In times like these, many are recalling that hug 54 years ago. It was between arch-rivals Mr. Burnham and Dr. Jagan. It occurred just before midnight at the national park on the eve of May 26, 1966. The Union Jack was going to be lowered and the Golden Arrowhead hoisted in its place, signifying the granting of independence and self-rule by Her Majesty’s Government to the Guyanese people.
I was there — as a volunteer usher.
That hug has been romanticized for what it was not. Most recalling the event are sentimental and full of hope that it could have been the harbinger of the way things should have panned out. This was not to be as there was no love and reconciliation in it. To begin with, Dr. Jagan was boycotting most of the celebrations as a form of protest but made the flag-raising ceremony an exception as it signified the achievement of independence for the country.
If Alzheimer’s isn’t getting the better of me, this is how I recall the hug. Mr. Burnham was either going up or coming down the stairs. Dr. Jagan was standing in the seating area. As Mr. Burnham passed Dr. Jagan, he quickly bent over and hugged him. It was a momentary thing, fleeting and signifying nothing except for maybe a quick photo op. Mr. Burnham did not stop and they did not speak. It was over in a blink.
Since I am on that historic night, editor, permit me to mention two other things, I always remember. The first is specially brought in Radio Demerara commentator Dr. Robert Moore (deceased). Looking at the Golden Arrowhead hoisted high up, he spoke passionately, eruditely, and engagingly about its fluttering in the wind for well over an hour.
The second thing is the arrival of Dr. Jagan. Mr. Burnham’s party was already there. When Dr. Jagan arrived, all the cameras and lighting moved away from Mr. Burnham’s area and were focused on Dr. Jagan. They remained focused on Dr. Jagan for a long time, leaving Mr. Burnham in almost total darkness.
Who really is the star here tonight? I thought.
P. D. Sharma
Los Angeles, California
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