Recent statements in the Kaieteur News indicating that LFS Burnham allocated land at Turkeyen for the University of Guyana, is a revisionist version of history that is not consistent with the facts. The siting of the university was determined by the location of the land that was gifted before Mr Burnham became Prime Minister. In his book, The Guyana Story, Dr Odeen Ishmael writes, “The large tract of land at Turkeyen for the building of the university campus, was in 1963 donated to the government by the Booker Group of Companies, the British multinational which at the time owned most of the sugar estates, among other businesses in Guyana”. Also, Professor Emeritus of UG, Sister Mary Noel Menezes, in an article captioned, A brief history of the University of Guyana (2013) edited and reprinted in the Guyana Review of October 31, 2017, writes, “The University opened on October 1, 1963 with 164 students… The ceremony heralding the opening of classes was an impressive one, so much so that it moved the Booker Group of Companies to donate 56 hectares of land at Turkeyen where we now are, for the permanent site of the University”.
In my discussion with Professor Harold Drayton, the man who worked to establish the university in 1963 and who was my Biology Professor at the UG, I was informed that the land at Turkeyen was identified by the then Minister of Education, Mr CV Nunes, before he (Drayton) commenced working on the university project in January 1963. In his memoir titled An Accidental Life which was launched late last year at the UG, he writes “… pre-conditions for the British and Canadian grants delayed construction of the University’s permanent buildings, and our removal to the Turkeyen site until 1970… to coincide with Independence, a Ceremony was organized on the 24th May 1966 for Jock Campbell (former Chairman of the Booker parent company in the UK and whose ancestors had owned Turkeyen) to hand over the title Deed for the land at Turkeyen to John Carter in his capacity as Pro-Chancellor of the University”. According to the Caricom website, https://caricom.org/about-caricom/who-we-are/institutions1/university-of-guyana then Prime Minister, LFS Burnham, performed the soil turning.