices: it carves monuments out of the poet's "time," from the "jagged block of convict years" ( POS, p. 19). Moreover, the consistent integration of imagination and historical memory imparts a powerfully suggestive sense of inevitability to Carter's ethics of change. The envisioned changes, even if unrealized, are as much a part of a distinctive historical pattern, as is the past which made the present itself inevitable. And this pervasive sense of inevitability inspires recurrent images and themes of movement to the poems of The Kind Eagle--movement as history, history as change, change as the collective, irresistible pilgrimage undertaken by a special breed of visionaries: the universe of history moves, "revolves / like a circling star," and "Only men of fire will survive" ( "The Discovery of Companion," POS, p. 24).
Altogether, these early collections reflect a tightly knit dialectic, with its closely integrated poetic forms, which are to define a good part of Carter's poetry for much of the next fifteen years. The ethos of change is both political ideal and the creative principle of imagination. The patterns of history are mirrored in the imaginative patterns of the poet's art, and since both patterns have been shaped by the same social forces, then the poetic imagination must, perforce, be politically involved. Or in the words of the poet himself, "Like a web / is spun the pattern / all are involved" ( Poems of Resistance, p. 18).
That assertion is the climactic statement of "You Are Involved," a work which is one of the most typical, in tone and feeling, of the celebrated collection, Poems of Resistance. This is the collection in which the twenty-seven-year-old Carter fuses the characteristic themes and forms of the preceding works into the compact designs of his best, and most famous works--"Till I Collect,""Cartman of Dayclean,""I Come from the Nigger Yard," and "University of Hunger." It is characteristic of Carter's writings at this stage of his development that these successful poems owe much to the turbulent times and frankly repressive circumstances in which they were written. They were composed, for the most part, while he was in political detention--in "the dark time," in "the season of oppression," the "carnival of misery" ( This Is the Dark Time My Love, POS, p. 42). While it is less celebrated than its companion pieces, few poems in the collection surpass "I Clench My Fist" in this regard. The very intensity of feeling and statement owes its very essence to the forces of repression and exploitation against which the poet rebels. British colonialism represents social chaos in the immediate, Guyanese context, and in the broader, global context, the fragmentation of humanity between the oppressor and the powerless, the haves and the have-nots. The confrontation between colonizer and colonial rebel is therefore an allegory of a divided universe, the microcosm of historical patterns of chaos and conflict. Conversely, the poet's reaction, as artist-activist,to this chaos amounts to a harmonizing, creative power, the transforming power of the imagination. The defiant act of clenching the fist in the face of British weapons and political power suggests a compact wholeness as well as creative energy which contrasts with the prevailing chaos, and it is synonymous with the harmonizing patterns of poetic art itself ( "I sing my song of FREEDOM!" [ "I Clench My Fist," Poems of Resistance, p. 41]). Finally, the thematic progression within the poem itself, from images of fragmentation and conflict to the vision of a powerful, harmonizing energy, is in itself a structural or formal emphasis on that sense of movement--historical progression or inevitability--which is always so integral to Carter's revolutionist vision.
On the whole, works like "I Clench My Fist" exemplify Carter's protest poetry at its best. The underlying dialectic is compact, limpid, and consistent. The dialectic statement is tightly controlled through a disciplined, highly economic use of language and sense of form; and as a result, the poetic form itself becomes the imaginative microcosm of that moral wholeness and social unity which the poetry envisions. Given this tightly integrated schema, it becomes clear that "poems of resistance" are not simply poems about political resistance: they are acts of resistance. This implies an aesthetic that has been rather rare in the generally conservative context of Anglophone Caribbean literature. It was not to be aired in any significant sense, in any Caribbean language area, until the successful Cuban revolution began to define its own revolutionary aestheticsduring the 1960s: the only valid revolutionary art is that which is committed to, and a part of, the revolution; writing about the revolution is not enough, the writer must be an active participant in the revolution. Or to phrase this ideal in Carter's poetic language, the poet must not simply write about resistance, he himself and his poetry must be directly involved in resistance.
However, notwithstanding this kind of analogy, and notwithstanding the power of Carter's own rhetoric of change, it is important to recognize the substantial limitations of his revolutionism. These limitations are both external and internal. Externally, Carter has lived and written in a political and social context in which the idea of change has always been sharply delineated in nonrevolutionist terms. The rhetoric of rebellion or "revolution" in the English-language Caribbean of the 1950s and 1960s seldom encompassed fundamental (i.e., genuinely revolutionary) changes in the social fabric. "Resistance" as such was conceived and fashioned in relation to the British colonial order and its associated bureaucracy. In other words, resistance was the movement of a bourgeois nationalism, which would replace the colonial overlord with nationalist leaders and political structures, which would leave the social and economic order relatively unchanged. Neither has radical revolutionism demonstrated significant grass-roots appeal in the English Caribbean--a fact which needs to be borne in mind when one is tempted to blame the failures of the Guyanese promise on the demonstrable and alleged sins of the Forbes Burnham regime. The electoral rejection of "democratic socialism" in Jamaica during the early 1980s is another example of this limitation, especially when one remembers the definite, built-in limitations of Michael Manley's democratic socialism as a revolutionist principle. And in retrospect, the recent collapse of the New Jewel Movement in Grenada, even before the inevitable U.S. intervention, suggests that beyond the personal popularity of Maurice Bishop the New Jewel Movement, as revolutionary ideology, was less deeply rooted than its most ardent supporters seemed to have imagined.
It is necessary to emphasize this historical and social context because these are the broader circumstances which go beyond Guyana's immediate boundaries and which explain, in part, the long-term sense of futility that now envelops Carter's revolutionist poetry, especially in retrospect. The limited impact and relevance of his revolutionary themes reflect the limited capacities of his society for the idea of fundamental change. This, in turn, leads to the internal limits of Carter's revolutionism itself. Poems like "University of Hunger," "Cartman of Dayclean," and "I Come from the Nigger Yard" reverberate with the passions, even violent potential, of the dispossessed. But there is really no substantial evidence, even in these works, of a revolutionary vision that goes beyond the immediate anti-colonial nationalism of "I Clench My Fist." The ferocity with which the poet assaults an entrenched (colonial) status quo undoubtedly continues to exert a powerful appeal to present readers who dream of "resistance" to the neocolonial establishment which succeeded the British colonizers. But this ought not to obscure the clearly limited implications of Carter's original vision.
While the scope of the revolutionary vision is circumscribed, so is the poet's realism. The poet's passionate commitment to change of sorts is not really counterbalanced by a realistic awareness of the substantial barriers to significant change. In these earlier poems of "resistance," from the first collection to Poems of Shape and Motion ( 1955), technical polish and thematic coherence go hand in hand with what, on the whole, is a relatively limited emotional range or appeal--limited, that is, by an absence of complex self-awareness vis-a-vis the limits of his own vision and of his society's capacity for change. It is not surprising that, when those social limitations were made painfully manifest in subsequent years, Carter's poetry seems to have retreated into a state of shock from which it has never really recovered.
On the whole, the assessment of Carter's overtly "revolutionary" or "committed" poems leads to a historically significant, albeit unintended, irony: his real achievement as a poet of resistance is, in the final analysis, an exclusively aesthetic one, rather than the effective political-aesthetic synthesis that is envisaged and structurally symbolized by his poetry. That is, we can always admire the consistent coherence of thematic statement, the telling integration of formal structure and theme, the striking tension between intense feeling and the spare, tightly disciplined language; and throughout all of this we can admire the skill with which the poet weaves his complex patterns of imagistic and structural variations on the fundamental theme of change-as-creation. But that theme is often less profound or far-reaching than it may sometimes sound.
The poems since Guyana's independence are, collectively, an implicit admission of the earlier limitations. A somber silence broods over the post-independence poems first published in Poems of Succession. Silence as speechlessness and paralysis is the dominant motif here, in contrast to the defiant energies and perpetual movement in the earlier works. Here silence and inactivity suggest that history moves, not toward inevitable change and creation, but in repetitive, predictable cycles. Indeed, this kind of silence is the main topic of poems like "A Mouth Is Always Muzzled," "Even As the Ants Are," "In the When Time," and "Fragment of Memory." These works also demonstrate that despite the changes in mood and historical circumstances, the older Carter still commands the talents for striking, arresting poetry. The brooding silence of these poems is not the silence of a lost idealism, or of a crippled imagination. Far from it, he manages to develop his themes of silence and futility through "confessional" modes of private experience, or even through abstract statements, communicating a powerful sense of repression and stasis in his society while avoiding explicit political protest. Both the explicit theme of silence and the suggestive absence of overt protest in themselves become rhetorical symptoms of his real, but implied, subject. As in his earlier works, the better poems in this later collection demonstrate his characteristic ability to develop form as statement.
This highly suggestive silence continues in his most recent collection, Poems of Affinity: 1978-1980. The disillusionment with "history" is more pronounced, and we are left with only a quiet despair in the face of history's relentless repetitiveness. It is the image of death, not creation, that dominates "PlayingMilitia" Militia" where the uniform sleeves droop "like the wet feathers of a crow's wing / over secret carrion" [ Poems of Affinity, p. 17]). And in "For Cesar Vallejo ii" the decay is everywhere. Clearly, he still remains the poet of passionate commitment. Where that commitment will lead his future poetry depends as much upon Carter's world as it does on himself.
Edward Brathwaite "Resistance Poems: The Voice of Martin Carter" ( 1977) is one of the more comprehensive studies of Martin Carter's poetry thus far. The critic examines all the major publications up to the mid-1970s, with special emphasis on Carter as the voice of revolutionary change. Briefer, more general comments also appear in Brown, West Indian Poetry ( 1977), and Herdeck, Caribbean Writers ( 1979).
Hill of Fire Glows Red. Miniature Poet Series. Georgetown: Mater Printer, 1951.
To a Dead Slave. Georgetown: Author, 1951.
The Hidden Man. Georgetown: Author, 1952.
The Kind Eagle. Georgetown: Author, 1952.
Returning. Georgetown: Author, 1953.
Poems of Resistance. London: Lawrence, Wishart, 1954; Georgetown: Guyana Release, 1979.
Poems of Shape and Motion. Georgetown: Author, 1955.
Conversations. Georgetown: Author, 1961.
Jail Me Quickly. Georgetown: Author, 1963.
Poems of Succession. London: New Beacon Books, 1977.
Poems of Affinity: 1978-1980. Georgetown: Release, 1980.
LLOYD W. BROWN
Sir Lionel Luckhoo, the flamboyant Guyanese barrister who has died aged 83, was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most successful advocate, with 245 consecutive successful defenses in murder cases.
Known as the "Perry Mason of the Caribbean", Luckhoo was also a highly respected High Commissioner in London for both Guyana and Barbados, a candidate for prime minister, and later in life a globe-trotting evangelical preacher, founder of the Luckhoo Mission in Dallas, Texas.
Lionel Alfred Luckhoo was born at New Amsterdam, British Guiana, on March 2 1914, the second of three sons. His Indian grandfather, Lokhooa, had been "recruited" to work on a sugar plantation in British Guiana while sightseeing as a boy with his two brothers at Lucknow, in 1859. The recruiter painted a bright picture of the prospects in a strange land called "Damra Tapu" (Demerara, a province in British Guiana), where in five years they could make a fortune, before returning home.
Lokhooa and his brothers, aged 13, 11 and seven, crossed the Indian and Pacific oceans aboard the Victor Emanuel, and were assigned to a sugar plantation as indentured labor. Lokhooa converted to Christianity, thereafter calling himself Moses Luckhoo. When, after years of hard work, he had saved enough to buy his way out of his indentures, he qualified as an interpreter. He went on to open several provision stores, eventually becoming one of New Amsterdam's richest merchants.
Lionel's father, Edward Alfred, one of Mosesâ six sons, became the first East Indian solicitor in the colony in 1899, and later Mayor of New Amsterdam.
Young Lionel was educated at Queen's College, Georgetown, before coming to London to study Medicine at St Thomas's Hospital. Realizing that he could not stand the sight of blood, he switched to Law, and was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1940. He left for home on the day of Dunkirk, to set up in legal practice with his brother as Luckhoo & Luckhoo, in Georgetown.
As his record suggests, Lionel Luckhoo was extraordinarily persuasive with juries. He was incisive in cross-examination, and got straight to the nub of a case. Between 1940 and 1985, when he finally retired, almost all his clients were acquitted at trial. The few that were not had their convictions overturned on appeal to the Privy Council.
One such case, Noor Mohamed v R (1949), remains an authority on so-called similar fact evidence. The defendant, a goldsmith, was accused of murdering the woman he lived with by causing her to take cyanide, a substance, which he used for his trade. There was no direct evidence that he had caused her to take cyanide, and some evidence that she had committed suicide.
At the trial, the prosecution led evidence that the goldsmith had previously killed his wife with cyanide on pretence that it was a cure for toothache. On appeal, Luckhoo successfully argued that the prejudicial effect of this evidence outweighed its probative value, so it had been wrongly admitted.
After independence, Luckhoo argued for keeping appeals to the Privy Council, feeling that its legitimacy could not be easily replicated in the Caribbean. He took Silk in 1954, and was appointed CBE in 1962.
During the early 1960s, Luckhoo acted for the maverick cult leader Jim Jones on a child custody case. Jones held sway over a great many Guyanese, duped by his fake healing ceremonies and seduced into adopting his free-love lifestyle. In 1978, Jones orchestrated the mass suicide of some 900 people in his commune known as Jonestown. Luckhoo later admitted that dissuading the deeply unstable Jones from committing suicide on an earlier occasion was one of his greatest regrets.
In the meantime, Luckhoo had served as a member of the State Council, 1952-53, and as Minister without Portfolio, 1954-57. He was Mayor of Georgetown in 1954, 1955, 1960 and 1961.
In the late 1950s, he stood for prime minister against the coalition led by Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. Cheddi Jagan's Progressive People's Party appeared so pro-communist in 1953 that Britain suspended the constitution for four years and dispatched troops.
As well as being a staunch Anglophile, Luckhoo was fiercely anti-communist, but his National Labour Front expounded conservative ideas for which the country was not yet ready, and he failed to garner enough grass roots support.
When his country gained independence as Guyana in 1966, Luckhoo became its first High Commissioner in London. That autumn he also became Barbados's first High Commissioner (he was friendly with the Barbadian prime minister, Errol Barrow), thereby pioneering the cost-saving system of joint representation that has since been adopted by many small countries. His motorcar carried two flags, and not infrequently two places were laid for him at official banquets.
From 1967 to 1970, Luckhoo also represented Guyana and Barbados as ambassador in Paris, Bonn and The Hague. He was knighted in 1966, and appointed KCMG in 1969. But he gave up his diplomatic career in 1970 and entered chambers in the Temple, returning to Guyana in 1974, after the failure of his first marriage. Until retiring in 1980, he concentrated on appeal work.
Luckhoo was very attached to the Turf. The first horse that he and his brothers owned was called First Luck; it went on to win 33 races in Guyana and Trinidad, financing a string of 10 horses. He later had several in training in England with the late Sam Hall, one of which, Philodendron, won the Liverpool Summer Cup in 1960. He was a regular attender of Royal Ascot, and in 1960 published The Fitzluck Theory of Breeding Racehorses in the American Blood Horse magazine.
