PNCR confirms that Tambo award to Burnham postponed indefinitely

The PNCR tonight confirmed that the OR Tambo award which was to be conferred on the late Guyanese President, Forbes Burnham has been postponed indefinitely.

A statement by the part follows:

On the 12th March 2013, the Chancellor of Orders of the South African Government, Mr. R. Cassius Lubisi, PhD, by way of a letter, informed Ms. Roxane Van West-Charles, the daughter of the late President Forbes Burnham, that the Government of South Africa had decided to confer the O.R. Tambo Award on him “…. for his integral part in sport boycott against South Africa during the apartheid regime and support for the liberation movement and freedom fighters in South Africa.” Pretoria also gave notice that the award ceremony would take place on the 27th May 2013. As a result of information contained in the letter, members of the Burnham’s family took active measures to journey to South Africa to receive the award. As shall be related these preparations had to be cancelled.

The People’s National Congress Reform was pleased with this decision, even though it had come some twenty eight years after his death and when it had been clearly established that Mr. Burnham had played a significant political and diplomatic role in the liberation of Southern Africa, including South Africa itself. However, this sense of achievement was short lived. For the South African High Commission in Ottawa subsequently informed Ms. Van West-Charles that Pretoria had “decided to defer the posthumous awarding of the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo indefinitely.” This is where the matter stands at the moment, although it has appeared in the media that the award has been rescinded. The PNCR wishes to affirm that it has not been informed neither is it aware that a decision has been taken by the South African Government to rescind the conferment of the O.R. Tambo award on Mr. Burnham.

The PNCR respects this sovereign decision of the South African Government. However, it cannot think of any plausible or justifiable reason for so doing. The Party is convinced that Mr. Burnham richly deserves such an award. He threw the full weight of his Party and Government behind the support of the liberation fighters in Southern Africa politically and diplomatically. Moreover, he helped to change the strategic equation in Southern Africa by allowing Cuban troops to transit through this country to rout the forces of reaction during the Angolan civil war. And in the case of South Africa itself, Guyana was a leading voice and participant in the sports boycott against the apartheid regime. As a matter of policy, Mr. Burnham placed emphasis on the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, knowing that this would have a transformational effect on the struggle for freedom. And so it proved.

Speculation on the reason or reasons for the deferment of the award has centered primarily on a petition which has been circulated in the media and an article written by Professor Horace Campbell in which various allegations have been made against Mr. Burnham. Having seen the petition and the article, the PNCR has concluded that these fulminations are not of sufficient weight to overturn a decision by the Government of South Africa.

The PNCR is, therefore, awaiting the final decision of the South African Government. It is confident that the Government will stand by its initial sovereign decision to confer the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo on the Founder Leader of the PNCR.

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