This week, Freddie Kissoon sat down with Hamilton Green to discuss Green’s role in Guyana’s political history. A section of the interview follows.
Freddie Kissoon: Why so close to President Burnham yet not chosen in 1984 to be Prime Minister?
Hamilton Green: Possibly three reasons. Burnham was a devout reader of a little blue book of the regular assessments of the CIA and MI5. In one of those reports on Guyana, it listed me as someone who wanted to take power from Burnham. Burnham called me at his home, questioned me, I denied it but my pledged loyalty did not change his mind.
Secondly, the middle class supporters and PNC middle class leaders felt I did not have a tertiary education and should not be Prime Minister. Thirdly, Burnham probably felt an obligation to Hoyte. Hoyte was loyal, plus look what happened to his two daughters. Overall, I would say PNC leaders didn’t want me to be PM because they know I would be my own man.
FK : What do you think of Hoyte?
HG: His presidency was disastrous for Guyana.
FK: If you have to write a history of the PNC, would you be critical of him?
HG: I was writing such a history but left off after President Granger had undertaken that task. I have resumed. Yes, I would be very critical of his period in government.
FK: Why you think Hoyte so disliked you?
HG: He did not forgive me for contesting the leadership of the party at the congress. He felt that as president, I was impertinent to have done so. It was my right. And I know I would have beaten him. I withdrew after Tollo (Dr. Ptolemy Reid) asked me. My duty was to preserve party unity
FK: Do you have any regrets at all, for wrong policies or using violence upon persons, etc. in your long career as a central figure in government?
HG: No, I don’t have any regrets whatsoever. Looking back, I know I have done the rights things. I would say Burnham and I have done great things for the Guyanese people. People say Burnham was a racist but do you know Burnham’s policies would have benefitted Indians immensely because of the emphasis on agriculture?
FK: I saw you outside Guyana Stores manhandling striking workers who belonged to the CCWU. Why not leave such behaviour to the grass-root activists rather than a minister going there himself?
HG: I didn’t manhandle anyone. I have no regrets being there because people expect their leaders to lead; they expect their leaders to defend them. In government, I was such a leader.
FK: Can you think of at least just one regret?
HG: No, I don’t have any regrets because I believe what we did at the time was good for Guyana.
FK: What about the WPA?
HG: Let me share something with you. I was in Tanzania at the time Walter Rodney was expelled from that country. President Julius Nyerere told me to inform President Burnham that Rodney was coming home to Guyana to use violence. When I came home, I told Burnham. You see Rodney was obsessed with violence. His politics was to use violence to overthrow Burnham. I have evidence of that. We know they burnt down the Ministry of National Development and my cousin, Omawale (Walter Green) was involved. We know that they were buying guns. I was involved in a situation where they bought guns, but our decoys took out the clips. When Ohene Koama and Edward Dublin were approached by the police, they fired and the police fired back.
FK: Well, I guess what you heard in Tanzania was the reason Rodney was not employed at UG.
HG: Exactly, why would you want someone like Rodney in, of all places, at the university given what he was about to do in Guyana.
FK: Did you have anything to do with the death of Minister Vincent Teekah.
HG: No. Teekah was a womaniser. What was he doing at a very desolate spot at night with a woman? Either someone followed him there or he was robbed and murdered.
FK: Surely, you cannot deny Burnham was an authoritarian leader. Look the at the food ban, the imposition of National Service at UG. Students woke up a morning and found out in the coming weeks that they had to do three months of interior service along with military service
HG: I would not agree he was authoritarian. I agreed with the food ban and National Service at UG but they were not introduced properly. They could have been done in better ways.
FK: Didn’t you tell Burnham that?
HG: (smiling). Who could tell Burnham anything once he made up his mind?
FK: Surely, in a poor, third world country, how could President Burnham ride about on horseback in poor areas and sharing out cigarettes and cassava sticks to people?
HG: (laughing out heartily). What is wrong with that? I would have done that myself. It was his way of reaching people. Burnham loved to ride.
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