Luckhoo was always immaculately attired, and had a short, sharp step and gait. Everything was done in a slightly hurried way. He was a brilliant off-the-cuff speaker, and an accomplished magician, joining the Magic Circle.
He had always been a Christian, but in later years he became, as he put it, "an ambassador for Jesus". He founded his mission in 1980, preached around the world, and wrote pamphlets with such titles as Dear Atheist and God is Love.
Luckhoo married, first (dissolved 1972), Sheila Chamberlin; they had two sons and three daughters, who survive him, with his second wife, Jeannie.
(CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana)
15 December 1997
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[Editor's Note: The Wismar Report, long held confined to an invisible archive by the PNC government, is now made available by the PPP government via its historian-ambassador, Mr. Odeen Ismael, online. The guyanaundersiege.com website expresses its gratitude to the ambassador for his commentary work, and for making this report finally public. That said, let is be clear that at no time is this report the property of any government or website or political party. It is the property of the people of Guyana and it is regretful that the PPP has not seen it fit to make this report in hardcopy format, available to the ordinary folks of Guyana who do not have computers.—Rakesh Rampertab]
REPORT OF THE WISMAR, CHRISTIANBURG AND MACKENZIE COMMISSION
Introduction - THE WISMAR REPORT -- INTRODUCTORY NOTE - by Editor
Chapter 1 - Statement of the Proceedings of the Commission
Chapter 2 - Recent Disturbances at Wismar, Christianburg and Mackenzie
Chapter 3 - Conduct of the Security Forces
Chapter 4 - Account of Number of Deaths, Extent of Injuries, Loss and Damage
Chapter 5 - Conclusions and Acknowledgements
INTRODUCTORY NOTE - by Editor
The Report of the Wismar, Christianburg, Mackenzie Commission, termed the "Wismar Report", was the result of the enquiry of a commission appointed in September 1964 by the Governor of British Guiana, Sir Richard Luyt. It was given the task to investigate the racial violence on 25 May 1964 by Africans against the minority East Indian population residing in Wismar, Christianburg and Mackenzie, the bauxite mining communities in the upper Demerara River. In the course of these attacks, a number of East Indians were murdered, scores of others brutally beaten and injured, and women and girls publicly raped. All of this was accompanied by large scale arson which saw the destruction of more than 200 houses and business places owned by East Indians.
Very little was done by the police and volunteer force, to protect the East Indian population, and it was not until a contingent of British soldiers arrived on the scene late in the evening that there was an ease in the attacks. More than 3000 East Indians were within days evacuated from the area, and most of them re-settled in the coastal villages.
The members of the Commission concluded that the disturbances were politically and racially inspired. They noted that "the thorough destruction of East Indian property, and the fact that the security forces were in no case able to apprehend arsonists, force us to conclude that the destruction . . . . was organised, and well organised".
As an aftermath of these horrible occurrences, Mrs. Janet Jagan, the Minister of Home Affairs, tendered her resignation from the ministerial post. She cited the non-cooperation of the Commissioner of Police who refused to obey her instructions given early on the afternoon of 25 May for reinforcements, including British troops, to be sent to the area to protect life and property. Mrs. Jagan's statement in the Senate on 1 June 1964 explaining the reasons for her impending resignation accompanies the Wismar Report.
On 6 July 1964, a passenger launch, the Sun Chapman, travelling from Georgetown to Mackenzie on the Demerara River was completely destroyed by a huge explosion. More than 36 persons, all Africans, died in this mishap. When the news of this incident reached Mackenzie, many Africans there, assuming that the launch was bombed by Indians, became highly enraged, and in acts of reprisal, they brutally attacked Indians in the town and five of them died as a result. The medical officer of the Mackenzie Hospital, Dr. C. Davies-Webb, wrote a report in his medical journal about Sun Chapman explosion giving details of the aftermath.
STATEMENT OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMISSION
YOUR EXCELLENCY* on Monday 28th September, 1964, in a Supplement to the Official Gazette appointed this Commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance, Chapter 59, to inquire into the recent disturbances at WISMAR-CHRISTIANBURG, and MACKENZIE. The Commissioners appointed then were: -
(1) Sohan Roopan Singh (Chairman)
(2) Dr. Harold Drayton
(3) Rev. Alexander Sutherland MacDonald
(4) Dr. Subhan Ali Ramjohn.
Mr. William Beekie was appointed Secretary to the Commission.
The terms of reference were:
(a) To enquire into the recent disturbances which took place at Wismar, Christianburg and Mackenzie in the Demerara River, to investigate the conduct of the Security Forces during the said disturbances and to determine the number of deaths and the extent of injury, loss and damage suffered in the said disturbances and to report thereon; and
(b) to furnish to the Governor a full statement of the proceedings of the Commission and of the reasons leading to the conclusions reported.
[Editor's Note: * Sir Richard Luyt, Governor of British Guiana]
II. First Meeting
On Wednesday 28th October, Mr. Sohan Ropan Singh was informed that he would be relieved of his magisterial duties as from Monday the 2nd November, 1964 so that he might preside over the Inquiry.
The first meeting took place on the 31st October, 1964. Mr. S. Ropan Singh and Rev. Alexander S. MacDonald were present. We were informed that Dr. Harold Drayton was ill and Dr. S. Ramjohn was unable to attend. We were also told that Mr. Sugrim Singh, Barrister-at-law would be Counsel to the Commission.
Owing to the fact that displaced persons were settled all over the Colony, but mostly on the coastlands, and having regard to the easy accessibility of Georgetown, the Commission decided to hold the Inquiry in Georgetown. The office and place for hearing evidence was at 252 Thomas and Murray Streets, Georgetown.
We decided that before hearing the evidence we would first visit Mackenzie, Wismar and Christianburg area so that members could gain some impression of its terrain, those parts in which the disturbances took place, of the extent of the damage and a general picture of the social and economic conditions of the area.
III. Visit to Mackenzie
On Friday 6th November, 1964, Mrs. Savithri Devi Mootoo was appointed as a member of the Commission vice Dr. S. Ramjohn who has resigned, and on the same day at 8.15 a.m. Mr. S. Ropan Singh, Rev. A.S. MacDonald, Mrs. Mootoo, Mr. Beekie and Mr. Sugrim Singh left by plane for Mackenzie.
At Mackenzie we were met by Superintendent Oscar Carmichael of the British Guiana Police Force who was then in charge of Division "E" Mackenzie, Major Langham, Officer Commanding "D" Company, British Guiana Volunteer Force at Mackenzie, Major Shearbourn of the British Army, the Queen's Own Buffs, and Mr. John Carter, Q.C. Counsel for the Demerara Bauxite Company. Although we would have welcomed the presence of the District Commissioner, the officer responsible for the civil administration of the Wismar-Christianburg area, he was not present nor was he represented by anyone.
We were taken on a tour of the area by Superintendent Carmichael, Major Langham and Mr. Carter. At Mackenzie, the Commissioners visited the Trade School, the sports club and the Police station where the evacuees had been accommodated, before being taken to Georgetown. We also visited Cara Cara and Rainbow City where houses had been destroyed. At Wismar we were taken from the Police station in two jeeps to tour the Wismar-Christianburg area. Much of the roadway consisted of deep sandy ruts and potholes, and some parts of the area were uphill. In order to reach the Valley of Tears, our party had to proceed on foot since there was only a pathway. We mention this so as to give some idea of the terrain of much of the area. We visited Silvertown, Wismar Housing Scheme, One Mile, Half Mile, Valley of Tears, Silver City, Sections A, B, C Christianburg. We saw the ruins of burnt out premises and were shown spots where persons had been found dead.
After lunch at the Government rest house at Christianburg, we returned to Mackenzie where Dr. Davies-Webb showed us all the facilities available in the Mackenzie Hospital which had been utilised to the full in the treatment of the injured evacuees. Before leaving for Georgetown at about 8.00 p.m. we visited the residential area of Richmond Hill and the Mackenzie Hotel.
Our thanks are due to Superintendent Carmichael, Major Langham and Mr. Carter, Q.C. as well as to the caretaker of the Christianburg rest house.
On Saturday 7th November, 1964, the Commissioners met at the office and were informed by counsel of the procedure which he suggested should be adopted in the examination of the witnesses. The following is an extract of the procedure to which we adhered throughout the private and public sessions of the Inquiry:
1. All witnesses' statements and documents to be submitted by counsel who shall present what he deems necessary. Any person or his representative may apply to the Commission if not satisfied with counsel's decision not to present any evidence offered by that person or persons.
2. Counsel will first examine the witness after which he can be examined by interested parties. Counsel may then re-examine the witness if necessary.
3. The same procedure would be adopted in private sittings.
At this meeting it was also agreed that an advertisement should be placed in the daily newspapers. Counsel would be allowed one week to complete the preparatory work so that public sessions of the Inquiry could commence on the 16th November at 9.00 a.m. The advertisements did not appear, however, until 11th November and it was subsequently agreed that the last date for the submission of statements, memoranda, etc. would be 28th November, 1964.
IV. The Sittings
The Commissioners began the hearing of evidence from members of the public on Monday 16th November, 1964, at 9.00 a.m. On this date Dr. Drayton was well enough to join us, and from then until its conclusion, all the members of the Commission participated in the work of the Inquiry.
The legal appearances were as follows:
(1) Mr. Hugh Shepherd, Barrister-at-Law, appeared for the British Guiana Police Force and the British Guiana Volunteer Force.
(2) Mr. Gilbert Farnum, Barrister-at-Law, appeared for the British Army. (Mr. Shepherd held the brief for Mr. Farnum throughout the Inquiry).
(3) Mr. John Carter, Q.C. appeared for the Demerara Bauxite Company Ltd.
At a later stage of the Inquiry, Mr. P.N. Singh, Barrister-at-Law associated with Mr. Hafiz Khan, appeared for the displaced persons, and Mrs. A. Khan instructed by Mr. J. Edward DeFreitas appeared as counsel for the Hand-in-Hand Insurance Company.
Colonel R. King, the British Guiana Garrison Commander, Colonel C. DeFreitas, Commanding Officer, British Guiana Volunteer Force, Mr. P.G. Owen, Commissioner of Police, Mr. D.F. Macorquodale, Secretary of the Demerara Bauxite Company Limited, who were all present at the commencement of the first day's sitting, assured the Commissioners of their cooperation. Mr. Oscar Hobbs, Assistant Superintendent of Police who was the officer in charge of "E" Division, Mackenzie, was present at the Inquiry.
The first day's sessions were from 9.00 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. to 3.30 p.m., but on subsequent days until the end of the hearings on 9th December, 1964, there was only one session from 8,30 a.m. until 1.00 p.m. The Commission was in session for 19 days, in the course of which 86 witnesses were examined, six were heard in camera and eight were recalled for further examination.
At the commencement of the Inquiry no objection was taken to the building or other arrangements by anyone, although the Commissioners felt that better accommodation, staff and office equipment could have been made available to the Commission, if someone with knowledge and/or forethought had been made responsible for making arrangements for the Inquiry. Initially only four stenographers and a tape recorder were supplied for the taking of the stenographic record but by the and of the second day it was clear that these would be inadequate, if transcripts of each day's proceedings were to be furnished to counsel and to members of the Commission in the shortest possible time. This was explained at a meeting on Wednesday, 18th November, to those officials of the Ministry of Development and Planning who had been put in charge of the domestic and technical arrangements of the Commission. Your Commissioners were informed that the political interpretation placed on our terms of reference had made it very difficult to secure suitably qualified staff from Departments of the Public Service, the heads of which had either refused or had been very reluctant to release members of their clerical staff on secondment. This attitude of non-cooperation with a Commission appointed by Your Excellency to enquire into a national disaster we found very difficult to understand. Eventually, additional staff and office equipment were made available to the Commission, but by this time a backlog of work had accumulated which resulted in considerable delay in the preparation of copies of statements by witnesses before they gave evidence, and of the transcripts of evidence taken.
It is with regret that we have to report that Mr. Sugrim Singh, counsel to the Commission, became ill on 19th November and was unable to assist any further with the onerous task of the examination of witnesses. We learn at the time of writing that Mr. Singh has not completely recovered from his illness and wish to record our appreciation of his services to the Commission in the initial stages and our sincere wish for a speedy recovery.
Until Friday 27th November, when Mr. B. Ramsaroop was appointed to act for Mr. Sugrim Singh, our Chairman, with the consent of the legal representatives, examined witnesses who had previously submitted statements to the Secretary of the Commission. It is regrettable that in a matter of such national importance the Commission did not have the benefit of the services of a more experienced counsel soon after Mr. Sugrim Singh became ill.
During the, course of the Inquiry an article appeared in the Evening Post of 18th November, 1964. The Commissioners instructed the Secretary, Mr. Beekie, to write to the Director of Public Prosecutions drawing his attention to the article and requesting him to take any necessary action he deeded fit. An acknowledgement was received from him on the 14th January 1965.
On November 24th, Mr. Shepherd took objection to and tendered a statement attributed to the Premier's Office. The Secretary of the Commission wrote to the Premier's Secretary and received a reply. The article in the Evening Post, the letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions and his reply, the statement from the Premier's Office, the letter sent to the Premier's Secretary and the reply are all published in Appendix 1* of this report.
[Editor's Note: * Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 which form part of the original report of the Commission are not included in this internet edition.]
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RECENT DISTURBANCES AT WISMAR-CHRISTIANBURG-MACKENZIE
The Colony of British Guiana was in a state of unrest during the time of the disturbances in the Wismar-Christianburg-Mackenzie area - May 1964.
A strike had been called in the sugar industry by the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union [G.A.W.U.] to enforce their demand for recognition as the bargaining agent for the majority of the workers in that industry. The Sugar Producers' Association [S.P.A.] had for many years recognised the Man Power Citizens' Association [M.P.C.A.] which refused to agree to the holding of a poll among sugar workers to settle the question.
This strike must be regarded in the context of the division which had developed in recent years between the East Indians, the majority of whom supported the People's Progressive Party [P.P.P.] led by Dr. Cheddi B. Jagan and the majority of the Africans in the population who supported the P.N.C. [People's National Congress] led by Mr. Forbes Burnham. While the G.A.W.U. was the "industrial arm" of the P.P.P., the President of the M.P.C.A., Mr. Richard Ishmael, was against the P.P.P. and seemed to enjoy the mutual confidence and support of the P.N.C. and Mr. Burnham.
Although the strike which commenced in February 1964 was peaceful at first, as time dragged on with no solution in sight tempers flared, and there were clashes between strikers and non-strikers, especially after the employment of Africans as strike breakers. When two non-strikers were killed by a bomb blast at Tain on the Corentyne Coast, and a G.A.W.U. supporter squatting at the entrance of Leonora Sugar Factory was crushed to death by an estate tractor, both sides claimed their martyrs. Following these incidents, the violence was intensified over the greater part of the East and West Coast of Demerara. Many people were murdered and there were numerous cases of arson and bombings.
The murder of a negro couple at Buxton on Thursday 21st May had its repercussions in attacks on East Indians and their property in the streets of Georgetown on the afternoon of Friday 22nd May. Violence had reached such a pitch that Your Excellency was advised by the Government to declare a state of emergency on that evening. Three days later, on Monday 25th May, the violence which had until then been confined to the coastal strip was extended to the Wismar-Mackenzie-Christianburg area resulting in widespread disturbances which it has been our task to investigate.
