GAWU flays AFC for hypocritical stance on sugar
Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union has taken to task the Alliance for Change which reportedly expressed concern over the plight of sugar workers due to the government’s move to close the industry.
I n a s t a t e ment t he Unions said that the AFC “like Rip Van Winkle, has awoken from its deep slumber and is now seeking to portray itself in sympathy with sugar workers’ rights and concerns.”
The statement in part states:
From reports that appeared in several sections of the media, has recognized, surprisingly, a call by the junior coalition partner – the Alliance for Change (AFC) – for the Government that it is a part of, to make decisive decisions regarding the sugar industry. We find it puz- zling that the AFC has now resorted to calling on itself to make decisions. Maybe it is reflective of the ‘strength’ of that party’s voice in the Government.
Whatever is the case, the AFC, like Rip Van Winkle, has awoken from its deep slumber and is now seeking to portray itself in sympathy with sugar workers’ rights and concerns. While our Union recognizes that members are supportive of probably all the political outfits in the country, a choice we are respectful of, we, at the same time, cannot allow an organization that sold itself as an ally of the workers to make what we see as clearly unconvincing statements. To say the least, the AFC’s utterances were incredibly incredulous. We could not help but wonder whether the party’s leaders that drafted and finally approved the statement were the same individuals who occupy powerful seats in our country and ought to be playing no small role in the State’s decision- making. Those persons obviously, seemingly with their party’s unstinted support and blessing, would have contributed to and approved decisions and approaches regarding the sugar industry. Certainly, the AFC members firmly and strongly ensconced in the Government would have had an opportunity to make their views known on the closure and sellout of sugar estates.
We recall, on February 03, 2017 at the second consultative meeting on the Future of the Sugar Industry, our Union along with the PPP/C and the NAACIE strongly represented to the Government that a socio- impact assessment study was necessary to fully evaluate and be aware of the ramifications that would follow the sugar miniaturization plans. Also coming to mind are statements made by Prime Minister and First Vice President, Moses Nagamootoo at the Rose Hall Martyrs Commemoration activity in March, this year. In the March 16, 2017 Kaieteur News under the headline “Guyana remembers Rose Hall Martyrs on 104th Anniversary” the PM is re- ported to have said “…that some sugar estates will have to be closed because all of the factories are not yielding the profits as expected”. The article also quotes the PM saying “…we can no longer treat the sugar industry as if it is a stone around our neck; that sugar as bad as its history has been; should be allowed to drag the entire nation down”.
It is patently clear, from what the party’s leaders were saying not-too-longago, they fully embraced the plans for the sugar industry. They were going as far as defending and justifying the sad decisions that were taken. It would not be a stretch to imagine that the trappings of the political office would have pushed the party to lend such support and in that process completely disregard what it told the sugar workers and their families during the 2011 and 2015 National Elections campaign. Now, after two and a half year, the rubber has hit the road and the AFC has shifted gear apparently, conveniently.
The AFC has also called for the displaced workers to be given lands to engage presumably in farming as well as to receive financial and marketing support in this regard. On the surface this sounds reasonable. But for the GAWU, this song has been played very often. Minister Holder, in a Demerara Waves article entitled “Meeting with Wales Estate workers erupts into raucous over severance pay; govt details sugar diversification plan” on March 17, 2017, is reported to have said “that land would be leased to employees by October, 2017 to shift them into becoming farmers”. October, 2017 has come and gone and not one inch of land was leased to the exWales workers while suffering, desperation, misery and hard-times grip the people and the communities.
We see this belated appearance of sincerity to be nothing less than a poor and sorrowful attempt to add confusion to sugar workers and their families in their given plight. We wish to remind the AFC that “once bitten, twice shy”.