GAWU flays AFC for hyp­o­crit­i­cal stance on su­gar

Weekend Mirror - - CHILDREN’S CORNER -


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”.

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