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November 23, 1998, AP Online, Guyanese president: former government shared blame for Jonestown,

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November 23, 1998, AP Online, Guyanese president: former government shared blame for Jonestown

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) -- Guyana's president has accused the country's former government of partial blame for the 1978 Jonestown massacre because it allowed cult leaders to operate ``a state within a state.''

 

President Janet Jagan said the then-ruling People's National Congress government bore some responsibility for the mass slaying-suicide because it allowed People's Temple leader Jim Jones and his followers to carry guns, the government news service said Monday.

 

"It was allowed to be a state within a state, and it had to do with the use of guns,'' Jagan said Saturday on her "This Week with the President" television program, the Guyana Information Service said.

 

Nov. 18 was the 20th anniversary of the mass suicide and killing that left more than 900 of Jones' followers, most of them Americans, dead. U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, journalists and a handful of defectors were shot to death as they tried to board a plane out of the jungle.

 

People's National Congress leader Desmond Hoyte called Jagan's allegations "absolutely stupid.''

 

"The government did not allow him to have any arms - he smuggled those in,'' Hoyte said Monday. "The government was not monitoring their daily activity, because the government just thought it was an agricultural project and had no idea of the craziness that was going to take place.''

 

The government of former Prime Minister Forbes Burnham had given the group land to conduct experiments in cultivation of local crops and use of local grasses as animal feed. Hoyte said he visited the compound in 1978 as economic development minister and detected nothing out of the ordinary.

 

Jagan said she had called for an investigation into the massacre as a legislator in the opposition People's Progressive Party. She said the proposed investigation was to have focused on the presence of guns and illegal poisons at the Jonestown compound.

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