One of the persons with extensive involvement in trying to shape the election outcome for the eternal rule of the PNC is Vincent Alexander. Alexander is the permanent chairman of the Forbes Burnham Foundation. The person who will perpetuate the PNC’s eternal power is David Granger. Granger has four foundations housed in his private residence to honour the legacy of Burnham. Granger and Alexander are Guyana’s most devout admirers of Burnham. Why?
Two broad strands of Burnham’s politics have been extensively written about – his economic radicalism and his approach to power. There is definitely nothing new this article can add to those two dimensions. There is a third strand that has hardly been polemicized upon by anyone writing on Burnham.
Given all the demonic outputs by Burnham, one is still amazed how a person with academically trained minds like Alexander and Granger can remain in awe of Burnham. There are two explanations. I was on a Channel 9 discussion programme with Alexander and more or less, he described the genesis of this fascination which I believe is shared by Granger.
Alexander and Granger believe that Burnham was a futuristic phenomenon that left the banal post-colonial leaders of the Third World way behind. He had innovative ideas about total economic independence (resources, food security, infrastructure, education) which he implemented. To achieve success in his economic visions, Burnham believed that liberal, democratic approach to power, as embedded in the Westminster system, was not applicable to the Third World.
As a matter of ideology and policy, Burnham placed no premium on an independent judiciary, free elections, professional state sectors, professional security forces, tolerance for opposition challenges and basic norms governing democratic societies. Alexander and Granger would see these political deprivation and depravities as innocuous collateral damage in trying to fashion a self-sufficient, equal society.
The third strand in his sociological outlook, Burnham never talked about publicly – the race problematic. You have to look very hard and you will not find any offering from Burnham on the ethnic question, the reason being he was smart and astute not to make public pronouncements of this sensitive question. But he did wax lyrical to close African Guyanese on how he felt about the race divide. Some of these people are getting on in age. Some are dead.
Alexander and Granger are deeply aware of how Burnham saw the future of African-Guyanese. For Burnham, the Portuguese and Indians virtually owned Guyana. The only way to redress the imbalance is through radical social transformation through the permanent capture of state power.
Burnham secured state power and engineered some fantastic changes that sought to empower African Guyanese of which one was simply phenomenal – the multi-lateral school. This would have vitiated the dominance of non-African in the top schools. A caveat is in order. My research into Burnham leads me to the conclusion that he was not a racist in ideologically terms. But here I admit that it is a debatable situation.
Armed with his mental fixation of Burnham, Granger sought after 2015 to ensure the permanency of state power even though he knew the economic situation that existed in the Burnham era was gone forever and that nationalization was dead and gone. To secure eternal state power, Granger set about as early as May 2015 with the announcement of Cabinet assignments to create the pathway for PNC’s hold on state power way into the future.
First, the creation of the ministry of the presidency was designed to vitiate the power of non-PNC ministries. Secondly, the dilution of total control of non-PNC ministers was achieved through the placement of PNC junior ministers in such ministries with the creation of new ministries and new and other state institutions under PNC control. Thirdly, the removal of top police officers inherited from the previous government. Fourthly, secure a strategic presence in GECOM. Thus, we saw the rejection of 18 names from the opposition leader for GECOM’s chair and the choice of a sympathetic chairman and the dismissal of the Deputy Chief Elections Officer replaced with a pro-PNC person. But Granger’s attempt at reincarnation of Burnham failed because Granger was running Guyana in an era that had no resemblance at all to the epoch where Burnham’s hegemony was oceanic.
Guyana now had another court of appeal which removed Granger’s attempt to control GECOM. There was no paranoid western world embroiled in a Cold War that tolerated Burnham’s excesses. The society was now openly capitalist with people who had resources to fight Granger the way they could not confront Burnham. Finally, the PPP was not the indecisive party it was under Cheddi Jagan.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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