Walter, you will always be my hero!
A close friend once asked me how any sane person could really see Burnham as a good man. Former President Forbes Burnham will never be seen as a good man once there is a date in the calendar year of June 13, and there will always be June 13. Once there is June 13, Burnham as the first Executive President will be discussed as someone who destroyed Guyana and Dr. Walter Rodney will always be conceptualized as someone who tried to stop him and gave his life in the process.
Some people either have short memory, tiny memory or depraved memory. The post- Hoyte Government has unleashed a reign of terror upon the Guyanese population that still goes on unabated and then for these “memory people” science did a fantastic thing. It dissolved from history all the abominable, dictatorial and sickening things Burnham did to this nation.
Science, for a very “logical” reason, just stepped in and erased Burnham’s dictatorship because science told Guyanese that you can’t have two autocracies in contemporary Guyanese history. Either Jagdeo’s cabal was a tyranny or Burnham’s administration was a brutal oligarchy.
Well this immoral creation is a fiction of those with the short or tiny or depraved memory. And it will remain a fiction because Walter Rodney’s assassination took place on June 13 and there will always be June 13 and when it comes around we will continue to remember and never forget that the existence of a present dictatorship does not and cannot wash away Guyana’s past totalitarian system and that this past authoritarian government, run by Forbes Burnham, eventually conspired to kill Walter Rodney.
Maybe I should offer a joke if it wasn’t so tragic. How about keeping the 1980 Constitution forever so we Guyanese will always remember how obsessive Forbes Burnham was with power.
How ironic that those with short or tiny or depraved memory can speak good of Burnham but want his 1980 Constitution to be burned in the bonfires of the tyrannies. Now should we not ask the question why Burnham wanted such a constitution? Elementary Watson! He loved power and wanted it in absolute forms.
If it wasn’t tragic you can spend the rest of your life just laughing at those who see Burnham as a democratic leader. For me, there are other memories apart from the death of Walter Rodney.
Two persons are dead and I thanked them when they were alive. That didn’t mean I should not have disagreed with their politics. They are Former President Desmond Hoyte and former Education Minister Deryck Bernard. Both agreed to remove President Burnham’s ban on me working in my own country. The three gentlemen who intervened on my behalf are very much alive and well. And one day I hope when they write their memoirs they will pen a line on what they did for me – Professors Clive Thomas, Harold Lutchman and Rudy James.
Do you see a President of your country as a democratic hero when he prevents you from working in the land of your birth?
I am a trained academic and therefore I don’t want to cloud my judgement of Walter Rodney’s death with overflowing emotions. Historical details are emerging that may cause many analysts to adopt a revisionist critique of Burnham’s role in the death of Walter Rodney and this may dent some of the harshness in the evaluations of Burnham’s legacy.
Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine went on record with the Stabroek News and explained that the WPA was stockpiling weapons to confront Burnham.
If Burnham knew this, then he had to act to preserve his life. A President just does not invite his revolutionary replacement to come into his bedroom and kill him. This revelation by Roopnaraine throws the scholarly debate about Burnham in another direction. My feeling is that Burnham felt that Rodney was going to overthrow him and humiliate him.
The Roopnaraine confession now goes further and takes the analyst into the realm of a study of realpolitik in Guyana in 1980 when Walter was murdered.
Now assuming that Burnham felt that Rodney was going to kill him because that is what revolution does to authoritarian leaders, it is obvious that Burnham had to act to erase Rodney’s implementation of his intention. But did it have to end in Rodney’s death? Burnham of course had his hands tied. If he chose not to kill Rodney but to jail him for treason, then Burnham would have created a permanent revolution in Guyana once Rodney languished in jail.
But Walter was too precious to the world to have been assassinated.