PPP statement on Jonestown...
Reflect on sordid episode of our history
November 19, 2003
The People's Progressive Party (PPP) recalls the horror of the Jonestown tragedy on November 18, 1978 some 25 years ago, in which close to 100 men, women and children died in what can be regarded as one of the most horrifying and bizarre killings in the history of Guyana. Among those killed was US Congressman Leo Ryan, who came to Guyana in response to charges of abuse by "concerned relatives."
The story of Jonestown sends shock waves not only to Guyanese but throughout the world. The images of an entire community destroying itself of parents "killing" their own children seemed most incredible. The news of Jonestown flashed across the television screens of peoples throughout the world. The issue made headline news in many of the leading newspapers across the globe.
Here in Guyana, not a word of the issue was mentioned in the state media, which at the time was owned and controlled by the People's National Congress (PNC). The fact that the PNC sought to conceal the event spoke volumes of the PNC and its own role in the Jonestown tragedy.
It is interesting to note that Jim Jones was granted permission to enter Guyana and set up his People's Temple without the knowledge of the parliamentary opposition. It is widely believed that Jones was granted special privileges, which allowed him to bring items into the country outside the regular custom procedures. This resulted in quiet a number of illegal weapons and other commodities entering the country. There is evidence also that immigration was also compromised to facilitate easy access into the country of Jones and his clan.
The PPP calls on the Guyanese public to reflect on these sordid episodes in our history. Under the PNC, shame descended on this once proud land. By 1992, Guyana was reduced to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The horrors of Jonestown bring out the true nature and character of the PNC and its track record of transparency and accountability. Were it not for the mass killings that took place, Guyanese would have been none the wiser of the existence of such a commune in the country's interior. It is anybody's guess how many other such communes might have existed in the country.
One would have thought that the PNC would have learnt from the lessons of Jonestown and prevented anyone with cultist tendencies to set roots in Guyana. This, however, was too much to expect from the PNC. The Jonestown dust had not as yet settled when another cultist group in the form of the "House of Israel" emerged with the full blessings of the PNC. The House of Israel, under the leadership of the now infamous Rabbi Washington, did not prove ungrateful to the PNC. It went on a wild spree in breaking up meetings of opposition parties and terrorizing opposition supporters, culminating in the murder of Catholic Priest Father Darke, whose life was snuffed out by members of the House of Israel cults. The period coincided with intensified state terrorism, which saw the deaths of several opposition politicians and activists including that of renowned academic and historian Dr. Walter Rodney.
The PNC cannot escape blame for those who perished in the Jonestown inferno, which still remains in the memory of Guyanese. As Jones himself reminded us "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."