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 [the Sealeys] 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.