Feb 15, 2013 News
– Protest action continues today
Yesterday, protesters marched peacefully in front of the closed gates of Marriot Hotel site, Kingston, demanding Guyanese constitutional rights to be employed in the construction of the hotel that is being funded by Guyanese taxpayers.
A sense of patriotism filled the atmosphere as the over 50 demonstrators including politicians, trade unionists and social activists held placards reading: “Stop insulting Guyanese”, “Warning…Our Government is selling us out to China”, “We will not be second class citizens in our own country” and “Ramotar insulting Guyanese”.
Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, who paved the way for the controversial project and saw its commencement in November 2011, was criticized and accused of being a “traitor who sold out his own people”.
Shanghai Construction Group began works several months ago but only recently it became public that no Guyanese labourers were employed with the project.
Winston Brassington, Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), a government-owned company established to manage the $60M project, in an interview with the State’s news agency, had said that the use of a mostly Chinese labour force to construct the multi-million-dollar Marriott Hotel was just one of several conditionality’s necessary for the facility’s efficient and speedy construction.
He also said that the issue of productivity and communication had been a cause for concern along with the lack of specialised skills needed for the tasks.
Brassington claimed that Government got a reduction of US$9 million in the bid price by Shanghai Construction Group under the condition that it could have control over whom it hires.
Initially, the price was US$65M, according to Brassington.
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), the main Opposition in the National Assembly, is not accepting the exclusion of Guyanese labourers in the project while the unemployment level is relatively high.
APNU Member of Parliament, Rupert Roopnaraine yesterday said that this demonstration is only the beginning of a series of actions planned to ensure Guyanese constitutional rights are respected. He noted that the protest shows the citizens’ willingness and readiness to back the demands of the labour movement.
“We cannot understand how the Government could enter into an agreement that specifically denies Guyanese their constitutional right to work. This is a big issue; it has to engage the Parliament and Courts if necessary…This demonstration is a very important beginning.”
Another APNU Parliamentarian, Joseph Harmon, who was also part of the protest action said that the Government has shown contempt for the people in negotiating and agreeing with a contract which excludes Guyanese from working even at the most basic level of a construction phase of the operation.
Taking into consideration many protest demands that were ignored by Government in the past, Harmon said that he believes that change does not occur overnight. He assured that changes are taking place in Guyana and “it is taking place right before our eyes…what we are doing here today is registering our concern.”
“The rest of Guyana will have to pick it up, this is not just a matter for political parties this is a matter for all Guyanese… We are all consumed by this level of contempt by which the Government is treating us. ..What you see behind you is a monument to that contempt,” he stressed.
President of the Guyana Trades Union Congress Norris Witter said that he hopes as the protest continues more persons will join, knowing the gravity of the situation. He stressed that one needs to recognise and appreciate the fact that the sovereignty of the State is at stake.
“This action by the Jagdeo/ Ramotar regime takes us back to the days of slavery and indentureship…All the people of this country must stand up against the atrocity,” Witter said. Responding to Labour Minister Nanda Gopaul’s defence about the technology being used by the contractor, Witter said he is not surprised but disappointed.
“This is the level that those who eat at the master’s table would go to subjugate their own people. This Minister was once a labour leader. The question to be asked at this time is who does he represent. It is more damning to note this statement is coming from the mouth of a Minister of Labour,” Witter said.
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