Jan 19, 1979 • 1925 • Georgetown-State • 0297

[Editor’s note: This text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1979GEORGE00297_e.html.]

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P 191925Z JAN 79
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8769
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 1 OF 2 GEORGETOWN 0297
LIMDIS

E.O. 12065: GDS (1/19/85) JOHN R. BURKE (OR-M)
TAGS: CASC, GY
SUBJ: PRIME MINISTER’S VIEWS ON JONESTOWN TWO MONTHS AFTER.

1. DURING A LONG MEETING WITH THE AMBASSADOR ON JAN. 18 -A MEETING WHICH BY CHANCE CAME TWO MONTHS TO THE DAY FOLLOWING CONGRESSMAN RYAN’S ASSASSINATION AT PORT KAITUMA AND THE RELATED MASS MURDERS/SUICIDES AT JONESTOWN — PRIME MINISTER BURNHAM HAD SEVERAL OBSERVATIONS TO MAKE ABOUT JONESTOWN:

A. GOG PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO THE JONESTOWN MATTER: THE PRIME MINISTER TOLD THE AMBASSADOR THAT HE INTENDED THAT THE GOG PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO PEOPLES TEMPLE AND IT ACTIVITIES IN GUYANA (ANNOUNCED EARLIER IN THE WEEK) BE BROAD IN ITS SCOPE. HE SAID THAT THE INQUIRY WOULD DEAL WITH ALL ASPECTS OF THE MATTER INCLUDING THE INTRODUCTION OF THE SECT INTO THE COUNTRY, ITS DEVELOPMENT, ITS ALLEGED LINKAGES WITH MEMBERS OF THE GUYANA GOVERNMENT, AND ITS CONTACTS WITH THE SOVIET EMBASSY AS WELL AS THE CUBAN EMBASSY. HE EXPRESSED PARTICULAR IRRITATION AT THE SOVIET CONNECTION AS WELL AS THE CUBAN INVOLVEMENT WITH PEOPLES TEMPLE. HE WAS PARTICULARLY BITTER ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE SOVIET EMBASSY HAD WAITED ALMOST THREE WEEKS BEFORE INFORMING THE GOG THAT ON THE NIGHT OF

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NOVEMBER 18 IT HAD RECEIVED A PACKAGE CONTAINING A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF MONEY AS WELL AS TAPES AND DOCUMENTS FROM THE PT. BURNHAM SUSPECTS THAT BEFORE RETURNING THE PACKAGE TO THE GOG, THE SOVIETS MAY VERY WELL HAVE REMOVED CURRENCY AND POSSIBLE EVIDENTIARY MATERIAL FROM THE PACKAGE. HE OBSERVED CYNICALLY THAT THE RUSSIANS NEVER SEEMED TO DO THESE THINGS WITH ANY FINESSE AT ALL. BURNHAM NOTED THAT THE USG HAD OFFERED TO SHARE WITH HIS GOVERNMENT VARIOUS EVIDENTIARY MATERIALS WHICH HAD COME INTO ITS POSSESSION AND HE HOPED THIS OFFER REMAINED VALID, AS SUCH MATERIAL MIGHT PROVE USEFUL TO THE GOG INQUIRY.

B. PEOPLES TEMPLE ASSETS: BURNHAM CONFIRMED THAT IT WAS THE INTENTION OF HIS GOVERNMENT TO RETAIN THE $500,000 IN AMERICAN CURRENCY WHICH HAD BEEN SEIZED IN THE VICINITY OF JONESTOWN. HE SAID THAT SUCH A SUM OF FOREIGN CURRENCY IS CLEARLY IN CONTRAVENTION OF GUYANA’S FOREIGN CURRENCY LAWS, THUS HIS GOVERNMENT HAS A PERFECT RIGHT TO SEIZE IT. THE AMBASSADOR REITERATED TO THE PRIME MINISTER THE CONSULATE’S RESPONSIBILITY TO TAKE CHARGE OF THE ESTATES OF AMERICAN CITIZENS DYING ABROAD. HE ALSO REMINDED HIM THAT THE EMBASSY HAD SENT A SERIES OF NOTES TO THE GOG RESERVING A USG RIGHT TO FILE A CLAIM ON THE ASSETS OF PEOPLES TEMPLE. THE PRIME MINISTER ACCEPTED THESE TWO STATEMENTS WITHOUT CHALLENGE AND SAID THAT HIS GOVERNMENT WOULD COOPERATE WITH THE USG ON THE QUESTION OF PEOPLES TEMPLE ASSETS SEPARATE AND APART FROM THE ILLEGAL FOREIGN CURRENCY.

C. REMOVAL OF EVIDENTIARY MATERIAL TO WASHINGTON FOR REPRODUCTION. THE AMBASSADOR NOTED THAT THERE WAS STILL AN

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OUTSTANDING REQUEST THAT CERTAIN EVIDENTIARY MATERIAL ON JONESTOWN AND PEOPLES TEMPLE, IN THE POSSESSION OF GUYANESE POLICE, BE LOANED TO THE FBI FOR REPRODUCTION IN WASHINGTON. THE AMBASSADOR TOLD BURNHAM THAT HE HAD BEEN INFORMED JAN. 12 BY THE FORMIN THAT THIS REQUEST WAS STILL UNDER CONSIDERATION BY THE GOG. BURNHAM INDICATED THAT IT SEEMED TO HIM A REASONABLE PROPOSAL, PARTICULARLY IF THE CHAIN OF CUSTODY OF THE MATERIALS COULD BE PROTECTED BY HAVING THEM ACCOMPANIED BY A GOG OFFICIAL. HE DID NOT, HOWEVER, WANT TO MAKE A FINAL DECISION ON THE MATTER WITHOUT FURTHER REFLECTION AND SUGGESTED THE AMBASSADOR DISCUSS IT AGAIN WITH MINISTER HAMILTON GREEN WHO HAD HEADED THE GOG CABINET-LEVEL COMMITTEE CHARGED WITH THE JONESTOWN INCIDENT.

