– APNU, PPP supporters clash over “racial remarks”
By Kiana Wilburg
Some 300 sugar estate workers came out to protest the Opposition’s signal to disapprove of the $6B subvention to the sugar industry yesterday outside of the Parliament. The protest which, started out quietly, became invigorated by comments made by Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee and Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand.
The large gathering shouted, “The Opposition is not concerned about our interest. They don’t care about us Indians. They want us out of the Industry.” But comments such as these also prompted a show down between staunch opposition supporters and those of the government.
The police were forced to intervene and requested the opposition supporters to leave and not “cause a problem” when the racial slurs intensified.
Scores of sugar estate workers marched from the corner of Avenue of the Republic and Brickdam to Manget Place and returned to the eastern side of the Parliament Building.
Members of the Parliament were at the time passing through the crowd on their way to the National Assembly. Manickchand who was on her way to Parliament joined the sugar estate workers in their protest.
The labourers, who were from various estates in Berbice, seemed angry with the opposition. They said that they felt betrayed by A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine and Leader of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan and Moses Nagamootoo.
One harvester from the Blairmont Estate said, “We came to protest against the opposition’s position on the money for the industry. From what we see in the papers and the Television, we had to come to Georgetown. We are here to send them a strong message and that is, to allow the $6B to be injected into GuySuCo so everybody life can carry own.
“If GuySuCo is affected we will be affected.”
Two labourers attached to the Skeldon Estate, added, “The opposition asked the government to provide a reason to show that the $6B will make a difference, but Ashni Singh already answered that question.
“But the opposition doesn’t want to hear that. GuySuCo needs the money. Our children will suffer if they cut the money. Does the opposition want us to eat grass? It is clear that is only at election time the opposition says good things for us to hear. The opposition has deceived us.”
Another worker shouted, “We know what sugar has done for this country and now Nagamootoo and Ramjattan have turned against their own. Our fore parents came here and they developed this industry now the opposition wants the Indians out.”
Dr. Veerasammy Ramayya of the AFC said, “I received a call this morning (yesterday) and they have been paid to come here. This is a PPP gimmick. Our intention is not to cut the money but we want accountability.”
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Minister of Agriculture, said, “I am happy they came but this was not organized by my ministry.”
Some of the protesters started making racial remarks about some of the African-oriented members of the Opposition whom they believe would not care about their interest because they are East Indians.
This infuriated some people who got into heated exchanges with the protesters. The Opposition is justified in wanting explanations before supporting more money for the “dying sugar industry,” they said.
By last night the House had approved the money for the sugar industry.
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