Hundreds of workers from Wales sugar estate on the West Bank of Demerara went on strike action from early this morning against Government’s decision to close the estate. They took their protest action to the City this afternoon where they staged a peaceful picketing exercise outside of Public Buildings. They were joined in solidarity by a numbers of officials and Members of Parliament representing the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
The affected sugar workers were armed with placards reading “No to the closure of the Wales estate”, “Workers Unite, Fight Unemployment”, “GAWU says CoI opposed closure”, among others.
Many of the protesters contended that with the closure of the Wales’ sugar estate they would not be able to provide for their families or even seek alternative employment elsewhere.
A majority of the workers stated that sugar cultivation and cane harvesting are the only jobs that they have been doing for most of their lives and they are not qualified to seek employment elsewhere.
The distraught and frustrated protestors explained that even if they are relocated to another sugar factory/estate it would not be beneficial to their villages and the business community in Region Three.
“If we have to go work somewhere else what will happen to all the businesses near Wales? Our villages would suffer because if they depend on us buying our little goods from them how would they survive too? Why can’t they just give us a change and help save the estate?” one man questioned.
According to one female worker, the move to stage this peaceful picketing exercise was decided upon by all workers who turned out since they hope that the members of the government who would be sitting in the National Assembly today would ‘hear our cries’ and reverse the decision to have the estate closed.
Former Local Government Minister, Ganga Persaud told the gathering that these protesters were “right to express” themselves based on how they feel about what is happening to them.
“You make your statement…you have your children, your family to take care…all you want to do is survive,” he posited.
Dale Austin, a worker attached to the Wales’ sugar estate, believes many persons in Region Three would have to be “high on the alert” with the closure of the estate in question because the crime rate is expected to skyrocket with such a hasty decision by the government.
“Seventeen hundred people will suffer and some people will thief, some will rob and some might even kill people…is a whole village, like seven to nine villages that will be suffering. We are not pleased for the estate to close, we not talking about racism or anything, we want this government to not close the Wales’ estate but let it function and continue to progress,” the man told INews.
A factory worker, Neville Williams stated that the Government and GuySuCo officials who were on air (television) recently trying to justify the closure of this sugar estate should be “ashamed” to have done such a thing especially when they are all aware that those working at Wales’ estate have been doing their utmost.
Meanwhile, the workers, earlier this morning, spent hours standing around outside the estate compound, contemplating their next move. They then decided to take their demonstration to Georgetown where they staged a peaceful protest outside Public Buildings (Parliament) prior to today’s sitting of the National Assembly.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, earlier this week, said he will continue to push for government to reverse its decision to close the Wales sugar estate, even if it means resorting to protest actions with the bereaved sugar workers and their families.
He pointed out that government ignored the recommendations made in the Guyana Sugar Corporation Commission of Inquiry (COI) report by moving ahead with the closure of the Wales Sugar Estate.
According to the COI Report, two commissioners had suggested the closure of the GuySuCo estates. However, the eight other commissioners had advised against it, noting that it would result in dire consequences for the sugar workers particularly at this time during the economic crisis in the country.
Government on Monday confirmed reports that it will be shutting down the Wales Sugar Estate, insisting that it is in the best interest of Guyana.
INews photographer Carl Croker captured the following scenes during of today’s peaceful protest action outside Public Buildings in Georgetown. A number of PPP/C officials and MPs were seen standing in solidarity with the sugar workers.