Forbes Burnham

Last updated

Forbes Burnham

OE
Forbes Burnham (1966).jpg
Burnham in 1966.
2nd President of Guyana
In office
6 October 1980 6 August 1985
Prime Minister Ptolemy Reid
Vice President Ptolemy Reid
Shiw Sahai Naraine
Hugh Desmond Hoyte
Hamilton Green
Bishwaishwar Ramsaroop
Mohamed Shahabuddeen
Ranji Chandisingh
Preceded by Arthur Chung
Succeeded by Hugh Desmond Hoyte
1st Prime Minister of Guyana
(British Guiana until 1966)
In office
14 December 1964 6 October 1980
Monarch Elizabeth II
President Edward Victor Luckhoo (Acting)
Arthur Chung
Preceded by Cheddi Jagan
Succeeded by Ptolemy Reid
Personal details
Born
Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham

(1923-02-20)20 February 1923
Kitty, Georgetown, East Coast Demerara, British Guiana
Died6 August 1985(1985-08-06) (aged 62)
Georgetown, East Coast Demerara, Guyana
Resting placethe Botanical Gardens
Political party PPP (1950–1958)
PNC (1958–1985)
Spouse(s)Bernice Lataste (1951-1966)
Viola Burnham (1967-his death)
ChildrenRoxane
Annabelle
Francesca
Melanie
Ulele
Kamana (adopted)
Larry Lumsden
Alma mater London School of Economics

Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham (20 February 1923 – 6 August 1985) was a Guyanese politician and the leader of Co-operative Republic of Guyana from 1964 until his death. He served as Prime Minister from 1964 to 1980 and then as its first Executive President from 1980 to 1985. He is often regarded as a strongman [1] who embraced his own version of communism. Throughout his presidency, he encouraged Guyanese to produce and export more local goods, especially through the use of state-run corporations and agricultural cooperatives. Despite being widely regarded as one of the principal architects of the postcolonial Guyanese state, his presidency was nonetheless marred by repeated accusations of Afro-supremacy, state-sanctioned violence, economic collapse, electoral fraud, and corruption.

Contents

Personal Life and Education

Burnham, an Afro-Guyanese man, was born in Kitty, a suburb of Georgetown, East Demerara in Guyana, as one of three children. He attended the prestigious secondary school, Queen's College. In 1942, he won the Guiana Scholarship as the colony's top student. Burnham received a law degree from the London School of Economics in 1948. Burnham met many African and Caribbean students – including Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria, Seretse Khama of Botswana and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana as well as Michael Manley of Jamaica and Errol Barrow of Barbados – during his studies in London. [2] He was married to Viola Burnham, who was also involved in politics. He has three children, Roxane, Annabelle, and Francesca from his first marriage to Bernice Lataste.[ citation needed ] His second marriage to Viola produced two daughters, Melanie and Ulele and later they adopted a son, Kamana.[ citation needed ]

Early years: The People's Progressive Party (PPP)

Burnham was one of the founders of the People's Progressive Party (PPP), which was launched on 1 January 1950. The Indo-Guyanese labour leader Cheddi Jagan became Leader of the PPP and Burnham became its chairman. [3] In 1952, Burnham became the president of the party's affiliated trade union, the British Guiana Labour Union. In 1953, the PPP won 18 of 24 seats in the first election with universal suffrage in Guyana, with both Burnham and his sister Jessie elected to the House of Assembly. In the short-lived PPP government that followed, Burnham served as Minister of Education. [4]

In 1955, there was a split in the PPP between Burnham and Jagan. Jagan supported a socialist domestic policy, [5] [6] but Burnham believed that, given the geopolitical conditions of the era, communism would be a better alternative. The UK and United States were falsely informed that Burnham was somewhat more moderate than Jagan. This red scare tactic resulted in foreign support for Burnham, who went on to form the People's National Congress (PNC) in 1958 entering its first election under that name in 1961. [7] Guyana obtained massive debts during Burnham's tenure, experienced stagflation, and suffered a massive rise in crime. Burnham's tenure was also marked by elections rigged by the PNC. The UK and USA would later formally apologize for this destabilization, albeit years later in the 2000s.

