Yesterday was 35 years since Burnham died on a Georgetown Hospital operating table as two Cuban doctors attempted to operate on a “throat problem”. Whatever you may say about the fella, you have to admit that he’s shed a loooong – and DARK – shadow over our beleaguered country. Back when he was alive, Guyanese would retort to fellow West Indians that while they had humungous disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes – WE HAD BURNHAM! And he was more destructive than all the natural disasters put together!!
In fact, we still haven’t recovered from the damage he wreaked on us socially, politically, and most of all economically between 1964 and 1985. Socially, just look around at the divisiveness that stalks the land. That was created when Burnham split the PPP in 1955 because he demanded that he be “leader or nothing” – even though Jagan had been organising the people since 1943!! Granger – who’s sworn to “fulfil Burnham’s legacy” – claimed that “Burnham was the father of social cohesion”!! So you can appreciate that irony is lost upon PNC types!! Some cohesion!!
But there is even greater irony in the fact that Burnham never really saw himself as part of the African-Guyanese masses. He strove mightily to live up to the “colourism” that dominated social relations in his day by marrying up (colour wise), educating himself and speaking “proper” – in his case, even cultivating a “Churchillian” accent! While in London during his student days, he joined the “League of Coloured People” rather than any of the Afrocentric groups then sprouting like mushrooms!
Politically, of course, Burnham’s most famous for rigging elections starting in 1968…each time finding a new way to do the dirty!! He checkmated the PPP and was only threatened in the 1970’s when the WPA began to mobilise in the African community. He had Rodney assassinated: simple as that! Yet today, the greatest irony is the so-called “comrades” of Rodney are in bed with Granger, Burnham’s successor as leader of the PNC.
Economically, Burnham concocted the oxymoron of a “cooperative” republic, while nationalising 80% of the economy to approach the State-controlled communist nirvana of North Korea. Granger insists Burnham worked to “eliminate poverty” when he vowed to “Feed, House and Clothe” the nation in his grandiose 1972-1976 plan! Yet we ended up hungry, homeless and naked by 1979!! We sank by all measures of development to just pip Haiti!!
The PNC’s fond of castigating Bharat Jagdeo for all sorts of sins…but they should be eternally grateful to him for wiping out the US$2.1 billion debt albatross Burnham left.
Burnham’s legacy is one of misery for the Guyanese people. We got a second emancipation on Aug 6th!!
Burnham’s most cynical act was to connive with Britain and the US to remove the legally-elected PPP government, which was supposed to lead Guyana to independence. But interestingly enough, in selling his soul for a mess of pottage – imagine US$5000/month to build up the PNC!! – he could never earn the respect of those countries. The Brits called him “a racist who will tack and turn at every opportunity” while the Yanks snickered at his pretentions, such as parading around in a two-star General’s uniform.
But above all, Burnham craved the approbation of third world leaders – especially in Africa – and worked overtime to be recognised. But Walter Rodney was the one who earned that respect on the world stage and Burnham could never forgive him for that! Rodney penned several works that became classics – such as “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” – but Burnham, who craved to be recognised as an “intellect”, could never cobble together a book.
Rodney was spot on when he tagged Burnham as “King Kong”!! Brute force and ignorance!!
While Burnham had scant respect for Constitutions, he liked to at least observe the forms. He would’ve been scandalised at the PNC’s dependence on Basil Williams for legal advice.
Guyana doesn’t permit snap elections? Under which rock has he been living?