Concerned Relatives Petition to Guyana Prime Minister, May 10, 1978


From: “Concerned Relatives”: Parents and relatives of children and adults under the control of Rev. James Warren Jones at “Jonestown”, Northwest District, Guyana
Date: May 10, 1978

We, the undersigned 57 petitioners, are the grief-stricken parents and relatives of the hereinafter-designated persons now living in your country. We respectfully entreat you to attend to the following facts:

1. In June 1977 Rev. James Warren Jones (“Jim Jones”) left the United States for Guyana as he was about to be exposed in the press for fraud, brutality to children, and taking properties by false pretenses. Jim Jones has never returned to the United States to answer these charges.

2. Since June 1977 Jim Jones has induced more than 1,000 United States citizens to become permanent residents of Guyana at his jungle encampment leased from your government. He calls this encampment “Jonestown”.

3. Jim Jones at this moment is flagrantly and systematically carrying out the following acts and abuses on all Jonestown residents, including our relatives:

a. Stations guards around Jonestown and threatens the residents with death if they attempt to leave;

b. Confiscates their passports and money;

c. Employs physical intimidation and psychological coercion as part of a mind-programming campaign aimed at destroying family ties, discrediting belief in God, and causing contempt for the United States of America, as well as for all other nation states, including Guyana;

d. Deprives them of their rights to privacy, free speech, freedom of association, and freedom of movement by:

  1. Prohibiting telephone calls;
  2. Prohibiting individual contacts with all “outsiders”, including Guyanese;
  3. Censoring all incoming and outgoing mail;
  4. Extorting silence from relatives in the U.S. by threats to stop all communication;
  5. Preventing our children from seeing us when we travel to Guyana (five of us have tried).

4. The foregoing acts are documented in the “Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones Against Our Children and Relatives at the Peoples Temple Jungle Encampment in Guyana, South America”, a copy of which is attached. These acts of Jim Jones are a clear violation of the Guyanese Constitution and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as quoted in the aforesaid Accusation. The physical intimidation is a violation of the penal code of Guyana.

5. On April 11, 1978 we served the aforesaid Accusation on Peoples Temple officials in San Francisco. The Accusation set forth a number of demands for relief, including a demand that Jones permit and encourage our relatives to return to the United States for a one-week visit home at our expense, return fare being guaranteed.

6. On April 12, 1978 we sent two copies of this Accusation to you as Prime Minister of Guyana. One copy was sent via the Guyanese Embassy in Washington, D. C., and the other directly to Georgetown, Guyana. In our cover letter we asked you, as “the one person in the world with power” over Jones, to take action to stop his violations of human rights. We have received no response from you.

7. On April 17, 1978 Jim Jones responded to our demands for relief by staging a press conference in the office of his attorney in San Francisco, wherein our relatives in Jonestown read scripts over a radio-phone network praising “the integrity, honesty, and bravery” of Jim Jones and falsely denouncing us as child molesters, sexual deviates, dope addicts, and terrorists, as well as manifesting other symptoms of mind-programming. (In order to show the falsity of these charges, Steven Katsaris on May 2, 1978 voluntarily submitted himself to a professional polygraph examination. The report, dated May 3 and attached hereto, concludes: “It is the opinion of the examiner, based on Katsaris’ polygraph charts, that he is telling the truth.”)

8. On April 18, 1978 Jones intimated once again a threat so chilling as to be incomprehensible to the average decent person. In our Accusation we had demanded Jones clarify the following sentence in a March 14, 1978 letter on Peoples Temple stationery addressed “to all U. S. Senators and Members of Congress”:

“I can say without hesitation that we are devoted to a decision that it is better even to die than be constantly harrassed from one continent to the next.”

On April 18 Jones issued a Press Release on Peoples Temple stationery with the following “clarification”

(page 4):

“And we, likewise, affirm that before we will submit quietly to the interminable plotting and persecution of this politically motivated conspiracy, we will resist actively, putting our lives on the line, if it comes to that. This has been the unanimous vote of the collective community here in Guyana.”

9. On April 26, 1978 we served an advanced version of this petition on the Honorable Joseph D’Olivera, Honarary Consul for the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Los Angeles, California.

10. We respectfully submit to you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the foregoing evidence shows that Jonestown, Guyana has taken on the characteristics of a “concentration camp”, and that you, as the leader of Guyana, would do well to analyze the mentality of its leader so as to anticipate its potential for causing extreme damage to Guyana’s reputation in the international community.

NOW, THEREFORE, WE RESPECTFULLY ask that you, HONORABLE FORBES BURNHAM, in your capacity as PRIME MINISTER OF GUYANA, take the following action to protect the human and legal rights of our relatives in Guyana before it is too late:
1. Immediately order the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police to launch an ongoing investigation into Jones’ violations of the Guyanese Penal Code and Constitution.

2. Immediately order “Bishop Jim Jones” (as he presents himself to you) to cease and desist from the unlawful acts itemized in the attached Accusation, with particular orders for him to:

a. Remove all guards stationed around Jonestown;
b. Return to our relatives their passports and money;

c. Permit them to mix with the local Guyanese as individuals;

d. Permit them to make telephone calls to us in private at our expense when in Georgetown;

e. Permit them to receive all mail individually addressed to them, and to read the same in private;

f. Permit them to mail letters they write in private without being opened by Jones or his staff.

3. Immediately order Jones to permit and encourage our relatives to return to the United States for a one-week home visit at our expense, so as to test whether or not they are being held against their will, upon our guarantee of return fare should they choose to return.

4. Immediately order Jones to abide by the lawful orders of courts in the United States with respect to the custody of our relatives.

5. If Jim Jones refuses to abide by your orders, expel him from Guyana so that Jonestown can become a democratic society in accordance with the Guyana Constitution.

6. Notify our spokesman, Steven A Katsaris, Trinity School, 915 West Church Street, Ukiah California 95482 (telephone 707-462-8721) of your willingness to protect the human and legal rights of our relatives.



(Summarized Listing of Petitioners Attached)

Originally posted on April 12th, 2021.

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