EYEWITNESS: Looking back…

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…at MLK and 1968

Fifty years ago last week – April 4, 1968 – Martin Luther King was assassinated. Over here in Guyana, Burnham had already told the Americans he was going to rig the upcoming elections. He’d met Dean Rusk, Secretary of State in Jan ‘68 and in the same month MLK had been assassinated, the “303 Committee” –  constituted by the Americans to install and keep the PNC in power – reported:

“[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] representatives met with Prime Minister Forbes Burnham in late April to discuss operational matters related to the electoral campaign.

At this meeting Burnham stated unequivocally that he plans to conduct the registration and voting in such a manner that the PNC will emerge with an absolute majority in the Guyana National Assembly.

Burnham said that he will never again allow the life of his government to depend upon his coalition partner Peter D’Aguiar … Burnham said that he plans to register 17, 18, 19 and 20-year-old PNC adherents (minimum voting age is 21 years) to make up part of the vote he needs…” He’d also arranged for the overseas vote which would prove to be his ace in the hole.

Over in the US, Lyndon Johnson, who’d fervently expanded JFK’s anti-communist crusade to add some machismo to their (suspect) domestic Liberal bent, had taken Burnham horseback riding at his ranch in Texas as a reward for the latter preventing “another Cuba in the hemisphere”. In Guyana, Burnham played that credential to the hilt and had the local US Ambassador, Delmar Carlson, jumping to the crack of his whip. For instance, he refused to even meet Jagan, upon instruction from Burnham!!

Ironically, in the US, MLK had become a fierce critic of Johnson’s expanded Vietnam War and also a staunch socialist in his economic thinking, who was hounded by the FBI. Today he’s become beatified for his position on non-violence – which he’d picked up from Gandhi over in India. But by the time of his assassination, he’d begun to question the efficacy of the strategy in light of the unchanging deep structural barriers to Black equality – even after Johnson had pushed through the 1965 Voting Rights Act to finally facilitate Black voting unimpeded.

In the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica would erupt in riots to protest their government’s ban of our own Walter Rodney – who had grounded there about Black Power of Stokely Carmichael rather than the non-violence of MLK. He moved to Tanzania because of the racial situation here.

The US approved Burnham’s rigged elections of December 1968 and the stage was set for Rodney’s rendezvous with assassination.
C’est la change…

…at anti-corruption promises

The US just released its “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report” (INSR) and it’s not too kind on this government. Which rode into power on the back of their fervent promises to clean up corruption, claiming it stemmed largely from the PPP’s alleged links to “drug elements”!! After three years at the helm, the report says, matters have gotten WORSE!! This time the GOVERNMENT’s been named directly!!

Now this is nothing strange for the average Guyanese – as even a staunch PNC supporter Minette Bacchus wrote recently. But for the US to actually make the accusation in an official report, can we now expect them to do something about it? Not really. As we saw above, the US – like every other great power – will turn a Nelson’s Eye to a host of even more serious transgressions – once it serves their national interest.

And with Exxon’s mega oil strike off our coast, unfortunately, it serves their interest not to have new variables entering the equation.
So, like during the PNC years, expect corruption to increase!!

…at drugs

In the meantime, the local Drug Czar – Public Security Minister Ramjattan – continues with his hand-wringing! This time about drug usage increasing among youths.
So what’re you gonna DO about it, Minister?? After all, you’re responsible!!

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