Feb 25, 2017
I got the idea of doing this column when I read that President Granger birthed the Chetwynd Learning Centre at his former home in honour of the late founder of the PNC and Executive President of Guyana, Forbes Burnham. The Centre brings under one roof, the Burnham Book Trust, Burnham Research Institute, and Burnham Educational Scholarship Trust.
Mr. Granger said the entity was named after his father. The press reported it as Chetwynd Learning Centre. If that is the name, maybe Mr. Granger should think of inserting his father’s last name- Granger. This is important because when you have the entire name and the fact that Mr. Granger is known throughout Guyana because of the office he holds, people will naturally know the centre is named after someone related to the President. I honestly did not know what the name meant when I first read about it online.
Against the background of the Red House controversy, the Chetwynd Learning Centre offers the nation a moral example. Mr. Granger put the operation in his private home. It is not housed in state property. What the PPP did with Red House was vulgar. The fanatics of the PPP must attempt at least to have some decency and acknowledge that a government cannot take public property and do what it wants with it. There was a simple pathway the PPP could have travelled with Red House–privately purchase the building through a transparent process.
It meant the PPP Government would have sold public property to a private organization named the PPP. The PPP Government did this before and there was no outbreak of a national scandal. When the Ministry of Housing under Irfaan Ally, announced a house lot scheme in Bath Settlement in Region Five, the PPP bought two lots for itself. That should have in fact generated a scandal because it was a violation of the Government’s housing policy – how can a political group buy two lots that should go to people who need houses?
I believe those two units should be reclaimed by the present administration but I don’t think the Coalition wants to get into a fight with the PPP over that since the building on those land is now the Region Five office of the PPP. In buying Red House, there could not have been a tempest if the price was right. The PPP could have argued that it paid prevailing real estate market rates.
Critics would have said the place should not have been sold in the first place but the PPP could have fought back saying what was wrong with selling state property which President Desmond Hoyte did by the hundreds. As it turned out, the PPP took over Red House through a lease with a monthly payment of a thousand dollars. That is extreme political depravity.
As I noted earlier, the announcement of Chetwynd Learning Centre aroused in me the idea to do this column because it reminds me of the need in the society to keep alive the names of people who shaped modern Guyana. It is clear to any Guyanese who reads and follows politics that Mr. Granger is a huge admirer of Forbes Burnham.
Over on the other side of the divide, there is a planned celebration in Canada next month to commemorate the birth and death anniversary of Cheddi Jagan.
The story of the deification of both men goes on. This is a reality that will never go away. As the admirers of Mr. Burnham move on in age, the PNC’s younger generation will no doubt continue the efforts of people like President Granger. As the older PPP stalwarts move on, the younger Jaganites will do for Jagan what Mr. Granger is doing for Burnham.
Sadly, in this sweeping effort of keeping the “greatness” of both men alive, scholarship remains a victim.
No one from the PNC side (Dr. Tyrone Ferguson has done a good academic book on Burnham that describes his fantastic achievements and terrible faults but I don’t think Ferguson could be described as a Burnhamite) and the PPP’s (Clem Seecharran has brought out the positives and the faults of Jagan but Seecharan cannot be described as a Jaganite) has decided to look at the positive and negative in the political character of both men.
It seems to me that an admirer of Burnham is not prepared to admit that he was equally destructive as he was great. And the exact thing can be said about the Jaganite fanatic. This is where the historiography of Guyana continues to suffer. I doubt that will ever change when it comes to Burnham and Jagan.