Leader of Guyana: The People's National Congress (PNC)

Forbes Burnham Presidential Standard Presidential Standard of Guyana (1980-1985) under President LFS Burnham.svg
Forbes Burnham Presidential Standard

In the 1964 election Jagan's PPP won the highest percentage of the vote (46% to the PNC's 41%), but it did not win a majority. Burnham succeeded in forming a coalition with the United Force (TUF) (which had won the remaining 12% of the votes) and became premier of British Guiana on 14 December.[ citation needed ] On 26 May 1966, British Guiana became an independent country and was renamed "Guyana".[ citation needed ]

Due to the radical views of Cheddi Jagan (who leaned towards communism) both due to his socialist economic views, and his alliances with the Soviet Union and Cuba, Burnham was supported by Western nations. [8] At first, Burhnam pursued moderate policies, but in one of his first acts upon independence, he had passed a sweeping "National Security Act" giving the police the power to search, seize and arrest anyone virtually at will.[ citation needed ]

He won full power in 1968, although many[ quantify ] condemned the elections as fraudulent because of a large number of irregularities (such as questionable numbers of overseas voters on the rolls).[ citation needed ] In 1970, he veered sharply to the left and established strong relations with Cuba, the Soviet Union, North Korea and other communist countries.[ citation needed ] On 23 February of that year, he declared Guyana a "co-operative republic".[ citation needed ] Adopting a policy of autarky, he banned all forms of imports into the country, including flour and varieties of rice that had been integral to the diet of Guyanese. Burnham also nationalised the major industries that were foreign-owned and-controlled, reducing the private sector's share of the economy to 10 percent by 1979.[ citation needed ] Burnham, after attending the 1970 summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Lusaka, Zambia, paid official visits to several African countries—Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia—over the period 12–30 September 1970.[ citation needed ] The Guyanese government remained fully involved in the African liberation movement throughout the 1970s. [2] Interestingly, although Guyana provided much-needed aid to African nations in their time of need - when Guyana was in its most dire times of need (the early 1990s and late 2010s), none of these African nations offered aid to Guyana.[ citation needed ]

Burnham sent more than a hundred Guyanese public servants to various departments of the Zambian Government. Many Guyanese doctors, engineers, lawyers and secretaries worked in Southern African states throughout the 1970s. [2] Current census data indicates that the majority of doctors, engineers, lawyers and secretaries currently working in Guyana originate from India, Sri Lanka, Cuba and China.[ citation needed ]

In 1974 Burnham declared the PNC to be paramount and socialist.[ citation needed ] He won a 1978 referendum which made it much easier for the government to change the constitution. Anecdotal evidence from hundreds of Indo-Guyanese (and Afro-Guyanese who were PPP supporters) claims that PNC enforcers aggressively (and often violently) denied PPP supporters of the opportunity to vote.[ citation needed ] Most notably, official figures showed the referendum passing with an implausible 97 percent of the vote.[ citation needed ] In 1980 the constitution was changed to make the presidency an executive post (before this time, the post was held by Arthur Chung in a ceremonial head-of-state role). Burnham won election as president that year.[ citation needed ]

Burnham introduced mass games to Guyana. They were first held in February 1980 to commemorate the founding of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. [9]

According to Dr. Walter Rodney, Burnham's "style of rule has many similarities with that of the late Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza" - who not only oppressed the working class, but those in the upper echelons of the society who refused to go along with his domination. In 2014, Donald Ramotar launched an inquiry into the murder of Rodney despite resistance from the PNC. In 2016, the Commission of Inquiry released findings that state that President Forbes Burnham, aided by the Guyana Defence Force and Guyana Police Force, was part of the conspiracy to assassinate Dr. Walter Rodney. Rodney was the leader of the Working People's Alliance which posed a threat to Burnham, for the WPA was bridging the gap between East Indian and African populations of Guyana. Rodney was killed in his car on June 13, 1980 by Gregory Smith, an operative of the GDF, with an explosive communication device. Smith escaped to French Guiana with assistance from the Burnham government, changed his name and is thought to have died in 2002. Although most people believed Burnham had a hand in Rodney's death, the government claimed that Rodney died trying to blow up a prison. [10]

