Burnham had an optimistic view of the future
February 19, 2004
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Dear Editor,I heartily share that perception by Marcus, (2/2/2004) of the late great Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham being someone more sinned against than having sinned; one indeed, who is still so much envied, that those concerned must go to any lengths to revile him, even if that process means the most shameless rewriting of history.
Mr Vishnu Bisram, in response to Marcus' letter which you sent to him for his comments (editor's note: Marcus was replying to a letter from Bisram criticising Burn-ham which we had not published) says "I can never remain silent to authoritarian rule. Burnhamism must be exposed even if it is nineteen years after Burnham."
This is, in itself, a hilarious contradiction. Here is a man who must have been bursting to expose something. Yet, he waits until nineteen years, just short of two decades, after the man about whom he cannot keep silent, has gone to his grave, to "expose" that man's policies and practices.
Burnham, like every great man in history, has his Brutuses. He even forgave that misguided sister of his. We, of course can never know what sibling jealousies lay behind Jessie's stab-in-the back.
But where did Mr. Bisram come up with this one about "huge sums of money missing" during the construction of that gem in post-colonial development, the Soesdyke/ Linden Highway? Strange, we or most of us, never heard this one before. Strange indeed, that the late Mr. Peter Stanislaus d'Aguiar, Finance Minister in that coalition does not seem to have said anything about it at the time. Tell us more. Mr. Bisram! You know, it is so easy to say so many unfounded, unsubstantiated and unsupportable things about one's betters - when, of course, those scintillating stars have pitched their last, and the vilifiers feel free of possible repercussions - legal or otherwise.
But as Marcus pointed out, Forbes Burnham was a nationalist, first and foremost. Where would Guyana have been, for all those who are now attempting to sully his name, to call "home", had he not ignored all those who were screaming "partition" after the murders and mayhem in 1964.
Mr. Burnham was, however, an optimistic believer in a future for Guyana. That is why he faced those who were hurt, as well as those who hurt them, and pleaded: "time for healing". What Mr. Bisram and all those mud-slingers need to recall, is that he did it alone, with his party entourage, of course. The others - whom he had invited to join him in what ought to have been a collective exercise, were either too guilt- filled, or timid. And of course, most of them were sure that it was an exercise in futility. "Guyana done" was what they were saying all over the place.
Yes Marcus is right. Forbes Burnham was a strong man, but not at all a demon. Of course, he got a lot of bad name from the shenanigans of some whom he trusted to put Guyana first. Men, and a woman or two, of all races flocked to his banner, and some had their own agendas. He caught up with some, and some got out of Guyana, a jump or two ahead of his avenging arm. You could find some of the latter even now, in places like the "land of opportunity", spouting some of the very lies being peddled by the Bisrams of today. But you see, the Burnham regime did not merely say things like being against corruption. That administration meant it and pursued that policy.
It was Burnham with two Carib-bean leaders that rekindled the Caribbean idea. And you can be sure that Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham would have spurned any idea like the bilateral treaty exempting the USA from possible prosecution of its nationals under the Inter-national Criminal Court.
Something like that would have had unfavourable repercussions certainly but fancy Barbados, of all territories, taking a stand on the subject, and our Guyana, the one that under Burnham defied the giants, now being the example of spinelessness!
Walter A. Jordan