GUYANA HISTORY NOTEBOOK
Compiled by Odeen Ishmael

PNC AGAIN TWISTS FACTS

The PNC, in its efforts to cover up its reactionary stand before and during the last Constitutional Talks in London, has again resorted to distortion.
In the New Nation of Saturday, July 16, the PNC claimed that the PPP had decided not to press for Cabinet status while in London "because it would mean that the Party would have the responsibility of framing the election year budget through a Finance Minister who was a member of the Party." It is unnecessary to reply to such a childish thought. It goes on also to say that the PNC leadership fought for Cabinet status and that the PPP has now switched back to PNC's leadership.
What are the facts?
It was the PPP which demanded Cabinet status immediately, and it was Dr. Jagan who referred to talks he had with the former Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Lennox Boyd, concerning Cabinet status. Readers will remember that Dr. Jagan branded the British Government refusal to grant Cabinet status now as a breach of faith.
The PNC should quote not a small portion of the minutes which they evidently did concerning ?the Premier's presiding over the Executive Council as a rule rather than the exception." They should quote arguments used by Dr. Jagan and his colleagues.
What the Colonial Office offered was not Cabinet status at all, and the PNC knows this. Cabinet status was refused and the British Government offered to designate the leader of the Majority Party as Premier and to appoint a member of his group as Minister of Finance. However, the Premier would preside only when the Governor did not FEEL like attending Executive Council meetings. In the absence of the Governor, the Officer Administering the Government (OAG) would have the right to preside and the Premier would only be allowed to chair Executive Council meetings if the OAG did not.
This is not Cabinet status. Cabinet status gives the right to the Prime Minister to preside as a rule and also makes Official Members merely advisers and not full members of the Executive Council.

Finance

What is the position with regard to the Financial Secretary, and the Minister of Finance? The PPP demanded that the Financial Secretary should withdraw from the Executive Council. The PPP maintains that it would be ludicrous to have in the Executive Council the Financial Secretary provided for by Orders in Council as a member of the Executive Council while the Minister would be in the Executive Council merely nominated by the Governor as all Ministers are.
The PNC knows that this is not Cabinet status and what they say they are demanding, and they are not capable of demanding anything, was merely the shadow of power and not real power. It will be obstructive to quote the demands of the British Guiana delegation at the Constitutional Conference. To say, as the report had it, that there were demands by the whole delegation is to hide the reactionary attitude of the PNC and to be charitable to them:

(i) the Governor should forthwith cease to preside over the Executive Council, his place being taken by the Premier;
(ii) the Financial Secretary should forthwith leave the Executive Council, his place being taken by an elected Minister; and
(iii) the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General should attend meetings of the Executive Council only as advisers.
It was because these demands were not agreed to, because the PPP was interested in power and not a mere shadow, that it rejected what was offered by the British Government.
The PNC, in the article referred to, said that the PPP’s refusal exposed the existence of supporters of Crown Colony Government in the PPP. Readers will remember that it was the PNC, aided and abetted by the daily press, which campaigned against Independence Now. Independence is the only alternative to colonialism. The PPP is interested infighting colonialism.
The PPP does not feel that British Guiana should advance to independence by stages and it was mainly because of Burnham's and Kendall's reactionary stand in refusing to fight for Independence Now that the Colonial Office chose this as an opportunity to delay our march towards this goal.
And it was mainly because of the persistence of the PPP that the delegation was able to wring from the British Government what may be regarded as a timetable for Independence.
Had the British Government been forced to accept Independence by 1961 they would have had no alternative but to grant Cabinet status immediately. As it was, they argued that to give Cabinet status would be to anticipate the Order in Council which would have to be passed in a year's time. This was the argument of the United Kingdom delegation and this argument had some force in view of the limited constitutional advance which the PNC strove for.
The PNC's miserable attempt to cloak its betrayal behind the PPP's courageous and forthright
struggle is thus exposed to light of day.

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