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Britain sends troops to Guiana

British Warship

October 06, 1953 - Naval and military forces are on their way to British Guiana in response to what the UK Government says is a threat to the administration of the British colony.

Troop ships set off to the South American country earlier today.

A statement issued by the Colonial Office stated that in view of developments in British Guiana it had been necessary to send forces with the "utmost dispatch" to preserve the peace.

Officials blamed "communists and their associates" for creating the problems, adding that some of those behind the unrest were in "ministerial positions".

The government is known to be unhappy with the recent election victory of the left-wing People's Progressive Party - a coalition between the country's two main ethnic groups, Indians and Africans.

Constitution

The situation in Guiana is believed to have been one of the top items on the agenda of a Privy Council meeting last week.

It is rumoured that if all else fails, the government will suspend the colony's new constitution and take direct political control again.

Britain has had links with Guiana since the late 18th century and it became a British colony in 1831.

Fewer than half a million people live in the narrow coastal country which has an area about the same size as Great Britain.

Apart from a small number of Amerindians none of the three other major ethnic groups - Europeans, Africans and Indians - are native to the country having arrived either as colonisers, slaves or indentured workers.

In Context

Britain subsequently suspended Guiana's constitution and briefly imprisoned some members of the People's Progressive Party. The constitution was not reinstated until 1957.

British Guiana was granted independence in May 1966.

The name of the country was changed to Guyana - it comes from an Amerindian word meaning 'Land of Many Waters'.

After a brief attempt at collaboration the People's Progressive Party (PPP) split along ethnic lines.

Forbes Burnham broke away to lead a party backed by African Guyanese - the People's National Congress - leaving Cheddi Jaggan in charge of a PPP appealing mainly to Indian Guyanese.

Guyana has since suffered much racial tension and disputes over election results have led to violent disorder.

In 1978 Guyana was the scene of a mass suicide of more than 900 members of a religious cult that had moved from the US to a remote jungle settlement.

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