Today, February 20, 2009 is the 86th birth anniversary of the Founder Leader of the People’s National Congress, Prime Minister and Executive President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. During his lifetime he made a significant contribution to the political and national development of Guyana and by his brilliant diplomacy ensures a place for this country in the councils of the integration process and the major international organisations which govern global affairs.

At a time when Guyana seems to be adrift politically, it would be appropriate to recall his achievements in this area of the life of the country. As a politician Mr. Burnham was deeply committed to ensuring that Guyana became a cohesive and united country whose political culture must be based on the relevant aspects of its history. In other words, he wanted a political system that was autonomous and responsive to the wishes of the people. The question of a united country was so important to him that the last years of his life were devoted to seeking a unity government with the People’s Progressive Party. Success eluded Mr. Burnham but he left a rich legacy and foundation which could be built upon in order to ensure the unity and dignity of this nation.

Today the world is in the grip of an economic crisis. A similar crisis hit the global economy in the 1970’s, which played havoc with the open and vulnerable economy that Guyana possesses. It even threatened to reverse the hard won political and economic gains of the 60’s and the early 70’s. And Mr. Burnham took measures to ensure that the nation would survive the crisis. In particular, Mr. Burnham believed that the nation should be self sufficient in food production and launched the successful “Grow More Food” campaign, which is still relevant today and which is being copied by the Jagdeo Administration. He did more by advocating a fairer economic deal for developing nations like Guyana in the main international fora such as the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations. Indeed, the idea of a new international new economic order was born in Guyana and became the subject of advocacy in these forums. Many of these ideas are still alive today and form part of the agenda of the G20 States. It should be recalled that Mr. Burnham was among the first to call for a complete overall of the global economic system at the 1975 Commonwealth Summit in Jamaica.

Mr. Burnham’s achievements in the area of Foreign Policy stand by themselves and need no extensive elaboration. It would, however, be pertinent to mention some of the main ones. Mr. Burnham’s Government was the first English speaking Caribbean country to recognise the Government of the People’s Republic of China when it was not fashionable to do so and when that course of action entailed a great degree of risk. Also, he had the foresight to recognise Cuba when it was dangerous to do so, given the hostility of the main power of the region to the Fidel Castro Government. Mr. Burnham also took an uncompromising stand against the Apartheid system in South Africa and expended actual and diplomatic resources to fight for the freedom of those subject nations in southern Africa, such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola. In fact, Guyana’s diplomacy was quite extensive and included relations with all of the major powers in different parts of the world, including those in Asia. The success of the diplomacy of the Burnham Administration can be measured by the fact that the nation punched above its weight in international affairs, was twice elected to the Security Council, was President of the General Assembly, and many of its representatives such as Sonny Ramphal, Rashleigh Jackson and Mohammed Shahabuddeen have all held prestigious positions in international organisations.

The People’s National Congress Reform is therefore proud to salute its Founder Leader ever grateful and mindful of the fact that he has blazed a path in national and international affairs which the Party can follow to its benefit and which it can use as a basis for further success and development.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Friday, February 20, 2009