II. The Wismar-Christianburg-Mackenzie Area
Christianburg, the first settlement, is about 60 miles up the Demerara River, on its left bank, and immediately north of Wismar. It was originally owned by a Scottish family by the name of Patterson who carried on a sawmilling business. Because of legal action involving the Pattersons, Sprostons Ltd. and Government, Government took over Christianburg and those lots which they did not require they sold to settlers. The former "great house" is still used to this day as the Government rest house, in which a magistrate's court serving a population of over 18,000 is held once per month. Christianburg is divided into Sections A, B, C - Section A being nearer to Wismar. (Roth's Pepperpot, 1958.)
In 1916, the Demerara Bauxite Company was incorporated and registered in Georgetown to exploit the bauxite resources which had been discovered by George Bain Mackenzie on the eastern bank of the river opposite Christianburg. The Company acquired titles to several parcels of bauxite-bearing free-hold land along the Demerara River between Christianburg and Akyma. In the same year the Demerara Bauxite Company was granted crown and Colony mining leases, covering additional areas of bauxite bearing land in the same district. The first mining operations were undertaken in 1917.
Today the Demerara Bauxite Company or "Demba" is a fully owned subsidiary of the Aluminium Company of Canada, Ltd. Demba's operations are centred at Mackenzie and consist of two large plants and a vast mining operation with about eighty (80) miles of railway line. The company has invested in the plants, the mines, the railroads, power supply and in the township generally $124.8 million (W.I.) and maintains a payroll of about 3,500. Its production represents about 80% of the total output of the B.G. bauxite industry. At Mackenzie the company has built up a planned residential area complete with primary and secondary schools, a 128-bed hospital, a trade school and housing facilities to accommodate many of its employees.
Wismar is in the strictest sense a satellite to the Mackenzie mining town, accommodating some of those who work at Demba and those businessmen who cater to the needs of the workers at Mackenzie. Some of those who settled at Wismar were squatters and many did not own freehold land. Part of the Wismar area is controlled by a local authority. There are also housing schemes and a cooperative for supplying electricity. In part of the area there is a potable water supply. Roads and drainage are bad.
III. Social and Economic Conditions
The population of these three areas was about 18,000 in May 1964, and of these, about 3000 were East Indian, the majority of the rest being Africans. The majority of the working population were employed at Demba. Since these settlers were originally from the coastlands, some maintained contact with relatives there whilst others regarded their sojourn in the Demerara River as being only temporary, and would visit their relatives or families on the coastlands as often as once a month. A few of these people were affected by the disturbances on the East and West Coasts. Although some 350 of the East Indians were employed at Demba, the majority were businessmen who in many cases owned their places of business and their homes. Some of them owned more than one building and were engaged in more than one occupation. The majority of the Africans were wage earners.
The two major races - East Indians and Africans - lived harmoniously side by side and not in racial groups. Socially they would mix freely especially at clubs and restaurants. Inter-marriage was not uncommon among them. The points of difference between them were economic and political.
As indicated above, the majority of the 3,000 East Indians were supporters of the P.P.P. or were so identified. The majority of the Africans were P.N.C supporters who had the satisfaction of knowing that the representative for the Upper Demerara River constituency in the House of Assembly was an African, Mr. Robert Jordan. The close ties that existed between many of the Africans at Wismar and their relatives who bad been involved in racial clashes on the East and West Coasts of Demerara served to intensify animosity towards the East Indian minority. The news of the murder of the African couple - the Sealeys - at Buxton reached Wismar on Friday the 22nd May, and seems to have been the incident which precipitated the planned reprisal against the East Indians in the Wismar-Christianburg area on Monday 25th May, 1964. The economic prosperity of the East Indian community must have been a latent source of jealousy, which determined that the major aim of the attack would be the destruction of property. We shall have more to say on this point in a later section of this report.
IV. The Disturbances
During the week proceeding May 25th, 1964, there was evidence of marked tension in the Wismar-Christianburg area, but in spite of threats of beating and burning levelled against East Indians, most of these do not appear to have been taken seriously enough as to warrant a report to the Police. Although there were disturbances in British Guiana during 1962 and again during 1963, the Upper Demerara River area renamed relatively calm except for one major incident in 1963 at Wismar when a shop was looted. The owner discharged a shot gun at the looters but did not injure them seriously. He had to remove from Wismar because of threats made against him.
We have attempted to construct a chronological record of the important events at Wismar from the 20th May to the early morning of the 25th May, 1964. This record is based on entries in the Occurrence Book kept at the Wismar Police Station, and on the reports made by the Police at Wismar to Force Control, Police Headquarters, Georgetown:
1. Pandit Ramlackhan's house was bombed at about 2.00 a.m.
1. A strike took place at Demba. It began in the mechanical shop and spread to other installations.
1. Daniel Persaud reported that people had set fire to his house but it was only scorched.
2. At 11.30 p.m. there was an explosion at Silvertown at the house of Ibrahim Khan and three people were injured and taken to hospital. Damage was done to the living quarters of the building.
1. At 12.05 a.m. a bomb was thrown at the house of Walter Narine at Silvertown. No one was injured.
2. Edoo's house was seen on fire in the One Mile Area.
3. At about 2.30 a.m. fire was set on the house of Cyril Ragnauth at Cholmondeley Alley.
4. At about 10.50 p.m. Mr. Toolsie Persaud, a businessman who has a timber grant at Christianburg, and his men were going to Mr. Lam's Hotel for food and accommodation. Deodat Narine, one of his employees was beaten and acid thrown on him. He jumped into the Demerara River.
5. Mr. Lam's Hotel was pelted and looted and Mr. Toolsie Persaud and his men escaped through the back yard of Mr. Lam's premises. (They hid themselves until the next day when they travelled to Georgetown. Mr. Toolsie Persaud did not mention this incident or the situation at Wismar to anyone.)
6. At 11.30 a.m. the empty house of Joseph Gaines (East Indian ) of Half Mile Wismar was set on fire.
1. At 1.30 a.m. Cyril Ragnauth and his wife were injured by air-gun pellets when they opened a window to investigate a noise they heard.
2. The house of Seecowathai was set on fire.
3. At 8.40 a.m. a lighted substance was thrown on the house of Basdeo Ramkumar - a piece of tarpaulin burnt.
4. At 1.00 a.m. one Singh was found unconscious in Sand Road, Wismar.
5. At 4.55 a.m. house owned by Daniel Persaud completely destroyed. It was unoccupied.
6. At 9.17 a.m. strike at Demba called off.
7. At 6.45 p.m. building owned by Alphonso Singh set on fire.
8. At 7.30 p.m. houses owned by Charles John set on fire at One Mile area. One building destroyed, the other damaged.
9. At 9.00 p.m. the other building owned by Charles John destroyed by fire.
10. At 8.30 p.m. another attempt was made on the building owned by Gaines.
11. At 8.45 p.m. Leonard Gobin was beaten in the Silvertown area.
12. At 9.00 p.m. Sukraj of Half Mile, Wismar, was beaten.
13. At 11.00 p.m. the premises owned by Sookram at Christianburg looted and destroyed by fire.
14. At 11.20 p.m. two (2) shots were fired on Roshal Alli of Silvertown. He was hospitalised.
15. The building of David Perai set on fire.
1. At 12.15 a.m. the unoccupied building of Sahadeo Ram completely destroyed.
2. At 1.30 p.m. unoccupied building on Blueberry Hill set on fire.
3. At 4.05 a.m. a barber shop of William Subrian pulled down and thrown in the river.
From 7.09 a.m. until 12.43 p.m. no entry was made at Force Control concerning the events at Wismar. The last record at Wismar of a message sent to Force Control was at 5.30 a.m.
During the course of our Inquiry, counsel for the security forces suggested to several witnesses that the disturbances in the Wismar-Christianburg area on May 25th, 1964, had been "spontaneous" and had taken many people by surprise. Many witnesses confirmed that the intensity of the outbreak took them by surprise, but Mr. Hobbs, the Police Officer in charge of Wismar, gave it as his opinion that the events at Wismar had been carefully planned with such efficiency as to thwart the efforts of the security forces. The Commissioner of Police, on the other hand, opined that from subsequent reports he was sure that the outbreak had been spontaneous. This aspect of the matter will be dealt with in more detail in another chapter of this report.
Between 7 and 8 o'clock on the morning of May 25th the situation deteriorated rapidly. There was widespread violence, arson and looting. The stage was set for a day of unmitigated tragedy. At about 8.00 a.m. it was rumoured that an East Indian man had kicked an African boy. The Police subsequently investigated this but found it to be untrue. If any was needed, this was the casus belli.
Throughout the day, large numbers of East Indians sought refuge in the Wismar Police station compound - some were rescued by Police and Volunteers, others went there on their own. With the arrival of British troops at Mackenzie at 5.00 p.m. these people were ferried across to Mackenzie where they were accommodated at the trade school, sports club and Police station. Those who had been injured were treated and sent away or hospitalised at the Mackenzie Hospital according to the severity of the cases. On the 26th May the R.H. Carr and the M.V. Barima were made available for the transportation of evacuees to Georgetown; some went by air. The presence of African policemen and Volunteers at the point of disembarkation in Georgetown caused some fear on the part of the evacuees which was only assuaged when assurances were given by officials of the B.G. Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha. The industrial site at Ruimveldt was used as a transit point for the evacuees until they could be re-settled elsewhere in the Colony.
The advent of the British troops and the imposition of a curfew helped to restore order out of chaos, but as darkness fell, fires could still be seen in the area. Sporadic attacks on Indian life and property continued, however. On the 26th May, Isaac Bridgewater, the father of Senator Christina Ramjattan, was murdered and his place burnt. Arson took place on the Mackenzie side on the 27th May, 1964, and on the 2nd June, 1964, when Indian houses at Cara Cara were burnt. Toolsie Persaud's gasoline installation at Section C, Christianburg, was destroyed on the 25th July, 1964.
On the 6th July, 1964, an explosion occurred at Booradia on a launch named "Sun Chapman" which was taking goods and passengers, the majority of them Africans, from Georgetown to Wismar. About thirty-eight (38) persons perished in this disaster. The echo of the Sun Chapman disaster was immediately felt at Mackenzie when five East Indians were murdered and seven seriously injured. Before the official report of the Sun Chapman tragedy reached the Police and British army, Africans were on the rampage and in the space of two hours, 5.00 to 7.00 p.m., more people were killed than on the whole day of the 25th May, 1964.
Within two hours the security forces had rounded up all the East Indians working at Demba and living in or around Mackenzie; on the next day these were transported to Georgetown. In spite of the imposition of a curfew, the few remaining Indian houses at Cara Cara were destroyed or damaged. The destruction of the building which housed the Royal Bank of Canada was the last known act of violence directed against Indian property.
Those members of the Commission who visited the area did not see any East Indians except for a few in the Police Force and the Demba Constabulary.
The violence of May 25th, although started at the river front, was at first mainly concentrated in remote areas such as Half Mile, One Mile and Valley of Tears. It was only later that large buildings such as those owned by Messrs. T. Prashad, Lalta Paul and Hakim Khan in Silvertown and Silver City were destroyed. Protection money was demanded and in some cases obtained from the owners of big business. But this did not prevent their business places being looted and burnt, subsequently, nor did it prevent them from being assaulted.
The local population in the majority supported these acts. A few of those who engaged in these acts of violence might well have come from other parts of the country, some were undoubtedly drawn from the criminal elements who made periodic visits to the area, whilst some others were from the area. Wherever they might have come from, however, they were certainly well informed about the precise location of East Indian premises in the Wismar-Christianburg area, and were well equipped and trained for incendiarism. The local population knew how to prevent fires spreading and indeed lost no time in forming bucket brigades to save African homes. African furniture was removed from Indian houses so that the houses could be burnt.
During all this violence there was no report of an African or anyone for that matter being injured by an Indian. They were afraid that retaliation might result in a heavy toll of lives and this could have been the case. The East Indians were shocked by the sudden enmity shown by persons who had been their friends, neighbours and fellow workers.
The hilly and wooded terrain of the Wismar area made it difficult for the security forces, however conscientious, to apprehend persons engaged in arson or other crimes of violence. Neighbours and other members of the public were either afraid or were unwilling to render any assistance to the security forces. They never lent a hand to extinguish fires kindled on East Indian homes, and the very few who offered shelter to East Indians were threatened to such an extent that they had to put out the families whom they had succoured. The majority of the Africans laughed and jeered at the East Indians as blood stained and battered, raped and naked, shocked and destitute, they helplessly went their way to the only place of refuge, the Wismar Police Station. African women played their part in these events to the fullest extent.
Your Commissioners are convinced that "this was a diabolical plot, ingeniously planned and ruthlessly executed."
In the words of Mr. Festus Adams, the Village Chairman of the Wismar- Christianburg Local Authority, as he surveyed the inferno during the 25th May, it was "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."
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CONDUCT OF THE SECURITY FORCES
I. The Security Forces in British Guiana
(a) The Police Force
The British Guiana Police Force was established by the Police Ordinance of 1891 which was subsequently continued by the Police Ordinance of 1920 and is now to be found in Chapter 77 of the Laws of British Guiana. This has since been amended by the Police Ordinance of 1957. Section 60 of Chapter 77 gives the Commissioner of Police power to make regulations governing the Police Force. These rules and regulations are to be found in the Subsidiary Legislation Ordinances.
Articles 99-104 of the Constitutional Instruments govern certain matters pertaining to the Police Force. Article 101(1) states: "Power to make appointments to the Office of Commissioner of Police and to dismiss and to exercise disciplinary control over any persons balding or acting in that office shall vest in the Governor acting after consultation with the Chairman of the Police Service Commission." Article 102 of the Constitution also gives, inter alia, power to make appointments of officers in the Police Force of or above the rank of inspector, to the Governor acting on the recommendation of the Police Service Commission. Power to make appointments below the rank of inspector vests in the Commissioner of Police to such extent as may be prescribed by any law of the Legislature.
Mr. Peter Granville Owen became Commissioner of Police for the B.G. Police Force in September, 1962.
The men in the B.G. Police Force are predominantly Africans. The numerical strength of the entire "E" Division of the Police Force at Mackenzie was thirty-one (31). In May, 1964, they were under the command of Assistant Superintendent Oscar Hobbs. Wismar Police Station had thirteen (13) men, consisting of one sergeant, one corporal and eleven constables. At the request of the Government, the Commissioner of Police had in 1963 carried out a review of the number of policemen in that area, and having regard to the population, he recommended that the strength of "E" Division be increased by the addition of seven men - one inspector, one corporal and five constables. There was only one vehicle at Mackenzie and he recommended that another be obtained for the Wismar area and this was done. The other recommendation was not carried out.
(b) The B.G. Volunteer Force
The B.G.V.F. [British Guiana Volunteer Force] was estab1ished by the Volunteer Ordinance, Chapter 38, of the Laws of British Guiana. The Commanding Officer is Col. Celso DeFreitas, who is responsible to the Governor for the Force. The Volunteer Force is about six hundred (600) strong.
The battalion is made up of a Headquarters Company in Georgetown and four rifle Companies of which one is stationed in New Amsterdam and another at Mackenzie.
The Volunteer Force at Mackenzie, "D" Company, had one Major, three Subalterns and ninety-one (91) other ranks. Major Langham who commands "D" Company also works as Security Officer at Demba. Many of the ranks of "D" Company work and live at Wismar-Christianburg and Mackenzie and the majority of them are Africans.
