The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has taken the Alliance For Change (AFC) to task over what has been described as a “desperate attempt to retain relevance”, particularly in relation to comments the AFC have made in regard to the fate of sugar workers, besides comments made on several other important issues.
The AFC, in a statement on Monday, said its National Executive Committee (NEC) is concerned for sugar workers, who are likely to be displaced, and is calling on Government to “take decisive decisions with regard to their welfare”, and has proposed several measures to be considered.
The party’s NEC has suggested that sugar workers be given severance packages, offered land leases, and be given access to small loans and access to markets for agro-processing.
However, the PPP has said that the AFC’s comments expose its “duplicitous” nature, and its proclivity to speak on issues with a “forked tongue”.
“The AFC’s sudden attempt to communicate concern for the welfare of Guyanese people after over two years of hardship measures being imposed on Guyanese, and its vocal acquiescence (recall that it was [Prime Minister Moses] Nagamootoo who carried the message of closure of sugar estates to Rose Hall) as a partner in the coalition government must be called out for what it is – a failed attempt to rebrand its image”, the PPP has said.
The PPP also pointed out that Agriculture Minister Noel Holder is an AFC member who has agreed with the closure of estates, but he is now calling for action to address the welfare of sugar workers.
The PPP highlighted that almost 2,000 workers have been displaced by the closure of the Wales Sugar Estate, and thousands more have been indirectly affected by that estate’s closure.
“Where was the AFC’s voice when the Wales estate was closed? Where was the AFC’s voice when the report from the Commission of Inquiry (CoI), established by the Government it is a part of, was trashed? The AFC cannot expect Guyanese to accept that it suddenly realised that thousands of average Guyanese are on the breadline,” a statement from the PPP added.
The party noted, among other things, that while the AFC’s NEC has also welcomed “measures to avoid new taxes,” it not only fails to say what these measures are, but also fails to insist on no increases of the existing imposition of taxation measures and fees – almost 200 in the last two years.
Moreover, the PPP has raised concern over the AFC’s silence while the Integrity Commission’s Secretariat was dismantled, and its vote against the PPP motion on public disclosures of declarations to the Commission, highlighting the stark contrast with its current call for the Commission to be established.
The AFC on Monday said it remains fully committed to executing its role in advancing Constitutional Reform, and has called on the Government to establish the Integrity Commission as a matter of urgent national priority.
But the PPP has noted that AFC Executive Member Nagamootoo has been diverting attention from the emasculation of the Integrity Commission by touting a Code of Conduct.
According to the PPP, this makes the President the enforcer of sanctions when he himself is subject to review by the Integrity Commission. The Code itself, it said, would undermine the Commission.
And on the issue of Constitutional Reform, the PPP has said its position is that it remains open to Constitutional Reform but the major issue currently is the need for Constitutional Compliance.
According to the PPP while the AFC calls for Constitutional Reform, it has also supported the “unilateral and unconstitutional appointment of a GECOM Chairman.”
“No amount of diversion on this issue will be successful. The fact remains that constitutional compliance is what is needed in the immediate term,” said the PPP.