Kaieteur News – Since Burnham’s death in 1985 (I truly and deeply feel in my heart he ordered the assassination of Walter Rodney), there have been literally hundreds of letters in all the newspapers here that have made reference to his vision and chastising people who only see Burnham as a bad leader. The latest was weeks ago in the letter section of this newspaper in which yet another person exclaims that there are those who will discredit Burnham and give him no praise for the positive aspects of policies.
I have read many such viewpoints from people who praise Burnham but never a word on his bad side and his terrible side was truly frightening. I have done several thousands of columns over a 32-year period and maybe hundreds have analysed Burnham the visionary and Burnham the despot.
It is not possible to deny the positive post-colonial directions of Burnham that many of his contemporaries in the Third World after decolonisation hadn’t the sagacity to contemplate much less implement. To enumerate this glowing record will fill several columns.
Also filling dozens of columns would be my evaluation of his narcissistic personality, innately flawed character and semi-fascist rule. Forbes Burnham was not as complex as his admirers think. If someone is going to write a book about him, they must look at the 1970s when Walter Rodney exposed him to African Guyanese who admired him intensely and the world who thought he was a Third World phenomenon.
Burnham was afraid of Rodney because Rodney replaced him as the post-colonial hero. This aspect of Burnham’s rule will never be touched by Burnham’s aficionados because it puts their hero in a fading light. However, history records this low moment in Burnham’s so-called greatness with the judicial commission of inquiry into Rodney’s death. Several witnesses testified that Rodney had penetrated the security forces. At the time, Joseph Harmon was the army’s chief of intelligence so he had to know about Rodney’s activities and reported this to Burnham.
The Burnhamites will continue to rant against those who criticise Burnham and see no good in him. But they shamelessly refuse to acknowledge the demonic side of Burnham. It has to be an underdeveloped mind that cannot see that Burnham’s philosophy of power was unmodern, undemocratic and dangerous. He believed he was a special leader and he put himself above the society.
So narcissistic was Burnham that he believed he could capture the imagination of the person who he was talking to and trying to convince. Rodney had to die because Burnham knew he would have toppled him one day. I recall Burnham’s attitude to me. Once Burnham knew that I didn’t like him, he singled me out for persecution and brought my wife under his diabolical radar.
I won the President Medal and a number of awards as UG’s top student. I got a visit from Vincent Britton, one of the top PNC ideologues in the Ministry of National Development. He said that Burnham would like to see me. Vincent was nice and likeable but I told him to tell Burnham to F… off. I knew what Burnham wanted. He would have sweet-talked me, give me a fancy job and that was the end of my passion to fight wrongs. And the biggest wrong in Guyana was Burnham.
Burnham was livid. I couldn’t get a job as a teacher or as anything in Guyana. I went to Vincent Teekah whom I had known as a 16-year-old youth knocking around the PPP. Teekah looked at me with emotionally drained eyes just stopping short of telling me there was nothing he could do. I left Guyana for studies at MacMaster University and the University of Toronto and returned to my beloved country after serving the Maurice Bishop Government in Grenada.
The next day at my mother’s home, Burnham sent to call me. My 1984 response was the same as my 1978 reaction. I told the emissary to tell Burnham to F…. off. He showed his Draculean mentality again. I couldn’t get a job at UG and my wife, as a chemical engineer, couldn’t find a job too.
I look back at my youthful radicalism and have no regrets. Maybe it would have been an intellectually gratifying moment to sit next to Burnham and see if I could have detected Freudian underpinnings. I am sorry my mom never lived to see her university graduate son work to give her a few pennies all because of Burnham’s psychotic rule. But now as I reach old age, I say unrepentantly, I am filled with pride in sending two cussing messages to Burnham. He was the personification of evil.
(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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