Burnham remained President of Guyana until his death. He died on 6 August 1985 after undergoing throat surgery in Cuba. [4]

Related Research Articles

Politics of Guyana

The politics of Guyana takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Guyana is the head of government and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the President, advised by a cabinet. Legislative power is vested in both the President and the National Assembly of Guyana. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

The history of Guyana begins about 35,000 years ago with the arrival of humans coming from Eurasia. These migrants became the Carib and Arawak tribes, who met Alonso de Ojeda's first expedition from Spain in 1499 at the Essequibo River. In the ensuing colonial era, Guyana's government was defined by the successive policies of Spanish, French, Dutch, and British settlers.

Cheddi Jagan

HE Cheddi Berret Jagan was a Guyanese politician who was first elected Chief Minister in 1953 and later Premier of British Guiana from 1961 to 1964. He later served as President of Guyana from 1992 to 1997. Jagan is widely regarded in Guyana as the Father of the Nation. In 1953, he became the first person of Indian descent to be a head of government outside of South Asia.

Sam Hinds 5th Prime Minister of Guyana

Samuel Archibald Anthony Hinds is a Guyanese politician who was Prime Minister of Guyana almost continuously from 1992 to 2015. He also briefly served as President of Guyana in 1997. He was awarded Guyana's highest national award, the Order of Excellence (O.E.) in 2011.

Janet Jagan President of Guyana, Prime Minister of Guyana, nurse

Janet Rosenberg Jagan was a Guyanese politician and American expatriate who served as the President of Guyana, serving from December 19, 1997, to August 11, 1999. She was the first female President of Guyana. She previously served as the first female Prime Minister of Guyana from March 17, 1997, to December 19, 1997. The wife of Cheddi Jagan, whom she succeeded as president, she was awarded Guyana's highest national award, the Order of Excellence, in 1993, and the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Gold Medal for Women's Rights in 1998.

Desmond Hoyte

Hugh Desmond Hoyte was a Guyanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Guyana from 1984 to 1985 and President of Guyana from 1985 until 1992.

Elections in Guyana

Elections in Guyana take place within the framework of a multi-party representative democracy and a presidential system. The National Assembly is directly elected, with the nominee of the party or alliance that receives the most votes becoming President.

Peoples Progressive Party (Guyana) Political party in Guyana

The People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is a centre-left to left-leaning political party in Guyana. As of 2020, the party holds 33 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly and forms the government. It has been the ruling party in the past as well, most recently between 1992 and 2015. In Guyana's ethnically divided political landscape, the PPP is a multi-ethnic organization that is supported primarily by Indo-Guyanese people.

Peoples National Congress (Guyana) Political party in Guyana

The People's National Congress–Reform is a social-democratic and democratic socialist political party in Guyana led by David A. Granger. The party currently holds 31 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly. In Guyana's ethnically divided political landscape, the PNCR is supported primarily by Afro-Guyanese people.

Eusi Kwayana, formerly Sydney King, is a Guyanese politician. A cabinet minister in the People's Progressive Party (PPP) government of 1953, he was detained by the British Army in 1954. Later he left the PPP to form ASCRIA, a Pan-Africanist grassroots political group that, after a brief flirtation with the People's National Congress (PNC) of Forbes Burnham, fused into the Working People's Alliance (WPA). Kwayana is also a playwright.

Martin Wylde Carter was a Guyanese poet and political activist. Widely regarded as the greatest Guyanese poet, and one of the most important poets of the Caribbean region, Carter is best known for his poems of protest, resistance and revolution. He played an active role in Guyanese politics, particularly in the years leading up Independence in 1966 and those immediately following. He was famously imprisoned by the British government in Guyana in October 1953 under allegations of "spreading dissension", and again in June 1954 for taking part in a PPP procession. Shortly after being released from prison the first time, he published his best-known poetry collection, Poems of Resistance from British Guiana (1954).

