Serious concern is being voiced in Guyana over the policies of the government led by Mr Forbes Burnham. Prominent churchmen are among those now calling for a reversal of the trend towards a repressile dictatorship. John Carey reports.
1HE MURDER of Dr Walter Rodney exactly three weeks ago has thrown Guyana into its deepest political crisis for years. 1 he country's leading opposition politician. Dr Rodney was at the head of a rapidly growing movement to unseat the government ol Mr Forbes Burnham who has held power since the country's independence in 1966.
The opposition movement now includes people from all sections of society including prominent churchmen of all denominations, who fear that Dr Rodney's murder will spark off a serious outbreak of violence. No one has vet been charged with planting the bomb which killed Dr Rodney and severely injured his brother. but it is widely believed that it was the government which was behind the attack..
If that is true, it is the latest sign of Mr Burnham's determination to hang on to power no matter s■ hat the cost tq his people in s-iolence and in the repression of human rights.
The antagonism which the government has inspired was reflected in the statement put out last week by the Guyana Human Rights Association and signed, .iniong others, by Bishop Benedict Singh of Georgetown, the outspoken leader of Guyana's Catholic community. The statement spoke of the appropriation of power and privilege by a minority and warned of escalating violence if nothing was done soon to create a more just society: it brought together Christians and Muslims as well as uniting trade unionists and professional people.
Such unity has been rare in a society which historically has been more characterised by divi sion. After the abolition of the slave trade in the 'early 19th century the sugar industry on which Guyana's economy is still based sought to get its cheap labour elsewhere. The result was to bring to the country large [turners of Madeira Portuguese. Chinese and Indians. This has led to a current population Made up of 52 per cent lndo-Guyanese, 38 per cent Afro-Guyanese. two per cent indigenous Amerindians and eight per cent of mixed Portuguese and Chinese extraction.
After the Second World War social divisions were also reflected in the composition of political parties and were fostered by the British colonial administration primarilv because of its fear of the emergence to power of a Marxist-inspired party as Guyana's first independence government.
Since independence in 1966 Burnham's People's National Congress party has steadily brought under its control all the main organs of power. It has also taken action against the media,