LETTER: Protesting sugar workers stood their ground

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Dear Editor,

An attempt by officers of the Guyana Police Force to deny the use of a noisy instrument during our Union’s march from the Skeldon Truck Line to the Republic Square, Corriverton was met by a strong and unwavering rejection by the workers who stood their ground and demanded that the permission approved by Police Force be adhered to. The Police, as they did on January 09, 2018 during our march at Canje, advised just prior to the commencement of yesterday’s (January 11, 2018) march that our Union could not have used a noisy instrument during the procession. The GAWU drew to the Police’s attention our application of January 05, 2018 and the Police Force’s approval dated January 08, 2018. The Police nevertheless insisted that they had received instructions from their superiors that a noisy instrument could not be used during the march.

The workers, numbering in the hundreds, upon learning of this Police’s instruction became very upset and demanded that the permission granted to the Union be respected. The Police, however, continued to maintain that a noisy instrument could not be used, contrary to its own correspondence. This served to further incense the workers who in the vicinity of #78 Village, Corriverton stood still on the public road and refused to move until the Police adhered to the permission. The workers contended that the Police actions were wrong and saw it a gross disrespect to them and the GAWU. The officers on the ground recognizing the workers firmness contacted their superiors whereby the use of a noisy instrument was allowed in keeping with the permission granted.

The actions by the workers are an encouraging reminder of the need to be principled and stand up in defence of our rights. It also shows how an elite can manipulate the repressive arm of the State. The workers must be complemented for their stance and for refusing to allow what they saw as an injustice to be perpetuated against them. The march and rally was yet another manifestation and workers mass action to express their strong condemnation to pay the workers severance pay in installments and to call on the authorities to re-open Skeldon Estate without further delay.

While pleased with the workers actions, the GAWU cannot fail to recognize what obviously is a greatly concerning situation. This is the second occasion in recent days that the Police have sought to prevent the Union from using a noisy instrument during our processions though the Police had approved same. Further to that, similar activities organized by the Union in recent times have also benefitted from similar approval.  One is left to wonder whether there is a concerted attempt by someone or some persons to undermine our activities and, at the same time, even disregard the force’s professionalism.

Sincerely,

Guyana Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU)

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