Jul 05, 2017
By the time the WPA was finished with Burnham and by the time he was finished with them, Burnham was fully engraved in international, regional and national consciousness as a tyrant, a dictator and a demagogue.
Burnham was reviled after the death of Rodney. Africa was finished with him. He was tolerated within Caricom but leaders such as Tom Adams and Eugenia Charles were prepared to speak out against him.
Whenever he went, he heard the familiar refrain of “Walter Rodney!” The memory of the co-leader haunted him every step he made during the five years from Rodney’s murder to Burnham’s own death on the operating table at the Georgetown Hospital.
He was one of the leaders who founded the Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) and the Caribbean Community but when he died, one foreign leader came to his funeral. He was totally isolated outside and inside of Guyana except for his party and their die-hard supporters.
The ultimate insult to Burnham came when the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela, gave the Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo to Cheddi Jagan for his contribution to the freedom of the Blacks in South Africa. It showed just what the ANC thought all these years of Forbes Burnham. The ANC held Burnham responsible for the death of Rodney and it never honoured him.
After Jagan got the Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo, the PNCR launched a vigorous effort to have Burnham honoured for his contribution to the liberation of South Africa from white- minority rule. The PNCR almost succeeded until the old guard of the WPA based in the United States dispatched a letter which put a last minute halt to the efforts of the ANC to honour Burnham.
At the time, the WPA was in partnership with the PNCR and the act of the external members of the WPA was viewed as treason against the memory of Forbes Burnham. The PNCR did not however break with the WPA. It needed the party to make the Guyanese people feel that this was a reformed and not the same old deformed PNCR. It needed the WPA to remake its image.
But the PNCR never forgot what the WPA did to Burnham. The PNCR quashed the Rodney Commission of Inquiry because it was opening a can of worms, including the role of Laurie Lewis, the former Commissioner of Police in monitoring the activities of the WPA and in arranging more than ten years after Rodney’s death for the renewal of the fugitive Gregory Smith’s passport.
The Commission was threatening to expose the role that the country’s army played in escorting Smith out of the country. It may have exposed more but it was halted to avoid further damage to the PNCR and those who are alive and may still be connected with Rodney’s assassination.
The WPA jumped into bed with the PNCR believing that the PNCR was changed party and that it was the only way to remove the PPPC which had turned its back on the WPA in 1992.
The WPA has served its purpose. The PNCR has gotten into power. The WPA is now being dissed. It has been given the role of going after state assets which were stolen under the PPPC. It is being used by the PNCR to go after its former ally, the PPPC.
The WPA has woken up too late from its sleep walking. It was sidelined since May 2015 and it is now being sideswiped out of power.
The PNCR never forgets a slight. The WPA, more than any other party, ought to have known this.