Home Letters 98th birth anniversary of Mr Horatio Benn, CCH
Kindly allow me space in your newspaper to inform the nation that January 24, 2021, was the ninety-eighth birth anniversary of a preeminent patriot of Guyana, Mr Brindley Horatio Benn, CCH. Minister Benn was Deputy Premier to Premier Dr Cheddi B Jagan and held ministerial portfolios in Community Development and Education, and Agriculture and Natural Resources. He inaugurated the Guyana School of Agriculture in 1963 insisting on the practice of “scientific agriculture” and initiated major projects including the Black Bush Polder Scheme and the Boerasirie Conservancy in the early 1960s.
This was during the final push in the fight for independence, and Mr Benn not only participated at the Conferences in London demanding that his country become a sovereign nation, but he travelled widely, carrying the flame of self-determination for all of the world’s colonies at the time. In this endeavour, he met with many leaders, including Nehru of India, Nkrumah of Ghana, Selassie of Ethiopia, Ben Bella of Algeria, Zhou Enlai of China, and others, gaining solidarity for British Guiana’s cause, and presaging what would later become the Non-Aligned Movement.
Three years under “restriction of movement”, and his later jailing at Her Majesty’s Penal Colony at Sibley Hall only served to strengthen his determination to help free his nation from British colonialism.
He formed his own Working Peoples Vanguard Party in 1968, unreservedly deepening this commitment, now against the Burnham dictatorship, and the new colonialism represented by the IMF. In remarks dripping with contempt and mixed with sadness, he described to his children one day how the “third world” nations had to “hang yuh mouth where the soup drop” to get a little aid from the donor nations.
In his little hand-typed mimeographed bulletins, (when the machine had not been confiscated by police) he was one of the first to sound the alarm about the regime’s dalliance with the Jonestown “experiment”.
When the PPP was returned to office in 1992, Brindley Benn was appointed High Commissioner to Canada, where he served with distinction, and helped to rekindle a love of their native land in expatriate Guyanese. He was awarded the Cacique Crown of Honor by President Jagan for his fight for democracy, and his outstanding service to his country.
Editor, I particularly would like to highlight that it was Minister of Education and Community Development Benn, in his feature address at the October 1957 celebration of National History and Culture Week, which he inaugurated, who famously exhorted: “British Guiana can make a unique contribution to history only if we weld ourselves into one people, one nation, and pursue one destiny”. His words were later co-opted as the national motto, and they must stand out as a signpost for Guyana’s present and future.
May the courage and patriotism of Brindley Horatio Benn inspire his countrymen always.
A book detailing this rich legacy will be published in a month’s time.
Lena Platt (nee Benn)