THERE IS NO REASON TO APOLOGIZE FOR THE “BURNHAM ERA”;
IF YOU DON’T TELL YOUR OWN STORY, OTHERS WILL DEFINE IT FOR YOU
FEBRUARY 23, 2012 By Brutal Facts http://brutalfactsgt.com/
A Republic day message:
Today as the nation celebrates the 42nd anniversary of the Republic, it is a good time to for us to revisit the Burnham legacy. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham was the First Executive President of Guyana, and a visionary, who along with Dr. Cheddie Jagan, are undeniably the fathers of the nation. Over the years, Burnham’s political enemies and revisionist historians have succeeded in tarnishing his image and accomplishments to such an extent that today he has become their “Bogey man”, and whipping boy.
Burnham has become so unpopular that even those within his own political party the Peoples National Congress (PNC) rarely tout his accomplishments and are seemingly afraid to mount a battle to salvage his image.
The PPPC and those who hated Forbes Burnham have created a situation where there can be no reasonable debate about the man and his times. Anyone who tries to engage in a pro-Burnham discussion, or highlight his contributions to Guyana and the wider world, is shouted down and labeled “apologists” and worse by those with an axe to grind. The end result is that even PNC stalwarts speak of him in whispers, fail to boast about his contributions and allow the opposition to rewrite the history of Guyana to suit their racist motives.
Space will not permit me to fully examine the Burnham legacy, but what is intended here is to sound the call to intellectuals, historians and the party faithful to mount a credible expose of this past president. I don’t think that Forbes Burnham measured up to being anointed a saint, but I don’t subscribe to the theory that he was the demonic figure that revisionist wants us to believe. To discuss the Forbes Burnham legacy without a dispassionate assessment of the period in which he served Guyana; taking into consideration local, regional and world events, is intellectually dishonest at best and racist at worst.
If they are honest, many Guyanese who lived in Guyana during the “Burnham era” will share that although there were many hardships and disappointments during that period, there was also much to be proud of. President Burnham was a lighting rod, well admired by his allies and passionately despised by his foes. What cannot be debated is that he was a nationalist who believed that Guyana was a country for all Guyanese. He surrounded himself with many technocrats and intellectuals, many of whom crossed the political divide to join him, like Ranji Chandisingh, Vincent Teekah and Sydney Sukho; he had brilliant colleagues like Shridath Ramphal, Dr. Mohamed Shahabudeen; Dr. Kenneth Kind; Desmond Hoyte; Rashliegh Jackson,Winifred Gaskin, Shirley Field Ridley, Jean Maitland-Singh and many more.
Burnham was a visionary who dreamed big dreams and had confidence that Guyana could be self reliant. Burnham believed that with our God given resources we did not have to go” hat in hand” begging; he believed that we could feed, clothe and house ourselves. Under his watch there were some hard times when the country suffered a severe foreign exchange crisis due to Western influences and a drop in the world price for sugar. Imported items were severely restricted and the country suffered many shortages, but those who claim that the shortages were deliberate to punish the Indian community are evil liars who are either playing politics or playing race. Every ethnic group in Guyana suffered; we were all in the same boat.
That same period proved Guyanese to be a brilliant and resilient people as community farming spread throughout the country. Home ownership and land for farming was government policy, as many citizens received low interest loans to purchase land and materials to build their own homes for the first time. At no time in Guyana’s history were more housing schemes and homes built. Education became free and many racially segregated schools allowed brilliant students of all races and class into their institutions for the 1st time. Citizens were able to produce many credible alternatives to the restricted products; packaging our own hams and bacons; LIDCO milk; mixed fish at $1.00 per pound ($1.00 Guyana dollar); local corn, black eye peas, palm oil, strong brown cotton, white cotton, rice flour; experiments in Bio gas and other forms of alternative energy….Many of these items have today been proven to be more nutritious alternatives and continue to sell at a premium in Western countries. What if we had maintained those industries?
Burnham was also a builder who contributed immensely to the country’s infrastructure development. Building the Linden Highway (after the PPP’s Del Conte fiasco), The Demerara Harbour Bridge, The Canje Bridge, The bridge linking Mackenzie with Wismar; the East Coast highway; the East Berbice Highway linking New Amsterdam with Corriverton; The first airport at Timheri; the Santa textile plant, the Yarokabra Glass factory; the 1763 monument; the Enmore Martyr’s monument; the Umana Yana; the Non aligned monument; the Black Bush Polder extension; the Mahaica- Mahaicony Abary development project; and many others too numerous to mention.
It is customary that just the mere mention of the name Burnham triggers debate, that is a brutal fact, but to ignore his contributions would be cowardly, and politically deceitful. Burnham was the creator of Mashramani, he taught us to respect each other and celebrate our diversity. He instilled a fierce sense of pride in the youth of that era which today is evident in the numerous accomplishments of youths who grew up in that era. Under his watch every major religious holy day was made a public holiday and unlike Guyana’s current regime, his cabinet, the diplomatic corp., state boards and the leadership of Cooperation’s were mirror images of Guyana’s rich diversity.
Forbes Burnham was not a racist and we do this generation and future generations a disservice by not allowing him his rightful place among the champions of the anti-colonialism and the Independence movements in Guyana. It is time for us to stop demonizing and start celebrating Guyana’s history. Even with his many faults, there can be no argument that in our Nation’s darkest hour, Burnham and Jagan stood with us and for us. It is time we stand up for Forbes Burnham.
— Post #1135