As the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) prepares to celebrate its 60th Anniversary this year, plans are on stream to ensure a renewal of party founder-leader, Forbes Burnham’s ideology; that the citizenry be empowered and country put first, party executives say.
“Without this foundation, laid by Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, we could not have the privileges we have today,” General Secretary of the PNCR, Oscar Clarke told attendees on Friday, at a media launch of the party’s activities for its 60th anniversary.
During his remarks, Clarke said that he wanted persons, especially the youth of the country, to be reminded of the party’s history. This way, he said, persons would understand that the parting of Burnham and the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan in the PPP and the subsequent formation of the PNC came about only from differing ideologies. Jagan, according to Clarke, wanted communism while Burnham favoured socialism.
“This formal launching of the activities…is an important occasion. It allows us to reflect on where we came from and to look ahead to where we have got to take our country… I want to say a few things about this new beginning and I am not saying it in my own words…I want to use this document ‘A Destiny to Mold’ and do a few excerpts to you that would indicate where we came from according to the founder leader himself.
“This difference of opinion was tested at a party elections with Burnham coming out the victor. Jagan then denounced the elections results and the two rivals went their separate ways, both claiming leadership of the PPP…People talk about that it was a racial split, people talk about all kinds of reasons of why there was this split in the PPP, it happened because of ideological difference between Burnham and Jagan. And it was because of Jagan’s addiction, or attachment to the communist bloc that there was this problem,” he added.
Clarke said that at the very outset, Burnham surmised that persons should get their minds fixed on what the party wanted to achieve for its people, and at that time it was independence.
Today, he said that as his party is joined in A Partnership for National Unity with the AFC to form a coalition which would bring a vision of development that is people-inclusive and puts the country’s upward mobility first, it is reminiscent of the choices Burnham also made.
“In 2015, when we made the decision to go into the coalition, many of us criticized it. Many didn’t want to go and asked why coalesce. But Burnham then, when he wanted us to get Independence for Guyana, joined with Peter D’ Aguiar and went to London. As a member of the PNCYO we went to him and asked how he could join. He asked us what the objective is. We wondered all kinds of things and he says to us ‘Whatever it takes, including going on a plane’. He also said in 1961 that if we lost this election, he was going with Jagan on a plane so we get Independence.” Having achieved Independence we can move the country forward to see the things we want to get done rather than what our masters wanted,” Clarke posited.
A significant reminder to the people that the PNC was not a racist party or preached segregation, Clarke said was that when the party was formed the first Chairman was JP Lachmansingh and the first General Secretary Jainarine Singh.
‘No other party’
As such he hoped that when the anniversary celebrations are completed this year, the populace and wider networks must have an understanding that “no other party has that ability or is able to give us the kind of leadership which the PNC have given this country over the last 60 years” even as it looks to lead for another 60 years.
“Mr Burnham, our founding leader, was responsible for ensuring that with one tactic or another we were able to achieve all of these things, without bloodshed, where in other countries of the world there was bloodshed to achieve less than this (Independence). We have the founder leader to thank for all that we will celebrate this year, the 60th year of our party, for having set the wicket on which we will play and having inspired all that came after him to pick up the mantle and carry it forward.
“Our present leader has taken that mantle and is carrying forward the ideas of Burnham today because they are so relevant to what is happening in this country, even now. Everything that he has said we see now coming back to us as if they were never said before. Some people would like us to believe that what Mr Burnham said in 1955 everything he said then we are seeing happening in Guyana today and we who are the present leaders in the struggle to build Guyana must recognize that without this foundation we would not have the privilege we have today.”
In her unveiling of the activities, Coordinator of the 60th Anniversary Committee, Annette Ferguson informed that celebrations are slated in all of the regions in cohesion with the rollout of plans to meet specific objectives.
Party members will be committed to going out into the communities and meeting and sharing with persons what some of their objectives are for a cohesive Guyana. Ferguson stressed that the PNCR will ensure that its website is relaunched.
There will also be rehabilitation of party offices across the country and the rededication of Congress Place.
On the recreational side the party plans to hold a number of fitness walks and fun days.
Further, Ferguson informed that there will also be lectures and an appreciation ceremony.
Chairman of the Party Basil Williams, reflected also on where the party has come from and gave futuristic plans.
“We had a short break for 23 years but we are back on course and want to take Guyana into the next 60 years as a democracy…over the years many things have changed but one thing has not changed and it is our ideology,” Williams said.
“The economic welfare of our people has always been at the heart of our party and Burnham implemented many economic programmes to secure the well-being of our people”, he added.
He boasted of the contribution of women to the PNCR into making the party what it is today even as the party continues to recognize and reward their hard work.
“Today the party remains committed to female leadership. Of the twelve appointees to the Central Executive Committee eight are females. Apart from women in the party, it was during our tenure in office that Desiree Bernard became Guyana’s first female judge.
“Our success as a party has not been only to the men of the party but the countless women both known and unknown by the masses who have stood in the gap and embraced the struggle. Where we are today is because of our women.”
Williams listed over 25 achievements of the APNU+AFC from the time it took office in 2015. Among them were, “Restoring democracy to Guyana and holding local government elections, established new towns, increased public servants salaries, reducing VAT from 16% to 14%, established Public Procurement Commission, increased minimum wage.”
Above all, Williams said was that the country should endeavour to remain committed to each other’s well-being and fostering social cohesion. He pointed to Burnham’s inaugural speech, after the election of December 1964.
“The government holds that all the people of this country are equally important. Whether they belong to a large group or a small group…in short all Guyanese are important and valued members of our community. We cherish them and consider that as a govnerment it is our duty and privilege to guard and further the real interest of all,” Williams quoted from the speech.
He added, “I challenge us to live out his timeliness wisdom.”