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Ahead of Guyana’s first Executive President, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham’s 100th Birth Anniversary in February, 2023, the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) in partnership with his family, will launch a LFS Burnham Centenary Commemoration Commission in honour of his distinguished contributions to the development of the country and its people.
The announcement was made on Saturday, even as the political party, family and friends of the outstanding Guyanese leader celebrated his 98th Birth Anniversary, during a virtual panel discussion broadcast live on popular social media platform – Facebook.
Burnham, who was also the Founding Leader of the People’s National Congress, was born in Kitty, in then British Guiana, on February 20, 1923, and was among primary leaders who struggled for Guyana’s independence.
Former President and Leader of the PNC/R, David Granger, in his presentation, described Burnham as a visionary leader.
“The PNC recalls, with respect and reverence, our founder’s vision as the architect of a new type of party, not one for a few, but one for all, and the author of a strategy for the comprehensive improvements of people’s lives and the development of the entire country,” Granger said.
He added: “Forbes Burnham’s legendary leadership, his statesmanship and his stewardship charted the course forward – a course that took us from dependency of colonial subjugation, from degradation of abject poverty and from discrimination, social segregation to nationhood.”
He recalled that Burnham, upon assuming office at the age of 41 in 1964, surmounted numerous challenges – challenges of healing a wounded country, restoring social cohesion, political inclusion, and nurturing national unity.
“Our party for nearly 64 years has drawn strength from our founder leader’s vision. The centenary celebration will aim at renewing our collective commitment to continue his work, which is aimed at creating a good life for all Guyanese,” the PNCR Leader said.
Speaking on behalf of her family, Burnham’s eldest daughter, Roxanne Burnham Van West Charles, while lauding the initiative, said it is with humility that she accepts the role as patron of the centenary commission soon to be launched.
“So for us, the family members, we are happy with the proposal so far, and do hope that it will be inclusive, factual, and transparent. I do believe it will be an opportunity for everyone, friend and foe alike to learn and to understand or at least gain an insight of how he was driven to lead and shape the political, economic and social landscape of this dear lands of ours,” she said.
As she reflected on the life of her late father, Roxanne said LFS Burnham was a very complex human being, who during his lifetime, served as Mayor of Georgetown, Secretary General of the Guyana Labour Union and member of the Methodist Church. He was a global citizen and politician but his preeminent identity was Guyanese, Roxane added.
“His political journey took him into the highways, and byways, into the mountains and valleys of this country, and organizationally, he travelled from being one of the founders of the People’s Progressive Party and its Chairman on the 1st January, 1950, when the party was founded and Dr. Jagan [was] responsible for Parliamentary Affairs…Later, in 1957, my father…founded the People’s National Congress. So in reviewing his contributions, one can see how he traveled throughout the length and breadth of this country, connecting with people of all walks of life,” she said.
For him, the attainment of Guyana’s independence was as important as how he operationalized it, Roxanne said while noting that he would often make it clear that the country’s sovereignty must be in the remit of all Guyanese, no matter race, class, political affiliation, or religion.
The late leader also placed education high on his agenda as it was his belief that education is the spring board for moving from mediocrity to excellence.
Former Housing Minister and Executive Member of the PNC/R, Annette Ferguson, in hosting the programme, explained that the commission will consist of a number of committees including communications, publications, events, and finance.
The celebration of the founder’s life and legacy will aim at showcasing his service, stewardship, and leadership and will conclude on February 20, 2023.
Yvonne Harewood Benn, Trustee on the Burnham Educational Scholarship Trust Committee, who served as Minister with responsibility for Information and Public Service under the Burnham Administration, and Chairman of the Forbes Burnham Foundation, Vincent Alexander also formed part of the panel.
LFS Burnham was educated at Queen’s College and the University of London. He was elected the first chairman of the original People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and was appointed Minister of Education in the Executive Council in 1953. He established the People’s National Congress in 1957. Additionally, he served as Premier in 1964, Prime Minister from 1966, and President from 1980 to 1985.