D. THE EFFECT OF THE JONESTOWN INCIDENT ON GUYANA’S IMAGE ABROAD. THE AMBASSADOR ASKED WHETHER OR NOT THE PRIME MINISTER THOUGHT THE JONESTOWN TRAGEDY WOULD HAVE A LONG TERM DELETERIOUS AFFECT ON GUYANA’S IMAGE ABROAD. BURNHAM REPLIED THAT HE WAS NOT SURE. IT WAS, AFTER ALL, A COMMUNITY OF AMERICANS TRANSPLANTED ABROAD. HE SAID THAT LOGICAL, INFORMED PEOPLE WOULD RECOGNIZE THIS AND NOT BE INCLINED TO BLAME GUYANA OR THE GOG. HE ADMITTED, HOWEVER, THAT THE INCIDENT HAD BEEN SUCH A SENSATIONAL NEWS STORY WORLD-WIDE THAT IT WAS TOO EARLY TO SAY WITH ANY ASSURANCE THAT JONESTOWN WOULD NOT BE A LINGERING STAIN ON HIS GOVERNMENT AND GUYANA.

E. GOG IRRITATION OF THE WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE OF DECEMBER 24.

THE PRIME MINISTER SAID THAT HE AND HIS GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN EXTREMELY IRRITATED BY THE ARTICLE IN THE DECEMBER 24 ISSUE OF THE WASHINGTON POST IN WHICH CHARLES KRAUSE HAD IMPLIED THAT MRS. BURNHAM AND DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER PTOLEMY REID HAD REMOVED MONEY AND OTHER VALUABLES FROM JONESTOWN ON NOV. 20.

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P 191925Z JAN 79
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8770
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 2 OF 2 GEORGETOWN 0297
LIMDIS

BURNHAM SAID THAT HE HAD PERSONALLY DIRECTED THAT THE CURRENCY DISCOVERED AT JONESTOWN BE TURNED OVER TO THE SOLICITOR GENERAL IN STRICT CONFORMITY WITH LEGAL PRACTICES PENDING LEGAL DECISIONS REGARDING ITS DISPOSITION. HE SAID THAT HE HAD EVEN DIRECTED THAT IT NOT BE LEFT WITH THE POLICE FOR ANY BRIEF PERIOD OF TIME FOR FEAR THAT IT MIGHT SOMEHOW BE DIVERTED. THE IMPLICATION OF THE KRAUSE ARTICLE WAS CLEARLY THAT HIS WIFE AND HIS DEPUTY HAD BEEN GUILTY OF WRONGDOING, SEIZING MONEY AND VALUABLES FOR THEMSELVES. HE SAID HIS GOVERNMENT HAD SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED THE INSTITUTION OF A LIBEL SUIT AGAINST THE NEWSPAPER FOR PRINTING SUCH A STORY. HIS LAWYERS INFORMED HIM THAT THOUGH THEY HAD A GOOD CASE, IT WOULD BE A MATTER OF YEARS BEFORE THEY COULD EXPECT A JUDGEMENT. FOR THAT REASON THEY HAD DECIDED REFLUCTANTLY NOT TO PROCEED. BURNHAM CONSIDERS THE ARITICLE A “CHEAP SHOT” AND HE NOTES THAT KRAUSE WAS CAREFUL TO ENSURE THAT THE ARTICLE DID NOT APPEAR BEFORE HE, KRAUSE, HAD LEFT THE COUNTRY.

2. COMMENT: THROUGHOUT THE MEETING BURNHAM WAS IN A MOST RELAXED AND INFORMAL MOOD AND PROJECTED AN IMAGE OF COMPLETE SELF-ASSURANCE AS HE DISCUSSED

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JONESTOWN AND OTHER MATTERS. HE AGREED WITH THE AMBASSADOR’S JUDGEMENT THAT COOPERATION BETWEEN THE GOG AND THE USG IN THE HANDLING OF THE PROBLEM CREATED BY CONGRESSMAN RYAN’S ASSASSINATION AND THE MASS MURDERS/SUICIDES AT JONESTOWN HAS BEEN VERY GOOD. HE OBVIOUSLY FEELS THAT THE PUBLIC INQUIRY WHICH HIS GOVERNMENT HAS DECIDED UPON WILL HELP TO CLEAR THE AIR ON THE PEOPLES TEMPLE AS FAR AS THE GUYANESE PUBLIC IS CONCERNED. WHETHER THIS IS BASED ON HIS BELIEF THAT THERE IS NOTHING TO HIDE OR THAT THE INQUIRY CAN BE CAREFULLY ENOUGH CONTROLLED IN ORDER TO ENSURE A FAVORABLE CONCLUSION IS DIFFICULT TO ASSESS; PROBABLY IT IS BASED ON ELEMENTS OF EACH. OVER THE YEARS BURNHAM HAS SHOWN HIMSELF TO BE PHILOSOPHIC IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY AND THIS TRAIT IS STILL WITH HIM AS HE REFLECTS ON THE LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES OF THE JONESTOWN AFFAIRS FOR GUYANA AND HIS GOVERNMENT.

BURK

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Originally posted on October 21st, 2020.

Last modified on December 26th, 2020.
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