REFLECTIONS OF L.F.S. BURNHAM
by Dr. Ramesh Kissoon
Posted on 2010-05-04
Madame Chairperson, Mr. Robert Corbin, the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, Mrs. Corbin, the First Lady of the PNC Reform, Comrades, Friends, not forgetting our dear Deputy Mayor.
My reflections of Burnham were well articulated by Dr. Loncke. What more can I say more than we have gone to the same University, to the same class under the same Master. Therefore, if we were to write an examination, the Vice-Chancellor or the Professor would have said that we have copied the same paper. But I just want to remind children, children I classify them below the age of thirty, who may not know about Burnham, the master blaster. It was told to me recently that some child was in the pool at Castellani House, the former residence of the Prime Minister and President of Guyana. And the child after swimming was speaking to another child and said “yuh see wha Papa Cheddi gie ahwe, Papa Cheddi gie ahwe swimming pool”, not knowing that it was built by Forbes Sampson Burnham. The tile that was used was from Guyana’s soil. Guyana was blessed having a Leader that was respected that dedicated his life to the development of Guyana by its own industries. If you recall, he made us to recite Kahil Gibran – “Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine press” (only XM).
I recall that when Dr. Loncke was speaking about culture, when the TATA buses, you remember we had TATA buses in this country, when they were breaking down and Dr. Reid said give the Engineers at GNEC to make them run in tandem, you remember those days. And Burnham called Sase Narain and said “Sase, these buses are breaking down and Dr. Reid said they must pull one another, the TATA saying goodbye, what name we must give them?” Sase said, “Well me can’t think about name” but Burnham said we have to give them an Indian name and Burnham said call them “Pulmatie”. So this was the culture of the man, he knew that Guyana was a culture of diversity and he must mix and know the names of other people. And he remembered “Pulmatie” which is an Indian name but it did not mean pulling one another, but that is the significance of this nation today - pulling one another after the death of Hoyte (pulling one another).
If Burnham were alive today, we would have been a unified nation. That was his ambition. He dreamt that Guyana was being unified, but cultural diversity, he gave us pride in our religion, our culture, he gave us national holidays to remember where we came from. Christmas, for Christians, is celebrated by all Guyanese except a few. Easter celebrated by all Guyanese, except a few. Phagwah should be celebrated by all Guyanese, except a few. Diwali should be celebrated by all Guyanese, except a few. Eid must be celebrated by all Guyanese, except a few. And that was his vision that we must know one another’s culture as such, he mandated that the curriculum in schools must out of necessity teach culture - the significance of Phagwah, Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Easter, the major holidays of Guyana. And he thought this was a unifying force.
When he created the National Service, it was done for one purpose. For us to know the country, for us to be pioneers in development and for us to come together. But the detractors said it was for black man only, but that was not Burnham’s ambition. Burnham’s ambition was a unifying force to get people working hand in hand. Burnham was not a black man as Dr. Joycelynne said “Africa was only a name, India a mystery”. What was China? And Taiwan? Even Taiwan has become a mystery. Imagine Taiwan has become a mystery and was discussed at Cabinet. So you can see the importance of the People’s National Congress founded by Burnham.
I just want to remind the people that Burnham gave us the National Cultural Centre which was boycotted by Cheddi Jagan, Reepu Daman Persaud and many Indians of this country. Today, today every Guyanese enjoying Cultural Centre. Who build it, Papa Cheddi? We have to tell the people of Guyana how these things were built. Umana Yana, as Dr. Loncke said “Why was it built in Georgetown?” - to bring Amerindian culture to Georgetown. Cuffy, why was it done in Georgetown although Jagan wanted Accrabre, you all remember that story? Because he had Accrabre College, teaching socialism. Jagan fought for Accrabre, Burnham put his foot down and said he was the man. And even check Cuffy statue, I want you all to go and check Cuffy statue. Do you know they have Burnham’s head behind Cuffy? Burnham was the reincarnation of Cuffy who is still fighting the revolution for us in Guyana today.
When we would have forgotten that Burnham gave us Damon at Essequibo, the Enmore Martyrs at Enmore, Carifesta ’72, the Conference of Black Writers and I and Dr. Balwant Singh, when I wrote Burnham that 1969 we would have the hundredth (100th) Anniversary of the death of Mahatma Ghandi. Burnham telephoned me, I was in India and a telephone call was a mystery, it was mystery to get a telephone call to India, “Ramesh, go ahead. But we have no money for the air freight”. Burnham said to see if the Indian Government can get it to New York; I will bring it to Guyana. Today, because of Burnham’s blessings, we have the Ghandi statue at the Promenade Gardens. We have forgotten the Non Aligned Monument by the Cathedral. We had it where that turtle is, you remember signifying the Non Alignment Monument. Today this Government is trying to revive something we call Mass Games, they call it costume parade, is a masquerade. Burnham institutionalized Mass Games but was denounced by a few people of Guyana. It was culture; it was training for the mind, for the soul, for the intellect. We condemned. Everything Burnham did, we condemned and we trying even to finish off all what Burnham did. The Multilateral Schools, the University of Guyana, started by Cheddi Jagan, built by Burnham was boycotted by Jagan when it was opened. Our memory should not relegate into oblivion. Our youths must remember these things. We drive from here to Linden happily, we cross the Demerara Harbour Bridge. I tell people every time we cross the Demerara Harbour Bridge, remember who built it - Burnham and the PNC, Burnham! Canje Bridge, Burnham! Textile Mill, Burnham! GRECO radio, you remember we use to play, Harper, GRECO radio. You have one, I still have one. Refrigerators, Tapir cars, who is driving, where Tapir is located? Tapir town! Not Prado Nagar. We used to make car batteries, welding rods, mosquito coil and the cloth from Kimbia cotton, plastic flowers in Buxton, clay bricks, ceramics (Vanceram). We were self sufficient in cooking oil, today the coconut industry is dead, d-e-d, dead. You know why the coconut industry is dead, because it has the palm tree. Because the significance of Guyana’s People’s National Congress is the palm tree, so they want to kill the coconut industry and it’s dead. Long ago when a man steals a coconut, you could have locked him up. Today you are begging him to take the coconut. They cut the branch now to make broom. We must not forget the development aspect of Burnham’s mentality. He gave us the Bank of Guyana, the Agri Bank, GNCB Bank, Lidco. Lidco was supposed to be the bread basket of the Caribbean. So many thousand acres of land, one man own it today, Vic Oudit. You all must not forget these things, Comrades. Burnham’s sea defences never break away, because he had good Engineers. He had a man they called Steve Naraine. The GDF, you think what happened at the Rig would have happened if Burnham was alive. Never! Sovereignty was important for him. Because he said our foreign policy must not be a minion of Moscow nor a mendicant of Washington. Independence means independence and Guyana must be a free independent country among sovereign nations.
I can reflect whole night on Burnham. I am doing a book called “Burnham – His Mission and His Mansion”. I was at the chapter where I was looking for his wealth and I have asked people to come and tell me where is Burnham’s wealth. So far no takers! Ebony Magazine, they claimed say Burnham was the richest black man in the world, the third richest black man. Therefore, I wrote Ebony Magazine, can’t even show me a copy of it. Never did, some people say they thought it was Times. Not true. Burnham, when he died left a will. The other President dead, I haven’t seen the will. It is important, because he followed the Laws of Guyana. Burnham left us a legacy that we must continue to follow to be independent. He has trained, according to the Chairman of the National Congress of Women, a Leader that he has given us now, Robert Corbin, a trained Leader. I hope he take us to victory with the next elections. Thank you very much.