On 24.5.64 at 10.00 am, authority was given for the embodiment of twenty-four (24) men of "D" Company. Orders for full embodiment of the company came at midday on 25.5.64 and by 5.00 p.m. they were all embodied under the command of major Langham.
(c) The British Army
Since the disturbances of 1962 British soldiers had been in British Guiana and could be called upon in time of emergency to come to the aid of the civil power. In May, 1964, the British soldiers were under the command of Col. R. King, Commander of the B.G. Garrison. He takes orders relating to the British forces from the Governor as Commander-in-Chief. After the declaration of the state of emergency on Friday 22nd May, 1964, additional British soldiers were flown from the United Kingdom to British Guiana.
One platoon of the British army went into operation at Wismar at about 6.00 p.m. on 25th May, 1964.
(d) The Demba Constabulary
There is at Mackenzie a hybrid force of about 90 men called the Demba Constabulary, the members of which are recruited by Demba and paid by the Company. They receive their training from the Police Force, are subject to discipline by the Commissioner of Police and can arrest for any crime committed on land or premises owned by Demba. Elsewhere they must make a report to the Police. Throughout the disturbances on May 25th, a few of these special constables were used by the Police at Wismar. They are not allowed to carry arms nor are they trained in their use.
II. Conduct of the Security Forces at the Scene
On the day of the disturbances at Wismar-Christianburg there were 57 cases of assault, including rape, which were treated at the Mackenzie Hospital. Two persons were killed and at least 197 houses were destroyed in addition to several cases of looting. With the single exception of Assistant Superintendent Lashley, who in company with Lieutenant Wishart and a party of men, apprehended and shot a looter who refused to halt when ordered to do so, no member of the Volunteers or Police admitted witnessing any cases of assault or rape, looting or arson.
Several members of the Police and Volunteers who gave evidence said that they had seen large crowds of people moving up and down but committing no offence - indeed one witness described the crowd as orderly and peaceful and said that they were walking "as though going to church". On the other hand, Assistant Superintendent Lashley stated that in the course of his patrolling duties he had on one occasion dispersed a riotous crowd by the use of tear smoke. In his view the dispersal of crowds should have been one of the prime duties of the patrols, since he observed that the assembly of a crowd in an area always heralded the start of fires and other acts of violence in that area. We would like to single out Assistant Superintendent John Lashley for special commendation for his intelligent and energetic action during the disturbances and for the forthright and unequivocal manner in which he give evidence before us.
A variety of allegations were made by witnesses against the security forces - the Police and Volunteers. These included bribery, partaking in loot, standing by and refusing to give assistance whilst rape and assault were being committed, refusing to extinguish fires, supplying gasoline to arsonists and being politically partial by telling people who were beaten and stripped to go to their political leaders.
On the other hand, members of the security forces alleged that they were on every occasion just in time to see fires beyond their control, and injured or uninjured East Indians coming out of their hiding places and in tears begging to be rescued. These persons were taken to the Police station promptly and those in need of medical treatment were sent to the Mackenzie Hospital. By noon on the 25th it became quite evident that the tide of violence could not be stemmed and it was decided by the Police to concentrate all their energies on the saving of lives rather than property.
Having regard to the scale of the disturbances in the Wismar-Christianburg area on the 25th May, we believe that the handful of Police and Volunteers available for service was totally inadequate to patrol the area properly and check the violence. Had members of the public been willing to cooperate with the security forces, however, their effectiveness would have been greater, but there is evidence that members of the public actively thwarted the efforts of the Police and Volunteers by assembling in large crowds and by jeering and taunting them. No doubt also, it must have been extremely difficult for some members of the Volunteer Force who lived in the area and who were Africans, to dissociate themselves emotionally from the prevailing attitude of hostility against the Indians on that day.
It should be also borne in mind that total embodiment of the Volunteer Force was not effected until 5.00 p.m. on the 25th May. United Kingdom troops did not arrive at Wismar until about 6.00 p.m. on that day. It is a pity that the "image of the British soldier" was not sooner on the scene. We shall have more to say about this aspect of the matter in a later section of our report.
As stated above, the security forces decided after a certain stage to save lives rather than property, but we do no believe that the primary intention of these who planned this disaster was to kill East Indians.
Throughout the whole of the 25th of May only two East Indians were murdered out of an East Indian population of 3,000; one was killed on the next day. Yet after the Sun Chapman disaster on the 6th of July, within the short space of two hours, five East Indians were murdered out of the remaining East Indian population of 300.
III. Conduct of the Security Forces Behind the Scene
The Commissioner of Police in the course of his evidence alleged that he had recommended verbally to the Premier since April the declaration of a state of emergency. It was not, however, until the 22nd May, 1964, that the state of emergency was declared by Your Excellency on the advice of your Council of Ministers. Just prior to the declaration of the state of emergency sections of the British Guiana Volunteer Force had been embodied by Colonel DeFreitas, acting on your instructions.
On Saturday the 23rd May, 1964, the Commissioner of Police wrote a letter to the then Minister of Home Affairs, Mrs. Janet Jagan, summarizing the genera1 security situation throughout the Colony. In this letter he stated, inter alia:
"The violence which erupted in Georgetown yesterday found a moderate echo in Wismar. This was the case last year and I am afraid that if violence is allowed to continue in the countryside the pattern will be repeated not only in Georgetown but also in Wismar with increasing severity. The Buxton incident and racial violence generally throughout the country produced the same effect in Wismar-Mackenzie. At 9.00 p.m., an Indian owned house was destroyed by fire at 1 Mile Wismar and at 11.40 p.m. an explosive device was set under the house of another East Indian at Silvertown, Wismar. It exploded doing damage and injuring three persons although not seriously.
We both know how serious it will be for the small East Indian minority at Wismar, Mackenzie if the Africans start retaliation there as they did last year. Elsewhere the Police enjoyed one of the quietest nights for months. (Our underlining)
"I note in His Excellency's Minute of the 22nd May, 1964, addressed to the Garrison Commander and copied to you and to me, that you had advised the Governor that you wish me to take the initiative if the physical intervention of the troops appeared to be necessary and request the Garrison Commander direct for assistance. I shall endeavour to consult you before taking such action and I shall of course keep you informed of what is happening. It would in my opinion be advantageous at this juncture to resuscitate the Security Council at which you as Minister of Home Affairs take the Chair."
From this letter it is quite clear that the Commissioner of Police was fully aware, probably on the basis of security reports which he had received, of the explosive situation at Wismar-Mackenzie, and that the East Indian minority would be in grave danger if "retaliation" commenced there. Counsel for the security forces put this point admirably when be said that it was as if the Commissioner of Police had been gazing into a crystal ball and had been able to foretell the horrible events that would come to pass.
On Sunday the 24th May, the Commissioner of Police was aware that the situation at Wismar had deteriorated considerably. At 9.00 a.m. on that day he conferred with Assistant Commissioner Puttock at Police Force Control and gave instructions for the embodiment of 24 men of the "D" Company, B.G.V.F. The officer in charge of the police at Mackenzie-Wismar, Mr. Hobbs, had requested the assistance of the Volunteers; all special constables had been called out and members of the Police Force had been ordered to go on "stand by".
On the 25th May, 1964, at about 9.00 a.m., Mr. Hobbs reported to Police Headquarters, Georgetown, that there was wide-scale looting, arson and other acts of violence at Wismar and requested the embodiment of the entire Volunteer Force. Major Langham said that the order to embody came through at about 10.00 a.m. although his diary of event s mentions the order as coming through from B.G.V.F. Headquarters at 12.00 midday. Full embodiment was not completed until after 3.00 p.m.
The Commissioner of Police who had been aware of the deteriorating situation at Wismar decided to send Mr. Neil Isaacs, a "more experienced" officer to Wismar to assess the situation. Mr. Isaacs left Georgetown by chartered aircraft at 1.00 p.m. and it was not until a few minutes before 5.00 p.m. that he telephoned the Commissioner requesting that British troops be sent to the area. Your Commissioners are in no doubt whatever that had British troops reached the area earlier on the day of the 25th the major portion of the tragedy would have been averted. The question of whether the Commissioner of Police acted wisely in awaiting the report of Mr. Neil Isaacs before requesting British troops must be viewed in the light of the reports he received from Wismar throughout that day, what transpired at the Security Council meeting at 2.00 p.m., and the time necessary to get British troops into the area.
As to the nature of the reports received from Mr. Hobbs, Assistant Commissioner Puttock was extremely vague. As far as he could remember, the report which he received was "that the situation was deteriorating and that there were fires which appeared to be spreading and that there was looting." He did not mention that the East Indian community at Wismar was in serious danger. The Commissioner of Police said, "I understand buildings were burnt, attacks were made on people and they were beaten at Wismar." Major Langham said that on Sunday 24th there was a distinct deterioration of the situation and regretted that Assistant Commissioner Puttock did not agree to the embodiment of the entire Volunteer Force at Mackenzie rather than only 24 men without any officers. In his opinion, had full embodiment taken place on the Sunday, the extent of the damage and injuries which took place on the Monday would have been considerably reduced. In any event, by 9.00 a.m. on the 25th of May the Commissioner of Police had enough information to come to the conclusion that his prediction of the 23rd May had come to pass. At about 8.00 a.m. on the 25th, a message was sent from the Demba office at Mackenzie to the Managing Director of Demba in Georgetown that the situation at Wismar was extremely serious and that more police or British soldiers should be sent immediately. Later that morning a further message was sent through to the Demba head office asking the Managing Director, Mr. Campbell, to get in touch directly with either the Commissioner of Police or the Governor, and to advise that the situation was so extremely serious as to warrant the immediate despatch of British troops without awaiting the "on the spot" assessment of Mr. Neil Isaacs. Mr. Campbell confirmed that he did speak with the deputy Governor Mr. J. Rose at about 10.30 a.m.
The Minister of Home Affairs said that at 9.00 a.m., on 25th while she was attending a meeting of the Senate, she was informed that the situation at Wismar was grave, and that at the adjournment of the Senate meeting she received further distressing information about the situation. She tried without success to contact the Commissioner of Police and it was not until 11.30 am that she managed to speak with the Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Puttock, who told her of the Commissioner's decision to send Mr. Neil Isaacs to make an on the spot assessment of the situation. At 2.00 p.m. a meeting of the Security Council was held attended by the Commissioner of Police, the Garrison Commander, the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs who deals with Police matters, and presided over by the Minister. The Minister informed the Council of the reports she had received concerning the situation at Wismar and requested that British troops be sent into the area immediately. The Commissioner of Police said that he would await the report of Mr. Neil Isaacs before requesting British troops. It was only after the meeting had adjourned that at about 3.00 p.m. the Commissioner requested British troops after receiving a telephone call from Mr. Isaacs.
Mr. Neil Isaacs said that upon arrival at Mackenzie he discussed the situation with Major Langham and Mr. Hobbs. He saw fires but did not make a reconnaissance tour of the Wismar area.
It is to be recalled that the Minister of Home Affairs had previously delegated her power to requisition British troops to the Commissioner of Police. This delegation of power was intended to obviate any delay in getting British troops into an area where they were needed to assist the civil power. Your Excellency had observed in your minute to the Garrison Commander of 22nd May that "the Minister's verbal request reflects a proper appreciation of the present situation in British Guiana", and instructed him that he should "on receipt of a request for aid from the Commissioner of Police act on such request." The Commissioner of Police who is in constant receipt of security reports from all over British Guiana was clearly the person who should have been expected to have his finger on the security pulse beat of the nation.
Colonel R. King, the Officer Commanding the B.G. Garrison, said in the course of evidence before us that at about 10.00 or 11.00 p.m. on Sunday 24th May he was informed by Police Force Control Georgetown that there was serious trouble at Wismar. He thereupon gave orders that one platoon of the Devon & Dorset Regiment should be put on one hour's standby notice as from 5.30 a.m. on 25th May for service in the Wismar-Mackenzie-Christianburg area. A Dakota plane was later made available for the transportation of these troops from Atkinson. The Commissioner of Police alleged that on the Sunday night, 24th May, he did not have this information about trouble at Wismar, nor did be know then that British troops would be placed on standby as from 5.30 a.m. on 25th May. We find this very difficu1t to understand.
We were privileged to have before us the Attorney General of British Guiana who explained the constitutional position relevant to the authority of the Minister of Home Affairs in requesting the intervention of British troops. This is what he had to say:
"The Minister of Home Affairs may ask the Governor to lend forces - the military - for the support of the civil power where the Commissioner of Police expresses the opinion that the forces under his command are no longer able to cope with any particular situation. . . . The grant or refusal of the forces is in the discretion of the Governor. . . . I would say that the Minister who is in charge of internal security is the one from whom the request of troops should come. But I can say that the Commissioner of Police should conceivably make such a request on the Minister's authority. Since the maintenance of public safety and public order is the responsibility of the Minister of Home Affairs, that responsibility could not be exercised unless the Commissioner of Police - the head of the Police Force - is subject to the Minister's orders and instructions. Constitutionally, the Commissioner of Police was obliged to act on any request - oral or written - of the Minister of Home Affairs and, specifically, that British troops be called upon to give assistance in any area."
The Attorney General stated that this question had been one of the matters of continuous controversy in the running of the Government. The Council of Ministers had not been formally advised by the Commissioner of Police that a state of emergency should be declared until May 21st 1964.
We find that the Commissioner of Police acted without due regard to the proper constitutional position when he refused to carry out the request of the Minister of Home Affairs, that British troops be requisitioned for immediate service in the area. Having regard to the forebodings which he had expressed to the Minister in his letter of 23rd May, the reports which he must have received from Force Control on the night of 24th concerning the gathering storm at Wismar, the telephoned reports from Mr. Hobbs during the morning of Monday May 25th, and the plea from the Managing Director of Demba for intervention of British troops, we are at a loss to understand why he should have thought it necessary to follow "normal procedure" in awaiting the "on the spot" assessment by Mr. Neil Isaacs before signing the requisition for British troops to be sent to Wismar, in what was clearly an abnormal situation. We would hesitate to believe that the Commissioner of Police deliberately prevented the arrival of British troops at Wismar until the major portion of the destruction bad taken place. On the most charitable view, his failure to get British troops into the area at a much earlier hour on the 25th was a most serious error of judgment on his part, and showed his inability to comprehend and appreciate the reports which were transmitted to him. We reiterate our view that the critical factor which could have considerably reduced the casualties to life and property at Wismar on the day of the disaster was the presence of British troops.
IV. Further Observations
(a) Mrs. Janet Jagan
By about 10.00 a.m. on the 25th May, 1964, the Minister of Home Affairs was in possession of what seemed to her to be sufficient information about what was happening at Wismar as to require the immediate intervention of British troops. We consider, therefore, that after failing to contact the Commissioner of Police before noon, she should have made a formal request of Your Excellency or of the Garrison Commander for the despatch of British troops. It is unfortunate also, that after the Commissioner of Police had refused her verbal request at the Security Council meeting at 2.00 p.m. she did not attempt to confirm the exercise of her constitutional authority by signing a formal written request.
