Kaieteur News – I read a letter in the Kaieteur News last week by long serving minister of the PNC government under President Forbes Burnham – Rashleigh Jackson. Mr. Jackson’s service to Mr. Burnham is only eclipsed by two others – Hamilton Green and Oscar Clark. I will refer to the three of them as the surviving Burnhamite triumvirate. There was another person who served longer than Mr. Jackson, Dr. Ptolemy Reid, but he has passed on. It is a short letter. Here it is in its entirety.
“A very long time ago many people believed that the Earth was flat. Maybe some still do today. I was reminded of this absurdity by portrayals in the print media in commentaries and letters about ethnic violence in Guyana which led me to wonder whether the writers (and perhaps others) believe that a coin has only one side. However, there is no need for despair. One can take comfort from the words of the wise person who said “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”.
Here is my twist on those words. I have put them in quote/unquote. “A very long time ago, many people believed that Forbes Burnham was good. Maybe some still do today. I was reminded of this absurdity by portrayals in the print media and letters about the man which led me to wonder whether the Burnhamite admirers believe that a coin has only one side. However, there is no need for despair. One can take comfort from the words of Shakespeare who wrote that the evil that men do lives after them.”
Mr. Jackson is a well-educated man and I hope he does not find me impertinent when I explain what Shakespeare meant when he put those words in the mouth of Marc Anthony at the funeral of Julius Caesar. It has a simple and basic meaning – the terrible, cruel things humans do are remembered by people long after the villain is dead.
At age 92, one must ask the question is it not time Mr. Jackson write about that fascinating period in the contemporary history of the Third World – the reign of Forbes Burnham. Mr. Jackson served the Guyanese dictator for a very long time. Sorry Mr. Jackson if you feel offended by the appellation, “dictator,” but I have to be true to my readers and call it as I see it.
If we are not going to get a book from Mr. Jackson then I am begging the honourable gentleman to at least leave some printed notes on his feelings, perceptions and interpretations of Forbes Burnham. If Mr. Jackson is going to reply then I hope he avoids the style used by a certain gentleman.
When this gentleman writes no one understands exactly what he is getting at. It is a recondite style that I have heard people complain about more than 40 years ago. Up to this day, as an educated man, I cannot fathom many times who he has in mind and which specific content of an event he is referring to.
Mr. Jackson when he writes displays a little bit of this gentleman’s habit. Here is what I mean. Look at the bottom half of the letter. What is he getting at? I think I know. He is saying that people fill the press with violence committed against Indians but there is another side to this complaint. The last line of his letter beats me.
Mr. Jackson is deadly wrong and the people who write those letters are pungently correct. The riots in the 1960s have some explainers who argue that it was a racial tit for tat. They point to Africans being murdered too. So there are grey areas there. But there are no grey areas in post-Independence Guyana.
The statistics of victims of violence throw up some interesting facts – 1973, 1992, 1997, 2001-2006 in Buxton, September 2020 in Region Five. In the violence in these years, all the victims were Indians (except the Buxton period). I have chosen to say “all” rather than most because I believe all were Indians. I may be wrong but my research points to the appropriate use of the word, “all.”
Anyway, to get back to my plea. I hope Mr. Jackson gives us the side of the coin of Burnham he saw or whether he saw both sides and what he thought of the two sides. All Guyanese I honestly believe would like to know how a widely experienced man who worked for Burnham for so long feels about him. I have never met Mr. Jackson but now that I have penned two columns on him, I would like to take this opportunity to express my condolence on the unfortunate incident in which he lost his wife.
(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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