Thousands gathered to participate in a march on Tuesday morning to register their concerns about Government and the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo’s) decision to proceed with the closure of the Rose Hall sugar estate by this year-end.
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) which represents the interests of the 2300 sugar workers who stand to be affected by the closure of this Estate, said that the demonstration saw the sugar workers being joined by housewives, business persons, students and pensioners who took part in a spirited march from the vicinity of Rose Hall Estate to the Sheet Anchor Turn and back to the Estate, a distance of about four (4) miles.
During the march, despite the rain, the protestors carried a number of placards which read; “Upturn the decision to close Rose Hall Estate”, “We would be sunk into poverty after closure”, “APNU/AFC Govt betray sugar workers”, and “Closure of RH Estate is a political act”.
This publication was informed that as the march continued the gathering got bigger as more persons joined it along the way. It is estimated that it reached over 2,500 persons.
The protestors were addressed by, among others, GAWU General Secretary, Seepaul Narine; GAWU Vice President, Harvey Tambron, and three (3) sugar workers. The speakers condemned the plan for the closure which they envision would bring grave suffering. They encouraged those present to continue to put up a fight and “called on the Administration to listen to the cries of people and abandon their shortsighted plans for sugar.”
Noticeable among the large gathering were Regional Chairman David Armogan and Member of Parliament, Dr Vishwa Mahadeo.
According to GAWU “Rose Hall Estate, according to data from GuySuCo, employs some 2,300 workers and assuming a family size of four (4), about 10,000 persons or 1.4 per cent of the country’s population will be directly impacted by the closure decision. Work in the sugar estate is the main avenue of employment, as has been the case for generations now, in that populous rural community. Closure will surely leave a vacuum that will not only gravely impact workers but also force businesses and service providers to curtail or end operations and thus making the bad situation even worse.”
The Administration’s plans for sugar have triggered a spate of protests in the sugar belt as workers fathom the dire consequences of closure as painfully shown recently with the closure of Wales Estate.
GAWU asserts that the wide participation at today’s event testifies to the importance the people of Rose Hall attach to the estate and the justifiable concerns they have with the Government’s projections to close at this time.
“They recognize that the Estate is a major source of sustenance and its demise will be felt deeply and far and wide. The people are rightly fearful that their tranquil communities would be destroyed, families broken up and they will be increased incidences of crime and other social problems. They are urging the Administration to re-look at their plans which will clearly be a Government-made disaster. Certainly, they do not see that this is a path to the so far illusory ‘Good Life’” said GAWU.
Meanwhile, workers of the Albion estate which is not fingered for closure by the incumbent Administration, have come out and staged a picketing exercise in front of their estate to demonstrate their strong disagreement with plans to downsize the sugar industry.
The workers, according to GAWU expressed concerns over “the grave difficulties that will beset thousands of Guyanese who stand to be affected by the plans for sugar.”