On Wednesday June 16, last Guyanese marked the 62nd anniversary of the five Enmore Martyrs who paid the supreme sacrifice in the struggle for better working conditions for Guyanese workers, more particularly, the sugar workers of Guyana.
The PNCR joined with the rest of the nation in remembering Lallabajee, Pooran, Harry (Jug), Surujbally and Rambarran, those five sugar workers who made the supreme sacrifice in order to secure better conditions of work from their employers, the Colonial Sugar Barons.
On this memorable day, however, Guyanese reflected, in sadness, that their sacrifices may have been in vain as they experience the daily trampling of workers’ rights by the new Barons, the dictatorial PPP/C Regime.
The PPP/C Government-sponsored programme to commemorate the event was held at the site of the Enmore Martyrs’ Monument, erected by the PNC Government on 16 June 1977, on the 29th anniversary of their martyrdom and one year after the nationalization of the sugar industry.
At the unveiling ceremony in 1977, the then Prime Minister, Mr. L.F.S. Burnham, made the following observation:
“And now, Comrades, we have surveyed a wide field historically and chronologically. We have moved from 1596 to 1976; we have noted what our Amerindian Brothers have done and how they suffered; we have noted what our Black Brothers have done and how they suffered; we have noted what our Indian Brothers have done and how they suffered. Therefore, let us forget Amerindian, Black and Indian; let us say we have noted what the Guyanese people have suffered to reach this state.”
The struggle of the sugar workers and the commemoration of the Enmore Martyrs had become a national symbol around which workers and all Guyanese could rally and be inspired.
Yet, as older Guyanese would remember, Dr. Jagan and the PPP boycotted the national recognition event for several years and also held separate and divisive activities at the Le Repentir ceremony and at Enmore, clearly intended to disrupt the official activities.
The PPP-sponsored programme on Wednesday June 16, at the Enmore monument was, therefore, another occasion that exposed the great hypocrisy of the regime.
THE NEW BARONS
Thirty-three years after the erection of this monument, the struggle of the working people for better wages, salaries and other conditions of service, remains elusive. New masters have emerged, whose actions have been equally violent, leading, inexorably, to the economic, physical and psychological demise of the working people.
The observance of the 62nd anniversary of the Enmore Martyrs coincides with a critical period in the life of the Guyana Labour Movement. The movement remains disunited as the new Barons wage a continuous battle to destroy and/or control the Labour movement.
The overt efforts to destroy the TUC climaxed with the withdrawal of the annual subvention, which was fought for and obtained by the workers from the PNC Government, and the removal of the state support to the workers education institution, the Critchlow Labour College.
The Government had earlier carried out a vicious assault on the public sector workers and their Union when they stopped the check-off system to the Guyana Public Service Union and abolished Collective bargaining, thus violating their own ratification of the ILO Convention.
The regime continues shamelessly to destroy the rights of workers that were valiantly fought for by the Enmore Martyrs, and others after them.
The despicable conduct of the regime in neglecting the plight of Kwakwani workers employed by the RUSAL owned BCGI is the latest manifestation of the violence being committed by the regime on the workers of Guyana.
The fact that a no-confidence motion in the Parliament against the Minister of Labour has failed so far to motivate any positive action in support of the workers is also indicative of the arrogance and shamelessness of the regime.
President Jagdeo and his cohorts, who spoke at the Enmore monument on Wednesday, should have played for the workers benefit, the NCN tape of the Prime Minister’s presentation in the National Assembly on the Motion of no-confidence in the Minister of Labour instead of delivering hypocritical speeches.
President Jadgeo should have played that particular section of Prime Minister Sam Hind’s presentation in the National Assembly at which he stated that the Bauxite Company was right to dismiss the striking workers because their conduct was violent. Surely the Enmore Martyrs must have turned in their graves at such national hypocrisy.
INTENSIFY THE STRUGGLE
It is evident that the rights of workers are under threat and the political environment is hostile to the full development of all workers and their unions. The struggle for a living wage by public sector workers must be intensified.
Enmore Martyrs’ Day must serve as inspiration to reinvigorate the struggle for better conditions of work and a unified Labour Movement for the benefit of all workers of Guyana.
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I have been doing columns since 1988. I have been a major columnist with the Catholic Standard, Stabroek News, Kaieteur... more