David A. Granger Guyanese politician

David Arthur Granger is a Guyanese politician and retired military officer who served as the 9th President of Guyana from May 2015 to August 2020. He served for a time as Commander of the Guyana Defence Force and subsequently as National Security Adviser from 1990 to 1992. He was Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly of Guyana from 2012 to 2015.

Moses Nagamootoo Guyanese politician, writer and novelist

Moses Veerasammy Nagamootoo is a Guyanese politician, writer and novelist who served as the Prime Minister of Guyana under former President David A. Granger from May 2015 to August 2020.

Constitution of Guyana

The Constitution of Guyana is the highest governing document in the Republic of Guyana. It came into effect on October 6, 1980, replacing it constitution enacted in 1966 upon its independence from the United Kingdom. The current Constitution of Guyana contains 12 chapters that are further divided into 232 articles. It also contains a preamble and an oath. Since its 1980 enactment, it has gone through multiple amendments.

1953 British Guiana general election

General elections were held in British Guiana on 27 April 1953. They were the first held under universal suffrage and resulted in a victory for the People's Progressive Party (PPP), which won 18 of the 24 seats in the new House of Assembly. Its leader, Cheddi Jagan, became Prime Minister.

House of Assembly (British Guiana)

The House of Assembly was the legislature of British Guiana in the 1950s and 1960s.

Jane Phillips-Gay

Jane Phillips-Gay, CCH was an Afro-Guyanese trade unionist and an ordained minister. She was an advocate of women's rights, formed one of the first women's political organizations in the country and served as one of the first women to be elected as a Member of British Guiana Parliament. She was recognized with the national service honor, the Cacique Crown of Honor in 1975.

Winifred Gaskin Guyanese educator, journalist and politician

Winifred Gaskin, CCH, OD was an Afro-Guyanese educator, journalist and civil servant who entered politics. After a career in public service, she was appointed as the first high commissioner of Guyana to the Commonwealth Caribbean Countries organization. Her dedication to public service was honored with the Jamaican Order of Distinction and the Cacique's Crown of Honour, Guyana's second highest service award.

Peter DAguiar

Peter Stanislaus D'Aguiar was a Guyanese businessman, conservative politician, and minister of finance from 1964 to 1967.

Suzanne Wasserman American film director, historian and writer

Suzanne Wasserman, was a Chicago-born historian, Professor, writer, and film director. Besides her exceptional tenure as Director of the Gotham Center for New York City history, she may be best known for her first film, completed in 2003, Thunder in Guyana, which she wrote, produced, and directed. The film documented the remarkable life of her mother's first cousin, Chicago-born Janet Rosenberg Jagan, who served as the President of Guyana, South America from December 19, 1997 to August 11, 1999.

References

  1. George K. Danns (1 January 1982). Domination and Power in Guyana: A Study of the Police in a Third World Context. Transaction Publishers. pp. 141–. ISBN   978-1-4128-2190-2.
  2. 1 2 3 David A. Granger. "Forbes Burnham and the Liberation of Southern Africa" (PDF). Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  3. History of the PPP, PPP website.
  4. 1 2 Biographies of former presidents Archived 28 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine , GINA.
  5. The Guyana story, from prehistory to independence
  6. Cheddi Jagan's 'the West on trial
  7. http://www.guyana.org/features/guyanastory/chapter133.html (see also: Forbidden Freedom by Cheddi Jagan)
  8. Jagan, C. 1994. Forgotten Freedom. Hansib Publications Limited. Guyana. 3rd edition.
  9. "'Only a disciplined people can build a nation': North Korean Mass Games and Third Worldism in Guyana, 1980-1992". The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Retrieved 13 April 2021.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. Azikiwe, Abayomi (28 February 2016). "Guyana commission confirms Burnham gov't murdered Walter Rodney". Workers World. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
Political offices
Preceded by
Cheddi Jagan
Prime Minister of Guyana
(until 1966: British Guiana)

1964–1980
Succeeded by
Ptolemy Reid
Preceded by
Arthur Chung
President of Guyana
1980–1985
Succeeded by
Desmond Hoyte