Many inaccuracies in Mr Green's letter
September 3, 2001
I refer to Mr Hamilton Green's letter captioned "Forbes Burnham made a major contribution to the nation" (9/8/01).
Mr Green's letter bristles with inaccuracies, which I shall correct. Green has been so taken in by the Burnhamite propaganda that he does not seem to realise that Burnham kept him out of the office of Prime Minister or presidential successor. Burnham chose Dr Reid and Mr Hoyte before Green.
Mr Green's inaccuracies:-
(1) Mr Green says Burnham pioneered the opening of the hinterland. This is nonsense. The opening of the hinterland began with people like Schomburg and Barring-ton-Brown and with the settlement of the Rupununi and the founding of the cattle industry by such families as the McTurks, Atkinsons and Melvilles in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The North-West District was also opened up by the colonial government in the 19th century. And the thousands of pork-knockers made their way to the hinterland long before Burnham was born. Indeed it was the colonial Governor, Gordon Lethem who pushed Interior Development and after whom the town of Lethem was named.
(2) Mr Green makes the peculiar remark that there were less than ten miles of paved roads at the end of the 1960's and that the sea defences were collapsing. The British laid out the road system and had the streets paved with Barbados limestone, and local granite. Some streets were even asphalted. And the sea-defences were in quite a good condition. In addition, the British had built a railway which transported people and goods along the coast at a very cheap fare. Mr Burnham closed this railway which was run on coal and not the expensive petroleum. At Burnham's death, the road to the airport was a death trap and the road system as a whole had collapsed. All sea defences and drainage in colonial times were better than in the Burnham era.
(3) Mass Games was a propaganda technique adopted from North Korea where it was used to deify the dictator Kim Il Sung. Mass Games did not teach co-ordination and love and discipline as Green says. Rather, it was an imposition on people's young children who were harassed for hours each day in the sun, often without anything to eat or drink. Children's school work was sacrificed to Mass Games and a whole generation of children grew up without a sound primary education. All this sacrifice and suffering was exacted from young children and their parents for the glory of Burnham.
(4) Mr Green says that we now import water, this statement is unfactual. We import fruit juices and soft drinks from Trinidad and other places but not water. Adequate and first quality drinking water is produced by Demerara Distillers Ltd (DDL) and others. The trade statistic records no imports of water. In Burnham's day, the water system in Georgetown and throughout the country had broken down.
(5) Finally, Mr Green says it was Burnham's idea and effort which made Hindu and Muslim Religious Holy days into National Holidays. This matter had been dealt with from time to time in the letter columns but Mr Green persists in error. The conversion of Hindu and Muslim Holy days into National Holidays was something called for by Indian leaders such as Dr JB Singh long before Burnham was born so the idea could not have been his.
Further, it was under Dr Jagan's Administration in 1960-61 that the History and Arts Council submitted their memorandum to Government recommending that those Holy Days be made Public Holidays. A select committee of Parliament was appointed under the chairmanship of Brindley Benn to make the final recommendations to the legislature. The PPP Government went out of office before legislation extending these Hindu and Muslim Holidays to the rest of the nation could have been passed. Mr. Burn-ham merely carried on from where the PPP and others had left off.
There are other inaccuracies which space does not permit me to deal with.