Kaieteur News – Tonight, maybe hundreds of thousands of young Guyanese will frolic through the night till morning. When they awake, they will touch ground in a free country. A majority of these sporting folks would have no experience of what Old Year’s Night was in the late seventies and early eighties.
This was a time when there was nothing to celebrate on Old Year’s Night. The country was swimming in the doldrums of life. Supermarkets hardly existed. The municipal markets hardly had goods. I remember one Christmas season in 1984, the year President Burnham died, people had to line up for cooking oil at the state owned Coop Complex on Regent and Light Streets. In front of me was Dr. James Rose, years before he became Vice Chancellor of UG.
Guyanese lived like this at that time, because one man determined the direction of Guyana’s economy – President Forbes Burnham. He was not elected. He had no intention of allowing Guyanese to vote for politicians of their choice. Read now a little story that you should reflect on before you go dancing tonight, because that story is part of a wider tidal wave that almost swept away this country earlier this year.
During the cruel consequences of the ban of a number of imported foods like flour, onions, garlic, canned food, split peas, etc., the ruling PNC called a special meeting where all party officials and leading state managers were present. There was only one topic for debate – the implications of the food ban and the decision to either retain or remove it. Of all the people that attended that meeting, one is still in the news – Vincent Alexander. Of course, Robert Corbin and Hamilton Green were there. Because of Granger’s position in the army, he would have been there.
President Burnham urged all attendees to speak frankly and openly. The consensus was that the food ban was hurting the image of the PNC and destroying the morale of the security forces. There were analyses from the floor urging the repeal of the embargo because the trade in contrabands was more advantageous for Indians than Blacks. Some delegates argued that the restrictions were enriching Indians.
There were factual dimensions to this claim, because Indians in Berbice were in control of the Suriname-Springlands trade route and they had the police and soldiers in their pockets. After Burnham listened, he and he alone made the decision – the embargo would remain. It was dissolved after Burnham’s death, was welcomed by the country and President Hoyte did the final rites.
Why did Burnham defy the consensus in his party? It has nothing to do with the state of his deteriorating mental health, although that was obvious to the society and the diplomatic community. Burnham knew that he could not have lost power over his political depravities, because there were no free and fair elections.
As you dance tonight, remember the words of one of Burnham’s demonic protégés who wrote a condemnatory column on me in this newspaper yesterday. His name is Lincoln Lewis. Here is what he wrote and remember his words now and forever; “I repeat with the same conviction, that President David Granger should have cancelled the elections.”
Do the young people have any idea, no matter how small, what would have been the consequences for the future of this country, one of which is that you may not have had any need to dance away the night on this very date? If the man who lost the 2020 election had cancelled the results, then it was the seventies and eighties all over.
One man, the president, David Granger, like one man, the president in the seventies and eighties, Forbes Burnham, would have decided the shape of our lives and the shape of the life of Guyana. There is a huge difference between then and now. Burnham got his way and even got rid of Walter Rodney. But in 2020, Granger would not have been allowed to reincarnate into Forbes Burnham.
The young generation in the PPP and other opposition parties and the Guyanese people who have no experience of the 1970s and 1980s and the world would not have allowed it. Granger did not heed the asinine advice of Lewis because he knew only a sick mind would say such a thing. Granger knew too that in the 21st century, the world would not have allowed him to rule without being duly elected. So as I conclude this article, you should dance frenetically because Burnhamism isn’t coming back, rigged elections isn’t coming back. You are free. Guyana was saved in 2020. Enjoy that freedom and preserve it with all your might until you die.
(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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