In light of the Government’s decision to proceed with plans to have the Wales, West Bank Demerara (WBD) sugar estate closed down by the end of this year, leader of the Opposition and former President Bharrat Jagdeo is challenging the administration to participate in a public debate about the issue at hand.
Speaking to hundreds of sugar workers, cane farmers and their families on Tuesday afternoon at the market square near the Wales sugar factory, Jagdeo stated that this move by the APNU+AFC coalition will negatively affect the country’s development since sugar still remains a major revenue earner for Guyana.
At this point in time the sugar industry is still one of the largest employers in Guyana and this move by the government will severely impact the lives of thousands of residents living in Region Three, he
Highlighting the fact that the economies of both the region and the country will suffer tremendously with the shutting down of the Wales sugar estate the Opposition leader also pointed out that the
investments in the sugar industry have a ‘systemic impact’ apart from the financial impact throughout the length and breadth of Guyana.
As such, the sugar industry cannot be looked at only from a financial perspective but there must be consideration given to the economic aspect also, Mr Jagdeo posited.
“Many of the villages’ entire drainage and irrigation system rely on the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo)…the difference is it (the sugar industry) has many other impacts outside of the financial impact of the industry…this is why you have to keep sugar alive,” he explained.
According to Mr Jagdeo, his party (PPP/C) firmly stands against the move to close the Wales sugar estate and will stand with the sugar workers, cane farmers and residents of Region Three in opposing such a hasty decision made by the Government.
“We want the Government to come out too, why don’t they come out and face us in a debate if we can’t debate in Parliament let us come to Wales and face off in a debate. Let us come to Wales because then we wouldn’t have anyone to stop us from talking and then we wouldn’t have
to wait until 2am in the morning to get our views across. Let us have a debate…if Nagamootoo talks all the time about how wonderful he is, let him come and face me here at Wales…,” the Opposition leader challenged.
The large crowd in attendance had gathered to air their concerns about the estate’s closure, and were reminded that the 2015 sugar Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report recommended that no sugar estate in the country be closed at this point in time with eight of the 10 Commissioners voting against any closure.
“The intent of the government had been laid bare sometime back…they were hell-bent on closing some of the estates in the sugar industry…so it came to pass swiftly, Parliament has not even considered the CoI report, that report itself does not recommend any closure of any estate,” he explained.
Mr Jagdeo reaffirmed his Party’s position in protecting the rights and future of all sugar workers in the country and promised that it will continue to fight against the closure of any sugar estates in Guyana.
“The callous way in which they did it speaks a lot about this Government; they just did it through a press release from the Ministry of Agriculture. One would have thought that they would have come on
the ground and talked to the workers and the cane farmers and the others if they had to pursue this path but no… they have double standards. They talk about not being able to afford one thing but
pumping billions of dollars in another,” the former President declared. (Kristen Macklingam for INews)