In his letter “Wismar and the Sun Chapman atrocities of 1964 were cold war events in which Africans and Indians were the victims” (Kaieteur News, May 25, 2022) Malcolm Harripaul has conflated facts and opinions in recounting that period of Guyana’s history. Readers interested in reliable, factual information may want to look at source documents from the UK and US archives as well as those from recognized academics. In this piece, I wish to look specifically at the Sun Chapman matter which he raised.
In his letter, he states “… PR was vehemently opposed by Janet Jagan who had by then commanded a Cuban trained and armed group called the Liberation Army…In July 1964 elements of the PPP’s Liberation Army bombed the Sun Chapman launch killing 38 Africans…” The fact that he did not write this during the lifetime of Janet Jagan speaks volumes. After all, a dead woman cannot defend herself.
It should be noted that no one was ever charged, much less convicted, for the bombing of the launch. It happened during a period when the British Governor and the Police Commissioner were unsympathetic to the PPP, and the US and the UK governments were actively working to remove the PPP from the government. Common sense would suggest that if there was evidence against the PPP, it would have been used to, at least, lay charges to influence voters to abandon the PPP for more US and the UK favoured smaller Indian-led parties as to the Justice Party or the Guyana United Muslim Party.
In assessing the Sun Chapman bombing, I believe we should look at what transpired earlier, i.e. during the General Strike of 1963. In his book The Guyana Story (guyana.org Guyana story chapter 163), historian and former Guyana’s Ambassador to Washington, Dr Odeen Ishmael writes “ after a series of violent attacks on peaceful citizens and bombing of some business places, the police in early May raided Congress Place, the headquarters of the PNC where a large cache of arms and ammunition, chemicals for bomb-making, and documents detailing assassination plans were found. One of the documents gave details of a PNC terrorist organization working under a plan called “X-13” aimed at causing violence and overthrowing the government”…The police, shortly after, prepared a research paper on 14 August 1963 for the Governor, Sir Ralph Grey, on the PNC terrorist organization…
This research paper on the PNC terrorist organization proved to be very embarrassing to the political opponents of the PPP, including the British and American governments which were giving covert assistance to them. As a result, the Governor prevented the release of the report to the general public and did not even make it available to the Premier. (It was not until early 1964 that information of the existence of this report was exposed after Janet Jagan, the Minister of Home Affairs, managed to obtain a clandestine copy. But after the PPP printed copies of it for public circulation, the Governor immediately declared it illegal for anyone to have possession of a copy of the document.)”
A document titled RESEARCH PAPER ON THE ACTIVITIES of the PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS TERRORIST ORGANISATION under the name P. Britton, Supt., and dated 14/8/63, is available on the internet at www.guyanaundersiege.com Plan X13 -1. This document incriminates very senior officials of the PNC, linking them to bombings and attempted bombings in Georgetown during the strike. Members of the Security Force are also implicated. In addition, it identifies a once-prominent law firm in Georgetown with storage of “five hundred sticks of dynamite, blasting gelatine and safety fuses” which were brought to Georgetown from the Stampa Quarry by two named prominent PNC members of the Legislature. This raises the question: How were these items transported from the Quarry which is in the interior of the country to Georgetown? Further, the document identifies two other individuals, who on another occasion, “brought a parcel of dynamite from Mackenzie by launch”. Interestingly, according to the published papers of Dr Cheddi Jagan, a memo from him to Mrs Janet Jagan, Minister of Home Affairs prior to her resignation on June 2, 1964, reads as follows: “I have received information that dynamite is being stolen from Mackenzie and is being sent to the PNC in Georgetown by a launch owned by someone called Chapman or by a private truck. I understand, also, that certain police constables or officers help in transporting it to Georgetown.
I understand that a set of four boxes came down on Monday, 1st July 1963 by Chapman’s launch. Please take necessary action.”
Mr Burnham became Head of the Government after the December 1964 General elections, merely six months after the Sun Chapman bombing. The logical question is: Why did he not appoint a Commission of Inquiry (COI) as was done by Jagan on the Wismar atrocity? While there is speculation that the PPP bombed the Sun Chapman, an unanswered question is: Was the Sun Chapman transporting dynamite for the PNC when it exploded? The PNC remained in office for the next twenty-eight years, yet no COI was ever done. More recently, prior to the 2015 elections, Mr Granger promised a COI into the post-2002 jailbreak killings during the Jagdeo presidency. After he became President in 2015, this was forgotten, allowing spurious claims to be made. In both these cases, were PNC governments disinclined to hold a COI because, as in the case of the Rodney COI, they were unable to handle the truth?
Based on the preceding, I believe there can be no definite pronouncement on who was responsible for the Sun Chapman explosion. Mr Harripaul’s statements are opinions and should be treated as such. Since he is a disgruntled former PPP member, his opinions cannot be considered as unbiased.