(b) Mr. Robert Jordan
Several witnesses have alleged that Mr. Robert Jordan, member of the former Legislative Assembly for the Upper Demerara River constituency, bears a major responsibility for the events of May 25th and 26th. Mr. Jordan was said to have been seen on Thursday May 21st, and again on Saturday May 23rd, inciting African people to violence against East Indians. Three witnesses said that on the Thursday be was seen with a newspaper on the public road drawing to the attention of those he met the murder of Mr. & Mrs. Sealey, African farmers of Buxton, East Coast, Demerara, and asking what the people of Wismar were going to do in reprisal for such actions by East Indians on the coast. Four witnesses claimed to have seen Mr. Jordan on the Saturday in company with various community leaders and at least one of the known criminal element, either inciting Africans or planning acts of violence against East Indians.
The Commissioners noted that those of the alleged "conspirators" who appeared before us categorically denied that they had been planning violence with Mr. Jordan or indeed that they had seen him in the area at the time in question. It is also noted that the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Sealey were found aback of Buxton on Friday May 22nd and the day after it was alleged that Mr. Jordan was reading about their murder from a newspaper on the Wismar public road.
Your Commissioners feel that we must express our regret that Mr. Robert Jordan did not appear before us although invited to do so, in order that the extremely serious allegations against him might have had the strenuous testing they deserve. We are thus obliged to include them for the record, without further comment.
(c) Mrs. Christina Ramjattan
Mrs. Christina Ramjattan was a Senator who lived at Christianburg. On Sunday 24th May she had seen several fires in the area and had been aware of the rising tension, which was so severe, that she had to request a Police escort to the launch which brought her to Georgetown at about 1.00 a.m. on the morning of 25th May. On arrival she made no effort to contact any Police officer or any member of the Government to inform them about the worsening situation at Wismar.
She failed to bring the matter to the attention of the Senate at the Senate Meeting which she attended on 25th May, at 9.00 a.m. During the meeting she passed a note of a resolution about the situation at Wismar from the P.P.P. Constituency Committee there to Senator Janet Jagan, but she did not discuss with the Minister what she had witnessed the day before, She did make an attempt to see the Commissioner of Police but without success. She failed to see any other Police officer.
Mrs. Ramjattan confessed that on the morning of 25th May she was so very distressed at the memory of what she had witnessed the day before and by the many reports that reached her by telephone from Wismar, that she would not act properly and could think only about her property and her invalid husband whom she had left behind at Wismar.
At it turned out, the police at Wismar, though they escorted Mr. Ramjattan to the safety of the police station on 25th May, seized the shot gun which he had discharged at a would-be arsonist. This action by the police in seizing a gun from a man who was using it to defend his own property must be criticised most strongly.
Mrs. Ramjattan's father, Isaac Bridgewater, who lived in Section C, Christianburg, was murdered on 26th May. We cannot understand why the police did not evacuate all the Indians from this remote area - Section C, Christianburg - on 25th. Had they done so, Bridgewater's life would have been saved.
(d) Mr. Patrick Bender
Mr. Patrick Bender was the Assistant District Commissioner for the area during the period of the disturbances. As A.D.C. he might have been expected to have rendered active assistance to the security forces in their efforts to maintain law and order on the day in question. Instead, however, be remained throughout the day in his compound at Christianburg and did not venture forth into Wismar until two days after the 25th. Mr. Bender admitted in evidence that he had been so afraid at what he had heard of the crimes of violence end arson, and at the large number of fires which he saw from his compound, that he had instructed his men to keep the launch in readiness for prompt departure in the event of the crowds coming his way.
(e) Mr. Festus Adams
Mr. Festus Adams, "the Village Father" - Chairman of the Loca1 Authority - travelled across to Wismar after lunch and walked around the area surveying the scene. His simple and sole reaction was to interpret what he saw as an illustration of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." After his tour of the area he returned to his home at Mackenzie for tea.
(f) Mr. Albert Jairam
Mr. Albert Jairam was the Government dispenser and Sub-Registrar of Births and Deaths in the area before be left for Georgetown on Sunday 24th May. Although he was fully aware of the tension prevailing at Wismar and that there had been a number of cases of violence and arson on the day of his departure, he failed to make any kind of report to any responsible authority on arrival in Georgetown.
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ACCOUNT OF NUMBER OF DEATHS, EXTENT OF INJURIES, LOSS AND DAMAGE
When one considers the number of East Indians evacuated, the large number of Africans in the area and the negligible opposition which the attackers encountered, the number of fatalities was indeed very small.
There were two East Indians who died on the 25th May, 1964. Richard Khan, aged about 18 years, died at the Mackenzie Hospital two hours after admission. He had been attending high school in Georgetown. The other, Pau1 Mirgin, who operated a tug, was married and lived with his wife and four sons in the Valley of Tears.
Gussie English* an African was shot on the 25th May, 1964. He died the same day.
On the 28th May, 1964, Isaac Bridgewater was killed. He was the father of Senator Christina Ramjattan and lived at Section C, Christianburg.
On the 27th May, 1964, Byron Wharton*, an African, died because of extensive burns suffered when he was trapped in a burning building.
Following the Sun Chapman disaster the bodies of 35 persons were taken to Mackenzie and 12 others were listed as missing or unidentified. All of these were Africans. The Sun Chapman incident resulted in five East Indians being murdered at Mackenzie.
There are no official records of the deaths of these persons as no entry has been made in the Register of Births and Deaths. The dispenser who is also the Sub-Registrar for Births and Deaths left for Georgetown on the 24th May and never returned. His place was looted. The present dispenser did not even prepare a temporary list of deaths from the Police record pending the report from the coroner. He did not attend at the Inquiry in order to be of some assistance to the Commissioners. The Assistant District Commissioner who supervises the Sub-Registrar has done nothing to regularise the position. Up to the time when evidence was being taken at the Inquiry the coroner's court had not started to enquire into these deaths.
[Editor's Note: * Gussie English and Byron Wharton met their deaths while they were involved in looting.]
On the 22nd May, 1964, three people, a man, his wife and their daughter, were admitted to the Mackenzie Hospital suffering from injuries sustained a result of a bomb being thrown into their home.
On the 24th May, 1964, two male persons were admitted to the Mackenzie Hospital. They were beaten. There was one case of shot-gun wounds. He was treated and sent away.
On the 25th May, 1964, thirty-three persons were admitted to hospital with several injuries ranging from gun shot wounds, fractures of the skull, mandible and humerus, lacerated wounds, multiple contusions and abrasions. Children suffered bruises, women suffered rape, fractures and lacerated wounds. One woman suffered a fractured right humerus and both bones of the right forearm. Another pregnant woman had multiple contusions about the body. Her baby was born the next day 26th May, 1964, a full term child. Victor Bholai Singh suffered a fractured pelvis and left fibula. He gave evidence and we noticed that he could not walk nor stand up properly. There were six cases of rape, some of whom had been successively raped by several men. Four were hospitalised and were treated and sent the next day to Georgetown Hospital. These cases were still bleeding slightly when they were examined at Georgetown Hospital. Eighteen persons were treated by the St. Johns Ambulance Brigade.
One African had a bullet wound through his right arm. This injury was inflicted by the security forces.
The records of the persons admitted and/or treated at the Georgetown Hospital, although not as carefully documented as we would have liked, disclosed that about 14 cases were hospitalised.
One 15-year-old girl who had been raped, besides her physical suffering, had received a terrible mental shock, and there is no doubt that her experiences on the 25th May will leave an indelible scar on her memory.
On the 26th May, 1964, three persons were hospitalised for their injuries. One was treated and sent away.
On the 27th May, 1964, one Indian was beaten and an African who swam the Demerara River near the Christianburg area, because of rumour that the East Indians were coming to attack the community, was suffering from exhaustion and a punctured wound in the right arm.
On the 6th July, 1964, seven persons were injured including a child 3 years old who suffered a depressed fracture of the skull. She had to be sent to the St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital in Georgetown where after some time she recovered. Her brother, aged 10, was murdered when he tried to save her from further injuries.
In the Sun Chapman disaster 10 persons were injured. Five of these were admitted to the hospita1 and the other five treated and sent home. Seven other persons were treated for shock when they heard the news of the disaster.
(c) Loss and Damage
Two hundred and twenty houses were destroyed. Of those, five belonged to Africans. Three of the five were destroyed either because they were owed by P.P.P. members or by persons who had assisted East Indiana during the disturbances. The other two could not have been saved when large Indian buildings adjacent to them were on fire.
Stocks, including household furniture and general merchandise, were looted, and what could not be taken away were burnt with the buildings. Only a very small proportion of looted goods has been recovered and restored to their owners. Some loot is still lying unclaimed at the Wismar Police station.
The Social Assistance Department compiled statistics relating to the displaced persons from Wismar-Mackenzie area and they were made available to the Commission. The number of families displaced is 744 comprising 1,249 adults and 2,150 children making a total of 3,399 individuals. The estimated value of the houses is $1,457,810. The number of business premises is 87, valued at $448,540. There were 8 farms destroyed valued at $6,500 and livestock lost valued at $30,000. The estimated value of the total amount of property destroyed or lost is $1,942,850.
The occupational groupings of the displaced families are:
(a) Farmers 24
(b) Artisans 315
(c) Businessmen 101
(d) Clerical Employees 114
(e) Unclassified 190
The estimated loss in earnings, wages, or salaries per month is $135,600.
On arrival in Georgetown the evacuees were taken to the Ruimveldt bond where they were given free board and lodging for 10 days. After this period they received immediate money grants which amounted to $16,500, and they were assisted with food vouchers monthly. Every adult was given a food voucher to the value of $6 and $4 for each child per month. The vouchers were not available for clothing but they were assisted in this respect by religious and charitable organisations. Food vouchers amounted to $18,100 per month.
The number of families who we re unemployed as a result of the disturbances are as follows:
(a) Farmers 19
(b) Artisans 285
(c) Businessmen 100
(d) Clerical Employees 96
(e) Unclassified 244
These people were placed either with friends or relatives so that they could try to pick up the threads of their broken lives.
The individuals who were working at Demerara Bauxite Company on the 25th May, 1964, were 365. Of this number 342 were evacuated on the 27th May, 1964, but some of those returned subsequently. During the period between 27th May, 1964 and the 6th and 7th July, 1964, 175 were employed. On the 7th July, 1964, 132 persons were evacuated. Of the total evacuees during this period 163 persons were granted leave of absence and 116 decided to terminate their employment with the Company.
Demba gave $10,000 as financial assistance to the evacuees and the Maha Sabha expended a total of about $30,000 to assist the displaced persons.
Many of the building were not insured against riot and as a result, with one exception, no one received any insurance money for buildings or stocks. In many cases the buildings were insured below the market value. One building was insured with the Hand-in-Hand Mutual Fire Insurance Company Ltd. for $60,000. This claim was settled. The number of people insured with the Hand-in-Hand Insurance Company was 13 and the value of the buildings and stocks amounted to $100,000. Of this amount $6,000 was paid out. The British Guiana and Trinidad Mutual Fire Insurance Company Ltd. had buildings and stocks insured to the value of $335,933: buildings $253,593.00, stocks $78,000, machinery $600, furniture and other household items $3,940. No amount was paid out. There were no records of claims for life insurance as a result of the disturbances. As a result of the injuries and lootings a few criminal cases have been instituted. Some have been terminated whilst others are pending.
Many witnesses named persons who had attacked and/or robbed them. We were informed by the Police that prosecutions have been instituted against some of these persons.
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CONCLUSIONS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
(a) We have come to the conclusion that the disturbances which took place in the Wismar-Christianburg-Mackenzie area on May 25th, 1964, were politically and racially inspired. Although there is a difference of opinion among the security officers who gave evidence before us on the point, the thorough-going destruction of East Indian property, and the fact that the security forces were in no case able to apprehend arsonists, force us to conclude that the destruction was not "spontaneous" but was organised, and well organised.
(b) We are of the opinion that the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Owen, acted injudiciously in deciding that until he had received an assessment of the situation from Mr. Neil Isaacs he would not requisition British troops for service at Wismar. In consequence, the arrival of British troops was unnecessarily delayed until most of the damage to life and property had been complete. We are convinced that he had enough information from a number of sources about the extent of the disturbances in the area at least by 10.00 a.m. on the 25th of May, to justify a requisition for the immediate dispatch of British troops. Had this been done the major portion of the tragedy might not have occurred.
(c) We consider that the Commissioner of Police acted unconstitutionally in not acceding to the request made by the Minister of Home Affairs at 2.00 p.m. on May 25th to requisition British troops for service in the Wismar area.
(d) We are satisfied that Assistant Superintendent Hobbs, the Police officer in charge of the Wismar area, did keep Police Headquarters in Georgetown fully apprised of the developing situation by way of transit messages and telephone calls. It was in fact the information obtained primarily from Mr. Hobbs which was the basis of Mr. Isaac's report to the Commissioner at 3.00 p.m. on the 25th May.
(e) We consider that the limited embodiment of only a sergeant and 24 men from "D" Company, B.G.V.F., requested by the Police on Sunday May 24, considerably reduced their effectiveness as a force complementary to the small Police force at Wismar. We agree with Major Langham, Officer Commanding "D" Company, B.G.V.F., that the full embodiment of the Volunteers at Mackenzie on Sunday May 24th, might well have reduced the scale of the Monday disturbances. Even after full embodiment was requested by Mr. Hobbs at about 8.45 a.m. on Monday 25th, authority for this was not received from Col. DeFreitas until noon. This delay meant that the majority of the Volunteer Force was immobilised during the peak of the disturbances.
(f) Although the overall conduct of the security forces was not impressive, some members of the Police and Volunteer Forces, in what was without doubt a most difficult and frustrating situation, nevertheless, managed to perform their duties conscientiously, efficiently and humanely. In our opinion, however, the strategic use of tear smoke for the dispersal of the large crowds which seemed to gather everywhere at Wismar on the 25th of May would have assisted the Police and Volunteers in containing the situation. Throughout the day of the disturbances, members of the security forces must have been continuously aware of their pathetically small numbers compared with the large population they were expected to control. It is regrettable that it had not been found possible prior to the outbreak of the disturbances - probably because of lack of funds - to increase the numbers of Police at Wismar-Mackenzie as the Commissioner of Police had advised in his review of 1963.
(g) British troops requisitioned acted promptly and firmly with the minimum of severity against the population. Their presence in the area on the 6th and 7th July, l964 prevented the loss of many more Indian lives.
(h) The Demerara Bauxite Company, in spite of the ever-present threat of a strike by the majority of its employees who are Africans, nevertheless gave substantial assistance to all those who suffered during these disturbances at Wismar-Mackenzie. For those employees who might care to return when conditions settle down, Demba has kept their jobs open and has paid a gratuity to some employees with a long record of service who had resigned. We feel that the company ought to find it possible to pay some sort of gratuity or severance pay in the case of every worker who has resigned because of these disturbances.
(i) The religious and charitable organisations rendered a yeoman service in the alleviation of the sufferings of the unfortunate victims of these disturbances and in their rehabilitation.
(j) Although only one of the properties which were destroyed was insured against riot, we feel that in view of the extraordinary situation, some measure of financial relief should be granted to all those whose properties were destroyed.
(k) The recent disturbances in Wismar-Christianburg-Mackenzie have been examined by your Commissioners in the context of the wider pattern of planned violence, murders, arson, bombings, reprisals and counter-reprisals that characterised life in British Guiana during 1964. Although the number of deaths caused by violence and the amount of property destroyed was greater in the rest of the Colony, Wismar does, however, bring the months of violence into sharp focus.
