Three months after the Estate Lounge at the defunct La Bonne Intention (LBI), East Coast Demerara sugar estate was described as an “air-conditioned rum shop”, Chartered Accountant and Attorney Christopher Ram has joined in the criticism of the converted LBI facility, telling this media group that its establishment was “cynical”.
He made these comments in light of the fact that the sports bar was rehabilitated at a time when many ex-sugar workers continue to encounter challenges such as reduced earnings and joblessness.
“It is so petty, so cynical, how could you do this in the midst of the disaster that has befallen the industry,” Ram said in response to whether or not the sports bar’s establishment was appropriate.
The sports bar was established by the Special Purposes Unit (SPU) which manages the divested estates – this being all expect Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt.
The latter three are under the control of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) which in times past, was responsible for the industry when it was nationalised by the then Government in the 1970s.
The SPU falls under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) which is under the Finance Ministry. There has been much tension between GuySuCo and NICIL/SPU over the last several months with the two State entities, each making wide-ranging accusations against the other.
Ram, weighing in on the issue during an exclusive interview on Tuesday, said that at present there is “chaos, confusion and misdirection, particularly led by NICIL” which the outspoken political commentator feels has only added tensions.
“I think the relation between GuySuCo and NICIL is so bad that they are no longer working in the same interest. I am not sure where the SPU gets its hierarchy and policy from and it is really trying to achieve. So far it has achieved zero and there is no real and immediate prospect of an early solution. If there is, then the SPU is keeping that as a very well-kept secret,” Ram stressed.
The SPU manages the Estates of Wales, Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore. The agency was entrusted by Government with a $30 billion bond to be paid out it tranches as the State was eying private investors.
However, in recent days reports surfaced that “frustrated” staff and managers at GuySuCo had been gearing up to protest the SPU’s direction regarding its plans for revitalising the industry.
Shortly after, GuySuCo’s Communications Director, Audreyanna Thomas issued a response, noting that Corporation’s concerns were being “addressed at the highest levels of the Government, Board of Directors of GuySuCo and the Chief Executive.”
“The Corporation would like to assure managers and staff that these matters will be resolved and as such, individual staff members should not be persuaded to resort to any suggested protest action on 20 and 21 December, 2018. Employees of the Corporation will receive regular updates, on the progress of these engagements,” Thomas outlined in a published letter.
The dispute began with a battle over the ownership of the converted LBI Estate Lounge/sports bar which led officials at the GuySuCo to lock the gates prior to a launch ceremony opening the bar. SPU’s Lounge/bar was established even though dismissed sugar workers had to wait one year for their severance payment from GuySuCo, which had said that the bar’s overhaul was not in keeping with the Sugar Corporation’s values.
This media group had interviewed several sugar workers who expressed that the wanted their severance as opposed to the sports bar.