May 04, 2017 Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon

 When I heard Rupert Roopnaraine was about to launch his book, “The Sky’s Wild Noise,” I thought that Guyana would have one of the finest outlays of post-Independence politics. Dr. Roopnaraine was someone whose politics I would never put in the category of four post-Independence giants like Walter Rodney, Clive Thomas and Moses Bhagwan and Eusi Kwayana. But Roopnaraine was possessed of a sharp intellectual touch that would make his analysis of the Burnham regime equal to any.
As it turned out, his book was not about the period of Burnham rule and that era of the glorious confrontation between the Working People’s Alliance and the Burnham regime. To date, the definitive work on the authoritarian nature of the Burnham administration remains the book of Father Andrew Morrison; “Justice: The Struggle for Democracy in Guyana, 1952 – 1992.” It is my opinion that this work will remain an enormous stumbling block to any positive portrait of Forbes Burnham. It is a book that Hamilton Green may wish was never ever published
hammieBut this columnist is old enough to offer firsthand accounts of that ugly period in Guyana’s contemporary history to supplement Father Morrison’s elegant descriptions and assessments. Hamilton Green as the most trusted lieutenant of President Burnham was a powerful man whose penchant for undemocratic behaviour exceeded any in the PNC administration from 1964 until the death of Forbes Burnham in 1985. It was quite logical for Desmond Hoyte to have wanted to remove Green from the PNC when he, Hoyte, became president. Mr. Green was expelled.
Hamilton Green’s name is associated with the most negative and undemocratic aspects of the Burnham era. Mr. Burnham was by far more tolerant of anti-governmental activism than Green. Mr. Green was quoted in the Tuesday edition of this paper as describing how his wife suffered after the PPP came to power in 1992. He said she was dismissed from her medical post. This is true. Mr. Green is right. What Green did when he was a PNC Minister for 28 years should not have been used to victimize his wife. But the rights of other men’s wives were violated by Minister Green back in the seventies.
frddie3One such victim was the wife of WPA executive Moses Bhagwan. Mr. Green fired Mrs. Bhagwan on the spot, when as subject Minister he went into the offices of the Government-owned Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation. I was in the picket line of the WPA that had denounced this act of Green. I will send an email to Moses asking him to describe for the current generation that particularly sad incident. In my heart, I honestly believe Mr. Green should offer an apology for violations he committed during that tragic era in the evolution of the Guyanese nation-state.
I was in the national archives doing research and seated next to me was Dr. James Rose, who later became Vice Chancellor, when we both saw Mr. Green descending from his car and wading into a group of strikers who were picketing outside of the state-owned Guyana Stores. I saw Mr. Green’s behaviour with my own two eyes. I was a student at UG in 1974 when the Government rescinded the appointment of Walter Rodney. Contrary to what Guyanese believe, it was Mr. Green who was more active and vocal in the denunciation of Rodney’s appointment.
The period of Green’s “bad boy” days is long gone, and Guyanese should not lament its sadness but look toward the future. There are too many in the Guyana diaspora whose minds are so overtaken by this epoch that all they can think of when they discuss Guyanese politics is what Burnham and Green did in the seventies. The seventies disappeared almost fifty years ago. But since Mr. Green in 2017 brought up what happened to his wife in 1992, the historian needs to remind Green that he is not without blame.
Mr. Green should not be hunted down in his old age about what he did when he was a powerful Minister, but history at the same time cannot be erased. History never dies. It lives on. Once history lives on, the misdeeds of men and women will not, and cannot be erased. Apartheid is dead and gone, but it has not been removed from history. We will always remember it.
It is against this background, I would urge Hamilton Green that as he moves closer to his nineties, he should make peace with history and Guyana. He should not use the atrocities committed by the Jagdeo cabals as an excuse not to apologize. He owes a debt to history. Mrs. Bhagwan is still alive and she deserves to hear that apology.