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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham

In office
6 October 1980 – 6 August 1985
Prime Minister Ptolemy Reid
Preceded by Arthur Chung
Succeeded by Desmond Hoyte

In office
26 May 1966 – 6 October 1980
Monarch Elizabeth II
President Edward Luckhoo (Acting)
Arthur Chung
Governor–General Richard Luyt
David Rose
Edward Luckhoo
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Ptolemy Reid

Born 20 February 1923(1923-02-20)
Georgetown, Guyana
Died 6 August 1985 (aged 62)
Georgetown, Guyana
Political party People's National Congress
Spouse(s) Bernice Lataste
Viola Burnham
Children Roxane
Kamana (Adopted)

Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham (20 February 1923–6 August 1985) was the leader of Guyana from 1964 until his death, as the Prime Minister from 1964 to 1980 and as President from 1980 to 1985.


Personal life and education

Burnham, an Afro-Guyanese, was born in Kitty, a suburb of Georgetown, East Demerara, Guyana as one of three children. He attended Central High School and the prestigious and the colony's elite Queen's College.. In 1942, he won the Guiana Scholarship as the colony's top student. Burnham received a law degree from the University of London in 1948. He graduated with honours.

He was married to Viola Burnham, who was also involved in politics. He had three children, Roxane, Annabelle, and Francesca from his first marriage to Bernice Lataste. His second marriage to Viola produced two daughters, Melanie and Ulele and later a son Kamana (adopted).

Early years: The People's Progressive Party (PPP)

Burnham was one of the founding leaders of the People's Progressive Party (PPP), which was launched on January 1, 1950; the Indo-Guyanese labor leader Cheddi Jagan became PPP Leader, while Burnham became its Chairman.[1] In 1952, Burnham became the president of the party's affiliated trade union, the British Guiana Labour Union, in 1952. In 1953, the PPP won 18 of 24 seats in the first election permitted by the British colonial government. In the short-lived PPP government that followed, Burnham served as Minister of Education.[2]

In 1955, there was a split in the PPP between Burnham and Jagan. As a result, Burnham went on to form the People's National Congress in 1958 entering its first election under that name in 1961.

Leader of Guyana: The People's National Congress (PNC)

In the 1964 elections, while Jagan's PPP won the highest percentage of the vote (46% to the PNC's 41%), it did not win a majority. Burnham was able to form a coalition with the United Force (TUF) who won the remaining 12% of the votes and became premier of British Guiana on 14 December. On May 26, 1966, British Guiana became an independent country and was renamed to Guyana.

Burhnam at first pursued moderate policies. However, one of his first acts upon independence was a sweeping "National Security Act" giving the police the power to search, seize and arrest anyone virtually at will. He won full power in 1968. In 1970, he established strong relations with Cuba, the Soviet Union and other countries who had a vision to bring their people and their country to a new era of democracy. On February 23 of that year, he declared Guyana a "Co-Operative Republic." Adopting a policy of the people for the country, and the country for the people (autarky). Being a leader with a vision, he banned some imported foods from entering the country. Foods like White flour, saltfish, pickled meats perserved fruits, peas, beans, and tin foods. These foods were banned for three reasons:

  • These foods contained Carcinogens and bleaching agents like Chlorine dioxide and harmful preservatives such as Borax (Which was later banned in the United States).
  • These additives are known to cause Diabetes, Heart disease, Cancers like, Liver Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer, Gastro-intestinal cancer, Cervical and Ovarian cancer, Prostate cancer, and Lung cancer upon significant inhalation.
  • Burnham believed that his people and his country were more than capable of producing these same foods (a healthier version) being a country rich in natural resources, a land of many waters, there was no reason for Guyana as a nation to be importing such foods. One of his motto's were "Produce locally, Buy locally, and trade with countries who have our best interest at heart."

Burnham remained President of Guyana until his death on August 6, 1985. A man who was not only seen as a Great Leader, but also a visionary, a kind but stern leader. One who was able to walk among his people in the market places with minimal security. A true sign of the peoples love, trust, and loyalty to a man who was not just a leader, but a friend. He continues to live in the hearts many Guyanese still loyal to him. His body was mummified by the Laboratory of the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow.



  • Buck-Morss, Susan (2002). Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West. The MIT Press, 386. ISBN 0262523310
Political offices
Preceded by
Cheddi Jagan
Premier of British Guiana
1964 – 1966
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Preceded by
Office established
Prime Minister of Guyana
1966 – 1980
Succeeded by
Ptolemy Reid
Preceded by
Arthur Chung
President of Guyana
1980 – 1985
Succeeded by
Desmond Hoyte


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