There, within the brief period of 48 hours, a total section of a community was attacked, outraged and subsequently had to he evacuated. Nearly all their property was maliciously destroyed, while the majority of their erstwhile friends and neighbours either took part in the destruction or stood idly by.
We should like to express our thanks to all those persons who assisted the Commission by giving evidence or by submitting statements or memoranda. Our thanks are due also to the staff who worked, and sometimes under trying conditions, in order that the work of the Commission should he completed. The Secretary, Mr. Beekie, spared no effort in order to assist the Commission, especially after counsel to the Commission became ill.
1. S. ROPAN SINGH - Chairman
2. HAROLD A. DRAYTON - Member
3. A.S. MACDONALD - Member
4. SAVITHRI DEVI MOOTOO - Member
Dated this 29th January, 1965.
Source: Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, Georgetown, Guyana] -
Copyright© GNI Publications, 2004
Basil Fitzherbert Butcher (born September 3, 1933, Port Mourant, British Guiana (now Guyana)) is a former West Indian cricketer who played in 44 Tests from 1958 to 1969. He was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1970.
A supple, wristy, resolute batsman, Basil Butcher became a consistently reliable performer at No. 4 or 5 in the West Indies order. In his first Test series, against India in 1958-59, he made 486 runs at 69.42, but had a chequered career thereafter, until the 1963 tour of England, when he made 383 runs in eight completed innings, including 133 out of 229 in the memorable draw at Lord's. During an interval in that match he opened a letter which advised him that (against a background of civil war) his wife had had a miscarriage back home in Guyana. Very upset, Butcher continued to play a solid and masterly innings which saved his side. Two fine series against Australia led Richie Benaud to consider him the most difficult of all West Indians to get out. An occasional legspinner himself, the only Test wickets Butcher took were all in one innings - 5 for 34 (four coming in three overs) against England at Port-of-Spain in 1967-68.(Cricinfo)
Roy Clifton Fredericks (born 11 November 1942, Blairmont, British Guiana, died 5 September 2000, New York, USA) was a West Indian cricketer who played from 1968 to 1977. He was an opening batsman for the West Indies in both Test cricket and one day cricket, and made 4334 in a career spanning only nine years. ODI's were not very popular in Fredericks time, and subsequently he only appeared in 12 matches, making 311 runs.
At the county level, he represented Glamorgan in English domestic cricket and, at the national level, British Guiana and Guyana. He also represented the West Indies. He emerged as a batsman who solved the West Indian selectors dilemma about a reliable opening partnership that was settled by himself and Gordon Greenidge in the mid-1970s. He was an aggressive batsman who liked to counterattack fast bowlers, but also was capable as a traditional accumulator of runs also. His highest innings score was 169 against Australia. Fredericks was Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1974.(Wikipedia)
Lancelot Richard Gibbs (born 29 September 1934 in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana) was a West Indies cricketer, one of the most successful spin bowlers in Test cricket history. He took 309 Test wickets, only the second player (after Fred Trueman) to pass 300, the first spinner to pass that milestone, and had an exceptional economy rate of under two runs per over. He was, however, a very poor batsman, who never made a half-century in first-class cricket.
Gibbs made his first-class debut in 1953-54, playing for British Guiana against MCC at his home ground of Bourda. In MCC's first (and indeed only) innings, he bowled Denis Compton for 18 to leave the tourists precariously poised at 51/3. Gibbs also took the wicket of Tom Graveney - but by then a mammoth fourth-wicket partnership of 402 between Graveney and Willie Watson had propelled MCC towards an innings victory, so Gibbs did not get a second chance to bowl.
Gibbs played a few more first-class games for British Guiana over the next few years, and some good performances (including 4-68 in the final of the Quadrangular Tournament against Barbados in 1956-57) gained him selection for the West Indies side to host Pakistan the following season. He made his debut in the second Test at Port-of-Spain, taking four wickets in the match, and retained his place for the rest of the five-match series, his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket coming when he claimed 5-80 in the fourth Test at Bourda.
He went on the tour to India in 1957-58, but played in only one Test, in which he went wicketless. The tour of Pakistan that immediately followed was a little more fruitful, with eight wickets in three games. However, it was the 1960-61 tour of Australia that was to prove a turning point in Gibbs' international career: he played only in the last three Tests, but took 19 wickets at 20.78: eight at Sydney, five at Adelaide (including a hat-trick) and six at Melbourne.
The early 1960s were Gibbs' most productive period in Test cricket, and his greatest achievements came in the 1961-62 home series against India. Over the course of five Tests he picked up 24 wickets at just 20.41 apiece, including one of the game's greatest spells of bowling at Bridgetown, where he single-handedly reduced the Indians from 149/2 to 187 all out with eight wickets in 15.3 overs at a total cost of just six runs; Gibbs' final innings return of 8-38 was his best in a Test match.
In 1963 West Indies toured England, and Gibbs had another highly successful series, taking 26 wickets at 21.30 including 5-59 and 6-98 in a ten-wicket triumph at Manchester. Further successful series followed: indeed, in eight successive series topped and tailed by the 1960-61 and 1968-69 tours to Australia, Gibbs never took fewer than 18 Test wickets and took five or more wickets in an innings on 12 occasions.
In 1967 Gibbs played for Warwickshire in the English County Championship, for whom he would continue to appear each season until 1973, although his appearances in 1969 and 1973 were reduced because of his commitments with West Indies' tours of England. In 1970, after a winter spent with South Australia, he took a career-best 8-37 against Glamorgan, but by far his most successful season in England was 1971 in which Gibbs claimed 131 first-class wickets at only 18.89, with nine five-wicket hauls. This exceptional performance gained Gibbs a Wisden Cricketer of the Year award in the following year's Almanack.
In 1973, at the age of almost 39, Gibbs made his One-Day International debut against England at Leeds as part of the Prudential Trophy tournament, taking the wicket of England captain Mike Denness. He played only two further ODIs: the first again being against England two days later at the Oval (11-4-12-1 and the wicket of John Jameson), and a single outing against Sri Lanka at Manchester in the 1975 World Cup, in which he bowled just four overs without success.
Gibbs' last Test matches were played on the tour of Australia in 1975-76. Although he played in all six Tests, and took 5-102 in the first innings of the first Test at Brisbane, his 16 wickets came at an average of over 40, the worst of his five series against these opponents. He passed the milestone of 300 Test victims at Perth by dismissing Gary Gilmour. His last Test match, and indeed his last appearance in senior cricket of any description, was at Melbourne, his 309th and final Test wicket being that - again - of Gilmour.
After his retirement from the game, Gibbs emigrated to the United States, but returned to prominence briefly in 1991 when he managed West Indies' tour to England.
Gibbs is the cousin of another great West Indies cricketer, Clive Lloyd, with whom he appeared for West Indies on a number of occasions.(Wikipedia)
Born December 15, 1966, Georgetown, Demerara, Guyana
It was March 31, 1995, West Indies v Australia, Bridgetown: the first morning of the first Test. Australia, off to a flyer, had taken three wickets for six when Cool Carl walked to the crease. Immediately Shane Warne was brought into the attack to bowl the 10th over of the series. He went round the wicket. The first ball was met yards down the pitch and deposited in the air to the long-on boundary. Down the pitch to the second, Hooper inside-edged to fine leg for four more. The third received the same treatment as the first: 12 from the first three balls. By lunch, Hooper and Brian Lara, in a memorable counter-attack, had put on precisely 100 together. That was Hooper's potential. His second Test innings brought a century in Calcutta, but all too often he failed to deliver. A mid-thirties average is a dereliction of duty for a batsman of his exquisite charms and ability. The captaincy, which he took on after a prolonged absence from the side, briefly brought out the best in him, and for two years he averaged nearer 50. But, following a disappointing World Cup in 2003, he was replaced by Lara and once more reverted to semi-retirement.(Cricinfo)
Alvin Isaac Kallicharran (born March 21, 1949) was a West Indian batsman who played from 1972 to 1981. His elegant, watchful batting style produced some substantial innings for a West Indian team very much in its formative years in the seventies. He was Wisden's Cricketer of the Year for 1973.
Kallicharran was born in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana). Though he was a talented batsman like many of his peers, Kallicharran only managed 4473 runs, but at an average of 44.43 in 66 matches, he demonstrated his capability. He was part of the 1979 team that won the Cricket World Cup. His highest innings was a score of 187 against England in the 1974 tour.
A small man, he had poise, balance, orthodoxy, and a full repertoire of strokes off either foot. He was at his best away from soft, seaming pitches, despite his successes with Warwickshire in English County cricket. Probably his finest innings, a superb knock of 158 against England, was shrouded in controversy when he was run out by Tony Greig towards the end of the first day. He attempted to join World Series Cricket, but failed, and was appointed captain of the West Indies in 1977-1978 when Clive Lloyd resigned over the Packer issue.(Wikipedia)
Rohan Bholalall Kanhai (born December 26, 1935 in Port Mourant, Berbice, British Guiana) was a West Indian batsman in the late fifties, sixties and early seventies. He is considered a cricketing legend. Kanhai featured in several great West Indian teams, which included such talent as Sir Garfield Sobers, Roy Fredericks, Lance Gibbs, and Alvin Kallicharran.
He sparkled as a specialist batsman and hit 6227 runs in only 79 matches at a robust average of 47.53. His best innings was in Calcutta, India. He scored 256 off of the Indian bowlers. He was famous for his unorthodox shots, most notably the "falling hook" shot, in which he finished his follow through lying on his back. In his county cricket career for Warwickshire, he also starred alongside Kallicharran, as well as John Jameson, and Dennis Amiss. The great Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar named his son Rohan after Kanhai, and wrote of Kanhai, "To say that he is the greatest batsman I have ever seen so far is to put it mildly."(Wikipedia)
Clive Hubert Lloyd, born 31 August 1944 in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), is a former West Indies cricketer. He captained the West Indies between 1974 and 1985 and oversaw their rise to become the dominant Test-playing nation, a position that was only relinquished in the latter half of the 1990s. He is still one of the most successful Test captains of all time: during his captaincy the side had a run of 27 matches without defeat, which included 11 wins in succession (Viv Richards acted as captain for one of the 27 matches, against Australia at Port of Spain in 1983-84). He was the first West Indian player to earn 100 international caps.
Lloyd was a tall, powerful middle-order batsman and occasional medium-pace bowler. He scored over 7500 runs at Test level, at an average of 46.67. His scholarly appearance and slight stoop masked his obvious talent as a batsman. He wore his famous glasses due to a fight when he was young at school, which damaged his eyes. He hit 77 sixes in his Test career, which is the sixth highest number of any player. He played for his home nation of Guyana in West Indies domestic cricket, and for Lancashire (he was made captain in 1981) in England. His Test match debut came in 1966. In 1971 he was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year. He is a cousin of spin bowler Lance Gibbs.
Since retiring as a player, Lloyd has remained heavily involved in cricket, managing the West Indies in the late 1990s, and coaching and commentating. He is currently an ICC match referee.
In 2005, Lloyd offered his patronage to Major League Cricket for their inaugural Interstate Cricket Cup in the United States, to be named the Sir Clive Lloyd Cup.(Wikipedia)
Shivnarine Chanderpaul (born August 18, 1974 in Unity Village, Mahaica, Guyana) is West Indian cricketer of Indo-Guyanese ethnicity, the left-handed Chanderpaul is known for his doggedness and ability to stick on the wicket for long hours. His very unorthodox stance while batting is also highly recognised as one of the "crabbiest" techniques in international cricket, with his body almost directly facing the square leg umpire.
Chanderpaul's first notable impact on Test cricket was as being the last batting partner of Brian Lara when Lara broke the 365-not out record set by Gary Sobers in the fifth and final Test against England in 1993-94. Lara went on to make 375 before he was caught off Andrew Caddick's bowling, sharing a 219-run stand with Chanderpaul, who was left not out on 75.
Chanderpaul made his first Test century in his 19th Test match - after having scored 15 half-centuries in the preceding 18 matches. In the third of a five-Test series against India in 1996-97, he made 137 not out at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados. He also featured with his Guyanese counterpart, Ramnaresh Sarwan, making 104 in chasing a world record 418 to win in the fourth innings of the final Test match versus Australia in 2002-03.
Chanderpaul's best first class score is 303 not out versus Jamaica for Guyana, and, despite his reputation as a dogged batsman, he has also made the third fastest century in Test cricket, scoring three figures in just 67 balls at the GCC Ground Bourda, Guyana, also in the 2002-03 series against Australia.
He was named captain of the West Indies in the first Test versus South Africa in March 2005 in Guyana, after seven senior players including captain Brian Lara were dropped in a sponsorship row. Making an unbeaten 200 and a sporting declaration in the first Test, it was announced that although Lara was returning to the team for the second Test, Chanderpaul would retain the captaincy for the rest of the series. He was named to the squad of 20 for the World XI to face Australia in the Super Test in October 2005, but when the squad was cut to 14 names in August his name was not mentioned.
From humble beginnings, Chanderpaul remains one of the most recognisable faces in all of the West Indies, particularly his native Guyana, and he has come a long way from his first 50 in his first Test versus England in 1993-94 at Bourda to his current status as West Indian batting star and captain.
In 1999, while sitting in his car with a young girlfriend at Georgetown's Sea Wall, he was disturbed by a policeman. Mistaking him for a mugger, Chanderpaul shot the policeman in the hand. No charges were brought.(Wikipedia)
Ramnaresh Ronnie Sarwan (born June 23, 1980, Guyana) is a West Indian cricketer. He has been a member of the West Indian cricket team since his Test debut against Pakistan at Barbados in May 2000 when he remained unbeaten in both innings scoring 84 in the first innings. He missed out on scoring his maiden Test century against South Africa in March 2001 when he was run out for 91. His score of 78 in the 2nd Test against India at Chennai in October 2002 was his 4th innings of 75+ that couldn't be converted into a century. His maiden Test century came in his next Test series against Bangladesh at Dhaka. His next Test century came against Australia at St. John's in May 2003. His best innings (261 not out) came against Bangladesh in June 2004. He has played 50 Test matches scoring at an average of 40 runs per innings with 6 centuries and 21 fifties. He is also a part-time bowler having taken 20 wickets with best bowling figures of 4/37.
During the most recent controversy involving the bowling action of Sri Lanka great Muttiah Muralitharan, which led to an International Cricket Council investigation of most of the world's international-class bowlers, Sarwan was found to be the only bowler tested who did not transgress the Laws of Cricket regarding the straightening of the arm during delivery.(Wikipedia)
Celebrating our creative personalities
Scots, British Guiana and Andrew Watson
By Dr Vibert C. Cambridge
Sunday, September 11th 2005
The story of Andrew Watson brings us one step closer to knowing a little bit about these invisible women in Guyanese history. Andrew Watson is recognized as "the world's first black international football player" and the "world's first black football administrator."
Andrew Watson was born in Demerara, British Guiana in May 1857. His father was "a wealthy Scottish sugar planter Peter Millar and [his mother a] local girl Rose Watson." At the age of 14, he was a student at the exclusive King's College, London. Here he excelled in sport, especially football (soccer).
At the age of 19, he was a student of philosophy, mathematics, and engineering at the University of Glasgow.
