Former Vice President of Guyana Dies--People’s National Congress Reform Congress Place, Sophia, Georgetown, Guyana.



Former Vice President Viola Victorine Burnham nee Harper, one of Guyana's most distinguished leaders, died on Friday, October 10, 2003, in a Miami Hospital after a long illness.

Mrs. Burnham was a glittering star in Guyana having achieved excellence and distinction in a wide variety of careers and accomplishments. Trained at the Leicester University in the UK and the University of Chicago as a classicist and educator, she distinguished herself as a teacher, scholar, journalist, a leader in the women’s movement, farmer, minister of government, and devoted wife mother, relative and friend. Mrs. Burnham brought class distinction and refinement to her role as wife of our first Prime Minister and Executive President Forbes Burnham and her support and advice was an essential element in his many achievements as leader of the Republic.

'Cde Vi' as she was affectionately known was a distinguished alumna of Bishop's High School where she also had an outstanding career as a senior Mistress in Latin. In the political sphere, she was active in the WRSM; the women’s movement of the PNCR and for many years was its Chairman. She was appointed Vice President for Education and Social Development in the administration of President Hoyte where she made an outstanding contribution. Many of the social and developmental programmes in existence today including the Primary Education Improvement Programme and the Simap concept were shaped in direct and important ways by her vision and compassion.
In the field of women’s affairs, she was a redoubtable campaigner for the enhancement of the status and rights of women, active in Caribbean Women’s Association CARIWA and represented Guyana at all of the benchmark international congresses and conferences on the rights of women including the world conferences in Mexico, in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980 and Nairobi in 1985. She was also active in education reform, mental health, community development in all its forms, youth cooperatives and youth development projects, public health and nursing education.

Despite her active public duties, Mrs Burnham was for most of her life an active and excellent farmer who maintained her affinity to the land and farming to the end of her active life.

Mrs. Burnham possessed a fine and highly trained intellect with a phenomenal grasp of the world of learning and language. She possessed mastery for detail and passion for high standards which served her in good stead in her public duties in the party and in the service of Guyana as a Minister. In addition it must be emphasized that Mrs. Viola Burnham was a lady in the best and noblest sense of the world, refined, gracious and yet possessing the capacity to meet and understand the needs of citizens from, every level of Guyanese society.

Mrs. Burnham was the recipient of many awards for her contributions including awards from many foreign governments and Guyana’s second highest, the Order of Roraima.

The People’s National Congress Reform mourns the loss of this most illustrious of our members who was committed to the goals of the party and was loyal and hard working in pursuit of its objectives. She will be fondly remembered not only for her support of the founder leader of our party but also for her own resolute and indefatigable pursuit of the goal of bringing development, prosperity, fairness and equity to our beloved country.

The PNCR mourns her passing. She leaves a void in our ranks and a mark on our character that we will always cherish. The PNCR extends to her sorrowing children, siblings, and other relatives our support and condolences at this time. We are confident that in their moment of loss, they will in some measure be comforted by her monumental contribution to her beloved country.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.