Britain Puts off Guiana Policy; Report Favors Trial Project; Future Mass Possibilities Seen
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Britain Puts off Guiana Policy; Report Favors Trial Project; Future Mass Possibilities Seen

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The British Government has postponed stating its policy on refugee settlement of British Guiana, Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald told the House of Commons today in announcing publication of a report on colonization possibilities of the South American colony submitted by an Anglo-American commission of experts.

The commission’s report said land suitable for ultimate large scale settlement had been formed and recommended early establishment of from 3,000 to 5,000 young men and women at a cost of roughly $3,000,000 for two years. Emphasizing that the area under consideration required considerable development, improvement and further investigation, the report concluded that it “undoubtedly possesses potential possibilities that would fully justify the carrying out of a trial settlement.”

Mr. MacDonald told Commons that the Government was giving “active consideration” to the report and expected to be in a position to issue a statement of policy at an early date.

Laborite Tom Williams asserted that the experts had grave doubts on the possibility of large scale immigration because of climate and communications and asked for simultaneous publication of the experts’ individual memoranda. Mr. MacDonald replied that the Government was also studying the individual reports and had “considerable hopes of the possibility of settling refugees in British Guiana.”

The report of the eight-man commission was made public in New York by the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees, which sponsored the survey after Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had last Fall offered Guiana, among other territories, as a possible site for refugee colonization. It was issued simultaneously in Georgetown, British Guiana, and in London.

Signing the document were Edward C. Ernst, chairman, Emile C. Bataille, Joseph A. Rosen, C. Douglas-Jones, G. Evans and Desmond Holdridge. Lt. Col. Richard U. Nicholas and Dr. Anthony Donovan were not present when the report was under consideration, and filed separate report reports, which were not immediately made public. Mr. Douglas-Jones and Mr. Evans are the British members, the rest being Americans.

The summary of the report follows:

“The Commission is of the opinion that, while the territory offered for settlement in British Guiana is not an ideal place for refugees from middle European countries, and while the territory could not be considered suitable for immediate large scale settlement, it undoubtedly possesses potential possibilities that would fully justify the carrying out of a trial settlement project on a substantial enough scale that would make it possible to determine whether and how these potential possibilities could be realized.

“The Commission is of the opinion that in the area available for settlement there are: (a) soils suitable for permanent agriculture; (b) natural resources which make possible a co-related industrial development; and (c) climate and health conditions are of such a nature that settlement by people of middle European origin is feasible.

“The points to be clarified are: (a) whether the actual area of the fertile soils in the Kanuku and other mountain ranges bordering the savannahs, are as extensive as preliminary observations suggest; (b) whether substantial areas of the savannahs could be developed by suitable methods for closer agricultural and pastoral undertakings; (c) whether a permanent system of agriculture could be established on clearings in the rain forest areas by the adoption of suitable methods; (d) whether heavy industries could be developed based on the most important natural resources existing in this area, particularly forest reserves, water power and minerals; (e) whether light industries could be developed on the basis of locally produced raw materials; (f) whether health can be maintained in both forest and savannah areas at a reasonable cost; (g) whether water and land transportation facilities could be improved to make the interior reasonably accessible at a cost not entirely out of proportion to the settlement capacity of the country.

“The Commission therefore recommends the following plan:

“1. A number of receiving camps and trial settlements to be started at the earliest possible date involving a population of 3,000 to 5,000 carefully selected young men and women placed at properly chosen locations.

“2. A properly equipped technical organization under competent leadership to be set up from the very beginning to supervise and direct the activities of these trial settlements and render them all possible technical, financial and other assistance.

“3. Each of these group must contain a number of people with specialized training who would be capable of securing the necessary information and in order to make the settlements self-contained.

“4. The approximate cost of establishing and maintaining these trial settlements for a period of two years, with a population of 5,000 people, is estimated at $3,000,000. This is a rough figure and is to be accepted with caution.”

The report makes clear that colonization is only feasible on a large scale because of the large capital investment and extensive development that would be necessary to make the land fit for settlement. Initial settlement would have to be on a “suitable agricultural basis,” with the settlers self-sufficient as regards food. They might then be able to develop “a normal economic entity” with industrial, agricultural and pastoral pursuits and permitting export of surplus products to world markets in exchange for products impossible to produce in the new settlements.

The climate, “considered as a tropical one, may be termed healthful,” the commission reported, and does not preclude possibility of white settlement. In addition, it was found that “severe tropical diseases at present do not occur with dangerous frequency or degree of malignancy;” that “there are considerable extents of soil suitable for immediate permanent cultivation and others capable of subsequent improvement;” that “bases for a certain industrial development appear to exist;” that “construction of a transport route presents on insurmountable difficulties,” and that “the present inhabitants of the colony would welcome immigration by people of European origin.”

The commission found the area south of the fifth parallel of north latitude “potentially suitable for large scale settlement,” but emphasized that this did not mean “open to immediate large scale sentiment.”

The experimental stage, the report states, should comprise a trial settlement with mixed farming and experiments in dairy cattle, a pastoral trial settlement in the open savannah, a settlement adjacent to the mouth of a fertile valley affording opportunity for combined agricultural and pastoral effort and establishment of receiving and quarantine centers at the seaward end of a prospective “corridor” to the sea.

The colonists, it is held, “should be chosen from young married, but childless couples, and single young men and women. They should be in good health and of sturdy physique and they should be carefully chosen with a view to fitting their talents to the requirements of the trial settlements.” Training of the women in Indian technology and provision of adequate medical service are also urged.

The Indians will welcome the coming of the colonists, the report says. Conflict over lands will hardly arise since the “Kanuku type” of soil, recommended for use by the colonists, is avoided by the Indians as requiring too sustained effort for their type of shifting cultivation. The Indians “look forward to the coming of colonists with keen anticipation since they see in the project three features highly desirable in their eyes education, medical attention and a market for their labor.”

The report notes that on Feb. 25 “Dr. Rosen, suffering from exposure, was flown out to Georgetown for temporary treatment” and later rejoined the commission.

The commission assembled in Georgetown on Feb. 14. Its report is dated April 19. The areas which the commission was authorized to investigate were (1) 22,500 square miles south of 5 north latitude between the Essequibo River and the Brazilian boundary, (2) 14,800 square miles south of 5 north latitude, between the Essequibo and Courantyne Rivers (c) 4,600 square miles in the northwest.

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