The University of Glasgow's records indicate that during the period 1859-1888 there were 14 British Guianese at the university. These included John L Alexander (Medicine) and Joseph Martin Jansen (Arts) who were from Berbice. There were several medical students from Demerara and these included, John P. Watt, Hector C. Cameron, Donald Fraser, Charles Gibbon, David Elliott, Thomas Patterson and George Thorpe. Other students from British Guiana were studying Arts, Greek, and Law. These records tell us much about the fathers of the students. Many of them were medical doctors, planters, builders, merchants, and owners of estates.
The records are silent on the mothers. Inquires to the university's archives revealed that those records were not routinely kept. However, it was clear from other sources that Watson's mother was a woman of African descent.
Watson continued to excel as a footballer at the University of Glasgow. As a result he made a name for himself and established a number of unassailable records.
He played for Scotland's premier team, Queen's Park Football Club, and led the team to several Scottish Cup wins. As a result, he is recognized as the first black player to win a major football competition.
Watson represented Scotland on three occasions. In 1881, he led Scotland's team to a 6-1 victory over England. For this he is recognized as the world's first black international football captain.
Watson later joined The Corinthians. Jonathan Coates considers this to have been a "remarkable coup." He noted, "The Corinthians were regarded as one of the most exclusive gentlemen's clubs in the world, with only 50 members, yet here they were admitting a Scot of Pan-American heritage."
The story of British Guianaese-born Andrew Watson fired the imagination of football circles in the United Kingdom during the early years of the 21st century. The BBC produced a special Andrew Watson: Scotland's Lost Captain.
In concluding his article on Andrew Wastson, Coates noted, "Andrew Watson, Glaswegian aristocrat, gentleman, pioneer of amateur football and scourge of the English. And a black man to boot. How on earth were we ignorant of him for so long?"
Let us extend that remark and ask why have we been ignorant for so long about the black women who have mothered so many of Guyana's influential families.
There is virtually no record of Watson's life after football. It is known that he emigrated to Australia and that he died in Sydney.
There are many stories associated with music in Guyanese history
University of Hunger
is the university of hunger the wide waste.
is the pilgrimage of man the wide march.
The print of hunger wanders in the land.
The green tree bends above the long forgotten.
The plains of life rise up and fall in spasms.
The huts of men are fused in misery.
They come treading in the hoofmarks of the mule
passing the ancient bridge
the grave of pride
the sudden flight
the terror and the time.
They come from the distant village of the flood
passing from middle air to middle earth
in the common hours of nakedness.
Twin bars of hunger mark their metal brows
twin seasons mock them
parching drought and flood.
is the dark ones
the half sunken in the land.
is they who had no voice in the emptiness
in the unbelievable
in the shadowless.
They come treading on the mud floor of the year
mingling with dark heavy waters
and the sea sound of the eyeless flitting bat.
O long is the march of men and long is the life
and wide is the span.
is the air dust and the long distance of memory
is the hour of rain when sleepless toads are silent
is broken chimneys smokeless in the wind
is brown trash huts and jagged mounds of iron
The come in long lines toward the broad city
is the golden moon like a big coin in the sky
is the floor of bone beneath the floor of flesh
is the beak of sickness breaking on the stone
O long is the march of men, and long is the life
and wide is the span
O cold is the cruel wind blowing.
O cold is the hoe in the ground.
They come like sea birds
flapping in the wake of a boat
is the torture of sunset in purple bandages
is the powder of the fire spread like dust in the twilight
is the water melodies of white foam on wrinkled sand.
The long streets of night move up and down
baring the thighs of a woman.
and the cavern of generation.
The beating drum returns and dies away.
The bearded men fall down and go to sleep.
The cocks of dawn stand up and crow like bugles.
is they who rose early in the morning
watching the moon die in the dawn.
is they who heard the shell blow and the iron clang.
is they who had no voice in the emptiness
in the unbelievable
in the shadowless.
O long is the march of men and long is the life
and wide is the span.
(Martin Carter in Poems of Resistance,1954)
For more of Martin Carter's poetry, please visit http://martincarter.blogspot.com
(Collage courtesy of David Mozer, Ibike Cultural Tours)
Like amazon rain I dance
For the African drum becomes my soul
My tropical frame I now behold!
Jubilant and enchanted, revisiting time and times of old...
I dance the dance of an old African.
I dance the dance of an old African.
Like lightning in the rain I dance
For the Indian drum becomes my dream
And rose like a mystical streak, a vision unseen!
A vision of light, with ghungrus and sari...
I dance the dance of an old Indian.
I dance the dance of an old Indian.
Like clouds of fire I dance
For the cumfa drum speaks to me
Spiritual flames across the floor; resurrected and free!
I dance the dance of cumfa.
I dance the dance of cumfa.
Like Amazon rain - lightning and clouds of fire I dance
For the masquerade drums awake my soul
My tropical spirit, like flickering lights unfold!
I dance the dance of Guyana.
I dance the dance of Guyana.
James C. Richmond
Yvonne Cho-Yee (my mom !!)
Des Glasford & The Combo 7
Francis Quamina Farrier
Dave Martins & The Tradewinds
Sister Noel Menezes
Bill "Bhagee" Rogers
Olga Lopes Seales
Raj Kumari Singh
Shurland "King Fighter" Wilson
Online Caribbean/Guyanese Arts Journal
Always accepting submissions !!
1. All cassava get same skin but all nah taste same way. Though people may look alike because of their mode of dress, they are different in their ways.
2. Baby who ah cry ah house and ah door ah same thing. The same manner in which you treats your child, you should treat another's.
3. Belly full behind drunk. After you have eaten and drunken much you tend to become lazy.
4. Big tree fall down, goat bite he leaf. When a great man falls, he is no longer feared and respected.
5. Bush get ears and dutty get tongue. Sometimes you think that what you do or say nobody sees or hears, but yet your secrets are known.
6. Cat foot soft but he ah scratch bad. Some people may seem friendly and understanding but to your surprise it is not really so.
7. Cuss when yuh ah guh, nah wheh yuh ah come out. You must not curse the place that you have come from, because sometime in the future you may have to return there.
8. Contrary breeze ah mek crow and eagle light on one line. When there is trouble, enemies are sometimes forced to get together to solve problems.
9. Cow deh a pasture he nah remember seh dog and butcher deh till he see am. Sometimes when you think you are safe, danger is lurking nearby.
10. Cat a ketch rat, but he a teef he massa fish. Good and evil come from the same source.
11. Clath ah easy fuh dutty but hard fuh wash. Having achieved a goal, it is difficult to retain it.
12. Dah mouth dat man tek fuh court woman, ah de same mouth he ah tek an put she ah door. When a man is courting a woman, he is very concerned, kind and considerate, but when the novelty of the relationship is over, he finds faults and is unkind.
13. Don't mind how bird vex, it can't vex with tree. It does not matter if you are annoyed with conditions at work, you have to return to your job. Similarly, although you may be frustrated with the situation in your homeland, you may still have to return to it.
14. Dog buy rum, cow drink am, hog in sty get drunk. A matter may not concern someone, yet he or she gets involved.
15. Every rope gat two ends. Every story has two sides.
16. Every fowl feed pon he own craw. Everybody has to learn and find out what is good for himself or herself.
17. Every best friend get a next best friend. Your secrets are spread from best friend to best friend to best friend.
18. Every bush a man night time. Things seem worse than they really are when we are afraid.
19. Fish ah deh ah watah but nah ah dam tap. There are places where you can play an important part, but here are other places where you can be insignificant.
20. Fish ah play ah sea, he nah know watah ah boil fuh am. Sometimes when you are enjoying yourself, unknown to you, trouble is brewing in the background.
21. Fish and cast-net nah friend. In life it is difficult for you to relate to someone who may be unfriendly or hostile.
22. Good gubby nah ah float ah tap. Good things do not come easily.
23. Hungry nah know bam-by. If you have a need, you grasp at everything that fulfills it.
24. If yuh finger get sore, nah tek am and throw way. A member of your family may turn delinquent but that does not mean that you must disown him or refuse to help him.
25. If yuh eye nah see, yuh mouth nah must talk. You must see for yourself before you talk.
26. If cow-man pass wild meat whah mek me must pick up am. You should not go against the decision or choice of a person you feel is qualified to make the right choice.
27. It nah good to shove yuh foot in every stocking. You should not try to position yourself everywhere or in everything.
28. If me bin know always deh behind de door. We are quick to use ignorance as an excuse for our mistakes.
29. If yuh nah get wing, nah ah guh a bird sport. If you feel that you do not belong somewhere you should not go there. Also, if you are unable to do something, you should not do it.
30. If dutty ah deh ah roof tap, yuh barrel ah catch am. Children learn bad habits from their parents.
31. If oil ah float watah deh ah battam. A little evidence can tell the whole story.
32. If yuh plant plantain yuh can't reap cassava. You reap what you sow.
33. If trousers say massah teef, yuh can't doubt am. If someone close to you says something about you it is most likely true.
34. Lil finger point to de big thumb and sey nah guh. Those who are leading can see the danger ahead and are in a position to give advice.
35. Lil boy nah climb ladder to turn big man. Only time can make you what you will be.
36. Lil ah sick, big a get better. When you are small you are insignificant, but when you become big you are strong and important.
37. Man strength deh ah he hand, woman strength deh a she mouth. It is assumed that a woman talks very much, but a man talks less and quickly resorts to violence.
38. Mouth cut trousers nah ah fit Massa. What you boast about yourself may not necessarily be true.
39. Macaw ask parrot if mango ripe, he say one, one. You should not tell everything. Room should be left to others to find out some things for themselves.
40. Moon ah run till daylight ketch am. You may think that you are getting away with your misdeeds, but one day you will be caught.
41. Nah all who guh a church house ah guh fuh pray. It is not everything you must take at face value.
42. Nah tek yuh mattie eye fuh see. See for yourself and form your own conclusions instead of relying on the reports of others.
43. Nah one time a fire mek peas boil. Some things take a long time to be completed.
44. Nah because dog ah play with yuh he nah bite yuh. Some people talk kindly to you but they are capable of hurting you.
45. Nah every crab hole get crab. Things do not always turn out to be what you expect them to be.
46. Nah every big head get sense. If a person's head is big it is not necessarily brainy.
47. Nah mind how pumpkin vine run, he must dry up one day. Every life comes to an end sooner or later.
48. Nah put all two foot in river if yuh want see how he deep. Do not jump into a venture before you make sure that it is worthy.
49. Nah everything scholar know he learn from teacher. In life you learn from everybody and everything in the environment in which you find yourself.
50. Never guh a store ah night fuh buy black cloth. You must attempt something only when all aspects seem clear.
51. No good carpenter does get good wuk bench. When you are good at a job you are expected to perform just as well without the necessary tools and support.
52. Nobody want dutty powder. People will not respect you if you have a bad reputation.
53. One man money mek too much man cry. Sometimes when a person dies others will cry not so much in sorrow but in joy for the expected inheritance.
54. One kiss nah done lips. A source of enjoyment is always available where it was once found.
55. Orange yellow but yuh nah know if he sweet. You cannot judge everything from the outside.
56. Only knife ah know whah in pumpkin belly. Only after experiencing trials and crises in life can a person's true self be known.
57. Rain ah fall ah roof yuh put barrel fuh ketch am. There is an opportunity for everyone and you must try to grasp it.
58. Shame face ah feel like cent ice. When you are made to feel ashamed, you wish you could disappear from the public's eye.
59. Some pork-knockers does only clear track fuh monkey run race. Some people do all the hard work but others benefit in the end.
60. Seven years nah too much fuh wash speck off ah bird neck. Some people will never change their ways and attitude.
61. Slow fire ah boil hard cow-heel. If you persevere you can make great accomplishments.
62. Tongue nah gat teeth but he ah bite fuh true. You can hurt a person by what you say as if you literally bite him.
63. Turtle can't walk if he nah push he head outa he shell. In life you cannot make any kind of progress if you do not take risks. Also, the first steps must be made.
64. Turtle nah want trouble mek he walk with he house pon he back. You should be always prepared for disappointment or trouble.
65. Too much sit down ah bruck trousers. Lazy people wear out their pants and get nothing done.
66. The looks ah de pudding is not de taste. You should not always take things by their looks.
67. Vice nah hurt but conscience ah hurt yuh. Although you tend to be ignored for the wrong things you do, you still have your conscience to deal with.
68. Vex nah gat plaster fuh passion. Vexation will cure a problematic situation.
69. Wasteful man money ah guh like butter in de sun. If you waste your money it would be finished very quickly.
70. When man mek heself sugar he mattie ah suck am. Sometimes when you make yourself too kind your friends and associates will take advantage.
71. When yuh buy ah dutty calico yuh gat fuh wear am till it tear. When you make a decision you must be prepared to abide with the consequences.
72. When yuh play out all yuh trump cards yuh gat to lose till game done. Giving up your advantages places you in a losing position.
73. When yuh dead yuh nah sabee, and when yuh sabee yuh dead. You spend a lifetime trying to acquire knowledge and understanding, and when it seems that all has been grasped, life ends.
74. When man done suck cane he dash peeling pan ground. Some people make use of things and people and then carelessly discard them.
75. When Mumma dead family done. When a mother is around, she keeps the family together, but when she dies the members of the family tend to scatter.
76. When dog hungry he ah nyam calabash. To fill a need you make do with anything at hand.
77. When gaulding see fish he forget seh gun deh. Sometimes when you are enjoying yourself, unknown to you, trouble is brewing in the background.
78. When yuh deh in bad luck wet paper self ah cut yuh. A spell of misfortune causes our whole outlook to be bleak. The smallest incident can cause us to feel hurt.
79. When water throw away ah ground yuh can't pick am up. It is no use crying over a mishap.
80. When coconut fall from tree he can't fasten back. Some happenings cannot be changed or reversed.
81. When two big bottle deh ah table lil one nah business deh. When two powerful people meet to discuss business, everybody else must know his place.
82. Whah hurt eye does mek nose run water. When one member of the family is hurt all others feel it.
83. When you want fuh swim river yuh gat fuh plunge inside fuss. You have to take risks when you attempt new ventures.
84. Yuh tel tara and tara tell tara. When you tell a friend a secret soon everyone knows because your friend will tell another friend.
85. Youth nah ah weary but he ah fall down. When you are young you carry much burden, but as you get old you can take on only little responsibility.
86. Yuh can't chew bone with gum. If you do not have the necessary expertise or tools for a job, it is better not to bother with it.
87. Yuh can't fatten cow fuh another man butcher. When you work hard and achieve something in life, you are not happy if it is taken away by others.
88. Yuh can't drink mauby and belch beer. If you put little effort in a task you can expect very little success.
89. Yuh can't suck cane and blow whistle. Do not try to carry out two tasks at the same time.
90. Yuh gat fuh blow yuh nose where yuh stump yuh toe. Some people take out their anger on those who are nearby but have nothing to do with it.
