Limousines were used for state occasions and special visits
May 30, 2002
Letters on stuff
In the interest of truth, to which Mr John Mair refers, (in his letter published in Stabroek News 28.5.02) I wish to state confidently that, his insistence that Forbes Burnham had American limousines, is a complete falsehood and I challenge him, or anyone else to bring the evidence. Newspapers of that time must have photos for all to see.
I was Minister of Works, Hydraulics and Supply for some time after 1969 and ought to know.
There seems to be deliberate programme by some persons to rewrite our history, and, at the same time, to demonize Forbes Burnham.
If the letter by Mr Mair was not intended to be misleading, I should assume that he is merely misguided. If the latter is the case, I state the following to help Mr. Mair:
There is a difference between a pick-up van, a minibus, a saloon family sized-car, a large car, a convertible, and a limousine.
These are all different passenger vehicles, with distinctive features.
After independence, the government, by special arrangement with British officials acquired two Daimler limousines made in the UK - the first arrived in 1969. These were state vehicles, used for state and official occasions only.
Later, Forbes Burnham used another British car as the official car reserved for the Head of State.
We later imported three convertible American cars for state occasions and special visits.
At the time there was a shortage of appropriate type vehicles in the country for visitors.
Recall that during that period we had many Heads visit, among others were:
Julius Nyerere - Tanzania
Indira Gandhi - India
Sirimavo Bandaranaike - Sri Lanka
Fidel Castro Ruiz - Cuba
Pierre Trudeau - Canada
King Moshoeshoe - Lesotho
Carlos Andres Perez - Venezuela
Kenneth Kaunda - Zambia
Jerry Rawlings - Ghana
Governor General - Sir Gerald Cash
Sereste Khama - Botswana
General Yakubu Gowan - Nigeria
All Caricom Heads, as well as Surianme
Additionally, we had Carifesta. Leading personalities such as Mohamad Ali came. The convertibles were to allow the public to see the VIP's and Heads as they drove around the country.
I recall complaints by members of the public, including schoolchildren that the closed-up vehicles did not allow them to see our important visitors.
I repeat, neither the Government nor Burnham ever used an American limousine.
But, Mr Editor, may I add, I don't know what the fuss is all about; persons who hold high office should be able to travel in comfort and, for me, a limousine, of whatever type, for use by our Head of State, should be a non-negotiable.
One special feature of a limousine is that it provides a wall for privacy between the driver and those sitting at the back, who oft times may wish to carry on a conversation of a confidential nature.
If your Head of State meets a counterpart who is on a visit, very important matters could be settled while driving from one place to the other. The visitor and our Head of State would be inhibited from discussing certain sensitive matters to if he uses a saloon car.
I have chided every other Head of State for not having at least one limousine-type vehicle available for state purposes.
Our society must learn to accept that persons holding high office should have certain comforts and amenities to allow them to function effectively.
Hamilton Green, JP