Rupununi Uprising

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The Rupununi Uprising was an act of insurrection that beginning on 2 January 1969 and historically the single most serious threat to the national security and territorial integrity of Guyana. Occurring only thirty-two months after Guyana’s independence from Great Britain, it also constituted the country’s earliest and most severe test of statehood and social solidarity.

The police station in the town of Lethem, the administrative center of the Rupununi District, was attacked by ranchers, who were armed with bazookas and automatic weapons.

Lethem Police Station was completely wrecked by bazooka shells and policemen were riddled by bullets as they tried to escape. Annai and Good Hope stations were seized and the personnel held captive along with other Government officials and civilians in the abbattoir at Lethem.

Five policemen and one civilian were killed, the government dispenser was shot and wounded, and a number of persons, including the District Commissioner and his wife, were herded into the abbattoir and held hostage.The names of the five policemen killed during the uprising are as follows: Inspector #4412 Whittington Braithwaite; Sergeant #4590 Benedict AD Sukra; Constables #5611, James McKenzie; #5691 William Norton and #7178 Kendall Michael.

News about the insurrection reached Georgetown by midday that day and policemen and soldiers were flown in to Manari by Guyana Airways. When the government forces moved on Lethem the rebels fled, eventually going across the Venezuelan border.

Seven of those charged with murder were acquitted: Ignatius Charlie, 23; Anaclito Alicio, 20; Handel Singh, 28; Francis James, 20; Charles Davis, 20; Damian Phillips, 21; Brenton Singh, 43.

The judge ordered that Colin Melville, 22; Aldwyn Singh, 41; and Patrick Melville, 17 be retried for murder, but charges were later dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

After the uprising, the President of Venezuela, Rafael Caldera, and Guyana Prime minister Forbes Burnham, concerned with the moratory of reclamation of Guayana Esequiba, signed the Port of Spain Protocol in 1970. Venezuelan maps produced since 1970 show the entire area from the eastern bank of the Essequibo, including the islands in the river, as Venezuelan territory. On some maps, the western Essequibo region is called the "Zone in Reclamation".[1]


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