OP-ED: APNU/AFC setting the stage for the closure of Uitvlugt sugar estate

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Below is a commentary by Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who believes that the Uitvlugt sugar estate, contrary to what government promised, will be closed:

Dr Leslie Ramsammy

Make no mistake, the wheels of closure is on its way to Uitvlugt. The stage is being expertly set by APNU+AFC, with their henchmen at GUYSUCO, to close the Uitvlugt Sugar Estate and its factory. The APNU+AFC’s promise just a few days ago to keep three sugar estates and their factories operational (Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt) is about to be broken, just as their promise during the election campaign in 2015 not to close any sugar estate.

I fully expected the threat of a Uitvlugt closure. From the beginning I contended and I insist still that APNU+AFC hatched a plan long before May 2015 to close SUGAR as a vindictive anti-PPP policy. Consistently in the last two years APNU+AFC has denied they have any plan to close SUGAR. Instead, they spin their closure trajectory by using words such as re-engineering, consolidation etc. More than ever before, total closure of sugar looms ominously closer and closer.

The goal as announced in 2014 was and remains CLOSURE of SUGAR. APNU+AFC hatched its mission in 2014 and maybe before and that mission is TOTAL CLOSURE OF SUGAR. The evidence is mounting and APNU+AFC’s wicked closure plan is fully exposed. Sugar workers and their families, people in the sugar communities and everywhere in Guyana are convinced that the narrative of closure is now real and the threats to close Uitvlugt brings that reality within sight. But APNU+AFC must also know that people are not letting this slide, their voices are being raised and people will stoutly resist.

Just a few weeks ago APNU+AFC announced they will keep three sugar estates and factories operational. From the beginning, however, I cautioned that they speak with “fork tongues”, blatantly perverting the truth, routinely lying and misdirecting people. I had warned that, in fact, Uitvlugt Sugar Estate, one of the three they promised only within the last two weeks to keep operational, is also on the chopping block. This week the stage is set for the closure of Uitvlugt. GUYSUCO announced that unless Wales sugar workers report to Uitvlugt, that estate will be forced to close. Several weeks ago, Ramjattan and a crew of ministers basically portrayed the same message in a meeting with residents from Wales and Patentia. Oh what a tangled web we weave!

During the 2015 election campaign, David Granger, other senior APNU members, Nagamootoo, Ramjattan and other AFC members contended that SUGAR was “too big to fail” and that SUGAR remained a critical part of the economic equation for a prosperous Guyana. They promised on the campaign in numerous public meetings, on TV and in the newspapers, in community walkabouts and in bottom house meetings that no sugar estate will be closed and that sugar workers will enjoy a 20% annual increase and better benefits under an APNU+AFC government. They promised that under their tenure sugar will see even more glorious years ahead. I am everyday expecting Nagamootoo or someone from APNU+AFC to deny ever promising that no sugar estate will be closed or that they had promised a 20% wage increase or better benefits. After all, Nagamootoo just barefacedly denied they ever promised rice farmers $9,000 per bag of paddy.

The truth is that they lied openly and shamelessly in an effort to fool sugar workers. In spite of our warnings and the better judgment of many fellow workers, some sugar workers were persuaded of a “better life” under APNU+AFC. But all along, the plans were to close sugar, just as was announced at the press conference held at APNU Headquarters and chaired by Joe Harmon in 2014. Soon after that press conference announcing that APNU believed that closing sugar is a better economic option, Ramjattan announced he fully supported this position. During the election campaign, they deceptively promised no closure of any sugar estate.

Since May 2015, however, the truth is as clear as it is clear that water is wet. The truth is that APNU+AFC is implementing a mission of closure for sugar. NO “ands, ifs or buts”. The move has been swift and there is no ambiguity.

In May 2015, there were eight (8) sugar estates and seven operating sugar factories, with one co-generation plant (Skeldon), one prototype ethanol plant (Albion) and two sugar packaging plants (Blairmont and Enmore). Wales Sugar Estate and its factory have closed, the factory almost completely dismantled. Skeldon Sugar Estate and its factory are non-operational at this time and plans for its closure and divestment have been announced. Enmore and LBI Sugar Estates with its Enmore Sugar Factory are non-operational. Rose Hall Estate and its factory are on a phased closing down operation by the end of 2017. GUYSUCO has admitted that it has no plans for continuing the prototype ethanol plant at Albion. The future of the sugar packaging plant at Enmore and the co-gen plant at Skeldon is in jeopardy. Now Uitvlugt is under threat for closure. This is the sugar portfolio of APNU+AFC – an unrelenting path to SUGAR CLOSURE.

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