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Guyana's former first lady is dead


Mrs. Viola Burnham

Saturday, October 11, 2003

GEORGETOWN, Guyana: Guyana's former first lady, vice president and deputy prime minister, Mrs. Viola Burnham, is dead. Mrs. Burnham, the widow of Guyana's first president, Mr. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, died in Miami, Florida early yesterday morning after a battle with cancer. She was 72, AFP quoted political officials in Guyana as saying. Mrs. Burnham reportedly flew to the United States earlier this year for treatment after doctors in Guyana told her she had suffered a relapse. 

Mrs. Burnham became the first lady in 1980 when a new constitution was introduced and her husband became president. She served as vice president and deputy prime minister from 1985 to 1991.

Guyana's President, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, yesterday issued a statement saying he and the PPP/Civic government are saddened by the death of Mrs. Burnham.

"Mrs. Burnham as First Lady and later as a vice president made important contributions to public service. Particularly, the late First Lady's support for women's development, education, and culture would be most remembered," the statement read in part. "The government wishes to convey its deepest sympathy to the children and other relatives, friends and supporters of the late Mrs. Burnham." 

Mrs. Burnham, also a former teacher, had also served as the head of the party's women's branch and was in the vanguard of a movement to make Guyana self-reliant in food and clothing production. 

She is survived by her children Melanie, Ulele and Kamana; seven grandchildren; sisters, brothers and several nieces, nephews and friends, the Guyana Chronicle reported.

Her family says it will honour her request to cremate her body and return her ashes returned to Guyana. As an ardent supporter of the Guyana Cancer Society, her wish, according to the paper, was that donations be made to the society in her name. A memorial service will reportedly be held in Florida for the immediate family, and another in Georgetown, Guyana.

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