…blasts “uncaring government” for not alleviating suffering of sugar workers
Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo on Sunday said the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)-led coalition Government would not heed sugar workers’ call not to close the Rose Hall sugar factory. This, he said, is so because the current Administration is an “uncaring government” that would not budge to alleviate the suffering of sugar workers.
The Opposition Leader made the comments while addressing a massive rally on Sunday at Adelphi, East Canje, Berbice, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).
According to the Opposition Leader, no action by sugar workers or any concerned groups will have any bearing on Government’s decision to close the Rose Hall Sugar Estate.
Speaking at the rally, Jagdeo said the rally in solidarity against the closure of the Rose Hall Estate would have made a difference if the current Government was a sincere one. “If we had a Government that genuinely wanted to create a future for sugar workers and the industry, but this Government is not motivated by an economic plan.
“They are not motivated by a study. They are not motivated even by the numbers, because you do not make critical decisions that will affect the lives of 17,000 people and cause 10,000 of them to lose their jobs based on four years of profit and loss statements of an industry of this nature,” the former Head of State told the gathering.
Jagdeo said that the coalition Government made a decision when it took office that it was going to close the sugar industry – an industry in which most of the stakeholders are in favour of a People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government.
“We must never allow fear to paralyse us,” he said. “If we only allow fear to take us over, our future in this country is done. It is not just about sugar; it is about who we are as a people and the progress we make. Today, we are fighting for much more than sugar here…”
Jagdeo noted that Government also wanted to sell the Skeldon Factory, explaining that it was profitable and through the co-generation plant, was able to supply 90,000 homes with electricity last year.
Commenting on Government’s ability to see into the future, Jagdeo referred to the current Administration as a government without vision. “When we were in government, we were talking about a green sector, a low-carbon development strategy that will bring new jobs and new wealth.”
This, he added, was going to upgrade the sugar and rice industries, and also ensure that Guyana got into rare metals and open up the savannahs. “That is what the vision was. You know what they have reduced it now to? When a reporter asked the President, ‘How are you going to create jobs in the future,’ he said, ‘We must do things like making pepper sauce and making cook-up to sell, and making plantain chips…’ That is where we have come from – talking about a future that will create thousands of jobs and new wealth and new infrastructure and a modern country to now selling plantain chips and cook-up rice; you can’t run a country on that…”
The Opposition Leader also took the opportunity to address the issue of security, which he said the Government was in denial on among several issues other than the economy. The current Administration, he added, should be the experts in security since it has at the highest level ex-army personnel, including the President and Minister Winston Felix. “But they are totally inept on security matters and it will continue to do so.”
In mentioning the two prison fires, Jagdeo said after the first fire, Government officials met with the prisoners; a decision which he had then criticised and which has caused the prisoners to feel that they can now get the attention of Government if they burn the prisons. “The moment that prisoners feel that they can get political attention by setting a fire, they will set more fires in our country.”
Issues such as corruption were also addressed by the former Head of State.
Prior to the rally, several thousand people representing sugar workers, women, civic society and party supporters marched through several villages before converging at Adelphi.
Meanwhile, other speakers spoke of Government’s treatment of persons in the sugar industry, while citing the lack of salary and wage increases for sugar workers and the refusal of the Government to give Police Officers and military personnel a one-month salary as a bonus at the end of the year – something which they had grown accustomed to while Government Ministers benefited from huge salary increases.