11 DECEMBER 1964, Page 6

British Guiana Crisis (continued)


The British Government's attempt to break the racial logjam in British Guiana politics with the lever of proportional representation has failed. There is no sign of an end to the years of crisis in the Colony. On Monday the Guianese trooped to the polling stations, the East Indians in the villages to vote for Cheddi Jagan and the People's Progressive Party, the Negroes in Georgetown to back Forbes Burnham and the People's National Congress, and the Portuguese and Amerindian minorities to support Peter D'Aguiar's United Force.

The splinter parties which, under the con- stitution Duncan Sandys proclaimed last year, were meant to steal support away from the PPP and PNC giants were unplaced, and the Colonial Office's hopes of blurring the battle lines between Indian and Negro were shattered. The only thing the general election has done is to deprive Jagan of the absolute majority which he won on a minority vote under the former British-style first- past-the-post system. But even this is of question- able benefit. Even before polling began, the PPP was claiming fraud and trickery, and now pol- ling is over this chorus is likely to rise to a crescendo.

Yet with his majority gone and no hope of forming a coalition with either of the other two parties, Jagan must bow out sooner or later and make room for a PNC-UF government. This, when it is formed, promises to be hardly less in- competent, at least as racially biased, and con- siderably more bizarre than the outgoing govern- ment. A British parallel to the teaming of Burn- ham and D'Aguiar in one administration is diffi- cult to imagine. The nearest but still distant equivalent would be to find Ian Mikardo, for in- stance, in a Cabinet with Sir Norman Kipping of the FBI. That is to say that a PNC-UF coalition makes political nonsense. The only point of policy that the two parties are agreed on is their mutual loathing for Jagan.

The one factor that is likely to make it work is the growing war-weariness of the ordinary voters of British Guiana. They have been living in the shadow of violence for three years now and are becoming increasingly disillusioned and anxious to settle down to normality. Those who remain, that is. A large number of the rich and the talented have already left for England, Canada, or some other West Indian territory. Those who stay look at the stagnation and dis- order of the Colony and compare it bitterly with the progress that has been made in Jamaica and Trinidad since Independence. While their neigh- bours have been prospering, they have lived through Nicholas Kaldor's Budget and the riots that followed it three years ago, the dock strike and the food shortages of two years ago, and this year's six-month long sugar strike which cul- minated in the worst ever killings, rape and loot- ings during the summer.

The strongest hope for a peaceful future lies in the rank and file of each main party letting its desire for a quiet life overcome its fear and hat- red of the race in the opposing party. A more tenuous hope is that a large slice of American investment will be offered to the country now there is no chance of Jagan continuing as Premier. This, if it were to come about, might reduce the unemployment problem and thus reduce the feverish political temperature. But the best one can expect at the moment is a Christmas lull The political agitators don't usually disturb the festive season. In past years they have waited till February before throwing their bombs.