Serial 1125

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 1125 of the FBI’s RYMUR release. The text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978GEORGE04151_d.html.]

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GEORGE 04151 071836Z
ACTION ARA-15
INFO OCT-01 ISO-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00 PM-05 H-01 INR-10 L-03 NSAE-00 PA-01 SP-02 SS-15 NSCE-00 SSO-00 ICAE-00 INRE-00 HA-05 SCS-06 CA-01 SY-05 SYE-00 FBIE-00 /070 W
——————052771 071841Z /50

O 071702Z DEC 78
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8370
C O N F I D E N T I A L GEORGETOWN 4151
A.O. 12065: RDS-4 (12/7/84)(BURKE, JOHN R.) OR-M
SUBJ: “CHRONICLE” REFUTES AP ARTICLE ON PEOPLE’S TEMPLE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOVERNMENT OF GUYANA (GOG)

1. (Unclas[)] The Dec 6, 1978 edition of the government-owned “Guyana Chronicle” carries a front-page article headlined “A.P. story linking govt, People’s Temple false.” Chronicle article summarizes and refutes allegations made in an AP article written by Peter Arnett, allegedly based on a document form [from] “Jim Jones’ Papers.” (Comment: The embassy has to date not seen text of AP article in question. The article will obviously not appear in the government-owned press here. End comment.)

2. (Unclas) According to the “Chronicle,” the Arnett article alleges that Minister of Home Affairs Vibert Mingo (1) stopped an investigation of Jonestown by the commissioner of police, (2) promised to intervene in the child custody case of John Victor Stoen and protect Jim Jones from arrest; and (3) invited People’s Temple (PT) members to vote illegally on behalf of the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) party during the constitutional referendum held last July. The “Chronicle” also states that the Arnett article alleges that Jim Jones considered former GOG minister of foreign affairs

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Fed [Fred] Wills as an “adviser” on political, local and social matters, and that Jones approached Primin Burnham [Prime Minister Forbes Burnham], through the “Cubans,” to request that Wills be reinstated in office.

3. (Unclas) the “Chronicle” states that “none of these allegations has any truth whatsoever.” The PT was allowed to settle in Guyana only after the credentials of the organization and Jim Jones were established by the submission of “hundreds of testimonials.” The Jonestown area was visited “frequently by officers of the government and by senior officials.” But, relations between the GOG and PT were conducted on a normal, businesslike basis. PT members were granted interviews with GOG ministers, including Mingo, concerning matters within the responsibility of the particular minister. Mingo could not have attempted to intervene in a court case because such an action would be against the policy of the government, and would subject the minister to legal action for acting outside his sphere of competence. Mingo could not have asked PT members to vote for the PNC, because American citizens cannot vote in Guyana.

4. (Unclas) the “Chronicle” goes on to contend that the GOG only sought to remove theose [those] documents from Jonestown relating to a criminal investigation. Journalists who visited Jonestown examined documents at the project. If the GOG had anything to hide, all of the documents would have been removed before the journalists arrived. (Comment: the “Chornicle” [“Chronicle”] does not specifically comment on the allegation that Jones tried to contact Burnham concerning Fred Wills. End comment.)

5. (Unclas) according to the “Chornicle,” the GOG has scheduled numerous interviews with senior level GOG officials

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for this week. If Arnett had not already left Guyana, he would have been able to interview GOG officials and therfore [therefore] have “the opportunity for comment from the highest possible source within the government of Guyana.”

6. (Confidential) For at least the past three years, the government-owned press has refrained from directly refuting allegations contained in a print media article published abroad. The unprecedented appearance of the “Chronicle” article undoubtedly demonstrates the extreme sensitivity of the GOG on the subject of the Jonestown tragedy, and the anger of the GOG with those foreign journalists, who the government feels have taken unfair advantange [advantage] of GOG hospitality. The effect the publication of these allegations will have on us-GOG relations is yet to be determined but it is unlikely to be positive. A reliable local media source has informed Emboff [Embassy officer] that through his own investigation he has determined that Arnett bought the document on which he based his aritcle [article] from a US sergeant for $300.

Burke [John Burke, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana]

Originally posted on August 13th, 2019.

Last modified on July 4th, 2022.
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