91. One, one dutty build dam. Every little bit adds up.
92. Dance a battam watch a tap While enjoying yourself look out for things that can threaten you.
93. Never cuss bridge that you cross Be grateful for favors from anyone because someday you may need another.
94. Monkey dress e pickney till he spoil. Don't try to over do something, keep it simple.
Date of Birth (DOB): 2/23/47
Best Known for: Miss Guyana, Model, Wife of Micheal Caine
Bio: Born the eldest of four children in a Muslim East-Indian family in Guyana, Shakiraâs father died when she was only 5 years old. After graduating from high School, Shakira, influenced by her mothers talent as a dressmaker was inspired to become a fashion designer. She said in an interview with Ruby Spolia âshe made all our clothes, including the elaborate evening gowns I wore for the Miss World Contest. She had an extraordinary talent for creating exquisite designs and I would loved to have done the same." She put aside her aspirations and went to work as a secretary, her boss encouraged her to enter the Miss Guyana contest, and went as far as to mail her application and photos in. She won Miss Guyana and placed third in the 1967 Miss World competition in London at the age of 19. After her appearance in the Miss World contest worked for four years as a professional model in advertisements for Maxwell House coffee, and other companies. .She has been married to actor Michael Caine since 1973 they have a daughter, Natasha. She appeared in the film "The Man Who Would Be King," with her husband and Sean Connery and then choose to give up her showbiz career to raise her family. Today, Shakira designs exotic and runs a restaurant called 'The Canteen' at Chelsea Harbour.
(Courtesy of Caribbean Hall of Fame)
Guyana rests in a unicameral National Assembly, with 53 members chosen on the basis of proportional representation from national lists named by the political parties. An additional 12 members are elected by regional councils at the same time as the National Assembly. The elections system was revised for the 2001 elections. The president may dissolve the assembly and call new elections at any time, but no later than 5 years from its first sitting.
Executive authority is exercised by the president, who appoints and supervises the prime minister and other ministers. The president is not directly elected; each party presenting a slate of candidates for the assembly must designate in advance a leader who will become president if that party receives the largest number of votes. Any dissolution of the assembly and election of a new assembly can lead to a change in the assembly majority and consequently a change in the presidency. Only the prime minister is required to be a member of the assembly. In practice, most other ministers also are members. Those who are not serve as nonelected members, which permits them to debate but not to vote.
The highest judicial body is the Court of Appeal, headed by a chancellor of the judiciary. The second level is the High Court (Guyana), presided over by a chief justice. The chancellor and the chief justice are appointed by the president.
For administrative purposes, Guyana is divided into 10 regions, each headed by a chairman who presides over a regional democratic council. Local communities are administered by village or city councils.
Race and ideology have been the dominant political influences in Guyana. Since the split of the multiracial PPP in 1955, politics has been based more on ethnicity than on ideology. From 1964 to 1992, the PNC dominated Guyana's politics. The PNC draws its support primarily from urban Blacks, and for many years declared itself a socialist party whose purpose was to make Guyana a nonaligned socialist state, in which the party, as in communist countries, was above all other institutions.
The overwhelming majority of Guyanese of East Indian extraction traditionally have backed the People's Progressive Party, headed by the Jagans. Rice farmers and sugar workers in the rural areas form the bulk of PPP's support, but Indo-Guyanese who dominate the country's urban business community also have provided important support.
Following independence, and with the help of substantial foreign aid, social benefits were provided to a broader section of the population, specifically in health, education, housing, road and bridge building, agriculture, and rural development. However, during Forbes Burnham's last years, the government's attempts to build a socialist society caused a massive emigration of skilled workers, and, along with other economic factors, led to a significant decline in the overall quality of life in Guyana.
After Burnham's death in 1985, President Hoyte took steps to stem the economic decline, including strengthening financial controls over the parastatal corporations and supporting the private sector. In August 1987, at a PNC Congress, Hoyte announced that the PNC rejected orthodox communism and the one-party state.
As the elections scheduled for 1990 approached, Hoyte, under increasing pressure from inside and outside Guyana, gradually opened the political system. After a visit to Guyana by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1990, Hoyte made changes in the electoral rules, appointed a new chairman of the Elections Commission, and endorsed putting together new voters' lists, thus delaying the election. The elections, which finally took place in 1992, were witnessed by 100 international observers, including a group headed by Mr. Carter and another from the commonwealth of nations. Both groups issued reports saying that the elections had been free and fair, despite violent attacks on the Elections Commission building on election day and other irregularities.
Cheddi Jagan served as Premier (1957-1964) and then minority leader in Parliament until his election as President in 1992. One of the Caribbean's most charismatic and famous leaders, Jagan was a founder of the PPP which led Guyana's struggle for independence. Over the years, he moderated his Marxist-Leninist ideology. After his election as President, Jagan demonstrated a commitment to democracy, followed a pro-Western foreign policy, adopted free market policies, and pursued sustainable development for Guyana's environment. Nonetheless, he continued to press for debt relief and a new global human order in which developed countries would increase assistance to less developed nations. Jagan died on 6 March 1997, and was succeeded by Samuel A. Hinds, whom he had appointed Prime Minister. President Hinds then appointed Janet Jagan, widow of the late President, to serve as Prime Minister.
In national elections on 15 December 1997, Janet Jagan was elected President, and her PPP party won a 55% majority of seats in Parliament. She was sworn in on 19 December. Mrs. Jagan is a founding member of the PPP and was very active in party politics. She was Guyana's first female prime minister and vice president, two roles she performed concurrently before being elected to the presidency. She was also unique in being white, Jewish and a naturalized citizen (born in the United States.)
The PNC, which won just under 40% of the vote, disputed the results of the 1997 elections, alleging electoral fraud. Public demonstrations and some violence followed, until a CARICOM team came to Georgetown to broker an accord between the two parties, calling for an international audit of the election results, a redrafting of the constitution, and elections under the constitution within 3 years. Elections took place on 19 March 2001. Over 150 international observers representing six international missions witnessed the polling. The observers pronounced the elections fair and open although marred by some administrative problems.
Bharrat Jagdeo 1999 - Present
Janet Jagan 1997 - 1999
Samuel Hinds March 6, 1996 - December 19 1997
Desmond Hoyte 1985 - 1992
Forbes Burnham 1966 - 1985
Cheddi Jagan 1957 - 1964, 1992 - 1997
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Why they came
In 1834, the slaves who had been taken from Africa to the colonies of Britain were set free. In British Guiana a significant proportion of the freedmen chose to live off the fertile land and sought paid employment on an irregular basis. The resulting reduction in the labour force caused the sugar plantation owners to search for replacement workers. They obtained large numbers of labourers from Madeira (Portugal), India and China each bound by a contract of indenture. The Chinese were the smallest group of these indentured workers.
When they came
The first batch of Chinese landed in Georgetown, British Guiana in 1853, and for the next few years all were men, most being taken forcibly. To curb the excesses of this trade in human cargo the British and Chinese authorities in Canton agreed to a formal supervised recruitment process and families were encouraged to emigrate. Chinese women began arriving in 1860, but in small numbers. The period from 1860 to 1866 saw a relatively large influx of immigrants, bringing the local Chinese population to a peak of 10,022 in 1866. Subsequently only two boats arrived with Chinese immigrants, one in 1874 and the other in 1879. After this Chinese immigrants came of their own free will and at their own expense.
How they came
The 39 ships that brought the Chinese labourers were chartered by recruiting agents based in Canton, China, with the cost of shipping shared between the colony's Immigration Fund and the plantation owners. The ships travelled by way of Singapore and Cape Town, arriving at Georgetown after a journey of between 70 and 177 days.
Where they went
The distribution of Chinese labourers to the sugar plantations in the three counties of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequebo was made by the Immigration Agent-General who based his decision on the quotas submitted by the plantation owners several months previously. Families were kept together in the distribution.
Passenger lists were maintained by the Immigration Office in Georgetown and an ongoing search is in progress to locate these and other relevant documents that give the names of the Chinese immigrants. The names of some indivduals are presented in this compilation and further names will be added as they become known.
By 1900 the Chinese population in British Guiana had dwindled to 2,919 since the majority of Chinese at that time preferred to marry people from their own country but there were too few Chinese women available. Many also left the colony to seek their destiny in other countries, particularly French Guiana, Surinam and Trinidad.
(Chinese Association before the fire)
(Chinese Association Rebuilt)
(Courtesy of Trev Sue-A-Quan)
In the 1830s and into the 1850s Portugal was undergoing a series of crises - recurring civil wars between the Constitutionalists and the Absolutists, the repercussions of which were felt in Madeira. Many young men jumped at the opportunity to get out of Madeira at any cost and thus evade compulsory military service which was necessary, as Madeira was considered part of metropolitan Portugal. Also, more and more, poverty was becoming a harsh reality of life on the thirty-four mile long, fourteen mile wide island of 100,000 inhabitants. During the first decade of the nineteenth century life for the peasant, the colono who worked the land for the lord of the manor, had become even harder.
Madeira had been discovered in 1419 by Joao Goncalves Zarco under the auspices of Prince Henry, the Navigator, and by 1425 it had been settled. Prince Henry, son of Joao 1 of Portugal and patron of exploration, an unusually far-seeing and intellectual prince of his age and of many centuries beyond, was responsible for the introduction of the sugar-cane from Sicily to Madeira. By 1456 the first shipment of sugar was sent to England, and by the end of the century the burgeoning sugar industry was helping Madeira to play a prominent role in the commerce of the period. Bentley Duncan claims:
(The Madeiran capital of Funchal)
"By 1500, when Madeira had reached only its seventy-fifth year of settlement the island had become the world's greatest producer of sugar, and with its complex European and African connections, was also an important centre for shipping and navigation."
After 1570 the sugar trade began to decline as it faced competition from the cheaper and better-refined Brazilian product. Also the industry had been bedevilled by soil exhaustion, soil erosion, expensive irrigation measures, destruction by rats and insects, and ravaging by plant diseases.
As sugar declined in international trade the wine trade took precedence. Here again Madeira owed its name as a famous wine-producing country to the enterprises of Prince Henry who introduced the vine from Cyprus and Crete. The 'Madeira' of Madeira took its place with the port of Oporto on the tables of the world. It was soon discovered that the rolling of the ship added to the rich quality of the wine, and in the 17th and 18th centuries no ship left the island without a large consignment of pipes of Madeira for the West Indies and England, the largest consumers. In the 19th century wine was being shipped from Madeira to the United States, England, the West Indies, the East Indies, France, Portugal, Denmark, Cuba, Gibraltar, Newfoundland, Brazil, Africa and Russia. By the late 19th century St Petersburg, Russia, vied with London in its consumption of Madeira. But as with the sugar industry so too with the viniculture. The vines were often demolished by diseases. In 1948 the oidium ravaged the plants, and by 1853 vine cultivation was almost totally abandoned. Twenty years later, the phylloxera, which also nearly ruined the French wine industry, crippled the vines.
(Portuguese family, circa 1920s)
The Madeiran peasant, in particular, owed his existence and that of his family to his job as a sugar-worker, a vine-tender or a borracheiro (transporter of wines in skins). No wonder when catastrophe continuously hit those crops, "the peasant, descending from the sierra with his bundle of beech sticks for the beans, and occasionally stopping to rest at the turns in the paths, casts his glance at the sea horizon and, in spite of himself, begins to feel the winged impulse to disimprison himself in search of lands where life would be less harsh." (de Gouveia)
Thus the Portuguese emigrant who came to British Guiana was the inheritor of a more than 300 year legacy of sugar production and viniculture. He was also a "thrifty husbandman of no small merit" (Koebel) utilising every inch of available space of the terraced hillsides to grow peas, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, onion and a vast variety of fruits. Thus it is surprising to read in Dalton's history that agriculture was not the forte of the Portuguese! What is even more surprising is the somewhat grudging concession made to the commercial enterprise of the emigrants. Significant among the reasons given for their meteoric rise to prominence in the retail, and later the wholesale trade in British Guiana, is the over-emphasis on the "preferential treatment" accorded them by the government of the day. It was "the patronage of the European elite [which] was the spark that ignited Portuguese initiative and secured ultimate success" (Wagner). To continue this train of thought -- the government and planters regarded the Portuguese as allies against the Creoles. Yet it seemed that this European patronage boomeranged as later one is told that as the commercial power of the Portuguese grew they "became a threat to European elite's dominion."
(Portuguese shop at Parika, circa 1920s)
One is left to conjecture whether the Portuguese in British Guiana would ever have risen in the mercantile trade had not the government and planters paved the way for them. Yet an investigation of Portuguese-Madeiran history indicates a long familiarity with trade and the tricks of trade. The Madeirans were heirs to a dynamic trade system that had its roots in 14th century Portugal when Lisbon was the important Atlantic seaport carrying on a vigorous trade with the Orient and Europe. Nineteenth century sources reveal an incidence of shopkeepers on the island with writers commenting caustically on those "wily creatures" (shopkeepers) imbued with the spirit of swindling. One observer on the island wrote: "They can work like horses when they see their interest in it, but they are cunning enough to understand the grand principle of commerce, to give as little, and receive as much as possible." A plethora of shops on the island, some of which date back to earlier centuries, attests to the fact that the Madeirans were no novices in business.
The British presence in trade and industry was ubiquitous but by the eighteenth century native jealousy had become very overt. By 1826 Madeirans were strongly objecting to "the almost monopoly of trade of the island in the hands of British merchants." (Koebel) Possibly then the Madeiran merchant in British Guiana might have argued that the British merchants there owed him patronage in return for the privileges their counterparts had been receiving in Madeira for over two centuries!
The Madeiran emigrant then, did not arrive in British Guiana devoid of everything but his conical blue cloth cap, coarse jacket, short trousers and his rajao (banjo). As did all other immigrants he brought with him a background history in agriculture, a flair for business, as well as the culture and mores of his island home, a replica of the mother country, Portugal. He brought with him, not only his family, but in many cases his criado (servant), his deep faith, his love of festivals, his taste in food, the well-known pumpkin and cabbage soup, the celebrated moorish dish, cus-cus, the bacelhau (salted fish), cebolas (onions) and alho (garlic). These tastes and many other customs became incorporated into the life of the Guianese. Very early the Catholic faith was carried throughout the country and wherever the Portuguese settled churches were built; the major feast days were celebrated, as they were and still are in Madeira, with fireworks and processions. As the Register of Ships notes, throughout the nineteenth century ships plied between Madeira and British Guiana, ships chartered by the Portuguese themselves, bringing in their holds cargoes of bacelhau, cus-cus, cebolas, alho and wine, as well as new emigrants.
The success and prosperity of the Portuguese within a short span of time and out of proportion to their numbers (in a total population d 278,328 in 1891 they numbered only 12,166 or 4.3 per cent), whether due to "preferential treatment" or not, brought in its train economic jealousy among the Creole population, erupting in violence within fifteen years of their arrival in the colony. Later, when the Portuguese began to oust the European merchant in the wholesale trade, they felt the brunt of European envy which manifested itself in many subtle and overt ways.
(Portuguese businessmen, circa 1920s)
Though the whites, grudgingly acknowledged the economic supremacy of the Portuguese, at no time did they accord them social supremacy or draw them into their privileged group. This attitude undoubtedly hurt and embittered the Portuguese who considered themselves Europeans. But this did not hamper them or cripple their expectations or ambitions. Although from the very outset the local authorities, both Church and State in Madeira, tried to dissuade their countrymen from leaving the island, the emigre returning with
his earnings, on the other hand, encouraged his brethren to cross the Atlantic and find their E1 Dorado in Demerara.
Today it seems that "the winged impulse" has again overtaken the Portuguese, and many have crossed the ocean in search of another E1 Dorado - in the north. Maybe it is the resurgence of the spirit of the early Portuguese explorers who lived to the hilt the motto of their Prince: "Go farther."
(All photos published courtesy of M.N. Menezes, RSM)
by Sr M. Noel Menezes, R.S.M - Stabroek May 7th. 2000
(Reprinted courtesy of Kyk-Over-Al, December 1984)