– Dr. David Hinds
When it comes to the noise being made by the political Opposition over Government’s decision to close the Wales Sugar Estate by year end, University Professor Dr. David Hinds says it is nothing but a façade.
In his recent writings on his blog, www.guyanacaribbean politics.com, he said that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is only interested in using the sugar workers to score political points. He said that by their very actions, the PPP has proven that it is not sincerely concerned about the sugar workers.
Dr. Hinds opined that the sugar industry has, for a long time, been a drain on the country’s meagre resources. If the industry is to survive, he said one must embrace the harsh but inevitable reality that something had to give.
The political activist said that the PPP wrecked the industry to satisfy its narrow agenda.
“We know of all the mismanagement and clientelism that went on. They turned the industry into an ethnic football. When the Government changed, the PPP went into blackmail mode. The new Government moved to keep the industry afloat in the short term, but this cannot continue indefinitely.”
Dr. Hinds said that obviously the Government cannot and would not shut down the entire industry just like that as that would not make any economic or political sense. He said, however, that in the interest of the country, and particularly the sugar workers, “we need to find both short and long term solutions. Many of our CARICOM sister countries have long done this; we have to catch up.”
The University professor said that sugar, in its present state is vulnerable.
“Why does the PPP want sugar workers to be forever vulnerable? Why don’t they want a stable industry? The answer is because they want to continue to use sugar workers for political benefit.”
The political activist said that Guyana’s sugar industry, as it is, cannot compete with other sugar-producing countries, and the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo knows this.
“He (Jagdeo) knows that closing Wales Estate is the least painful action that can be taken in the short term, yet he opposes it. He refuses to let the workers know that this would benefit the industry and the country in the long term. Why would a Government that bailed out the sugar industry to ensure that workers were paid be interested in punishing those very workers? Score political points, but don’t lie so barefacedly.”
Dr. Hinds added that no worker wants to know that he or she will lose his or her job. He said that “these are poor people” who do not have ready replacement. He opined that Guyana is without a robust private sector to absorb the labour being let go.
“I am sure the Government thought of this and does have plans to assist in this regard. Its representatives have met with the union, but we know that Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) is the PPP and it would carry out the PPP’s agenda. The Government must therefore go directly to the affected workers. And lest we all fall for the PPP’s propaganda, it should be known that the Wales Estate employs a fair bit of non-East Indian workers. So no Mr. Jagdeo, it’s not only PPP supporters who are affected.”
Furthermore, Dr. Hinds said that the PPP was in full flight last week as it was up to its old tricks. He opined that based on the Opposition’s behaviour in and out of parliament, it believes that Government’s decision to close the Wales Estate is a God-sent gift.
“This is what the PPP was waiting for. Its leaders so badly wanted to prove to their constituency that this Government plans to crush them that they were falling over themselves to get to Wales. Mr. Jagdeo was in his element. He immediately declared that the closure was aimed at weakening PPP people economically.”
The political activist opined that this is all part of the rhetoric of witch-hunting and ethnic cleansing and some of the workers bought the bait. “When your job is on the line, I suppose any bearer of sympathy and conspiracy theory is welcome.”
Dr. Hinds also recalled that there were demonstrations at Wales and in Georgetown when the announcement of the closure was made.
“I want to note, with much relief, that there were no arrests, beatings or shootings by the police. This must be a lesson for the PPP, which lost no opportunity during its tenure in office to facilitate the brutalization of protestors.”
“Who can forget the police shooting pellets at APNU supporters peacefully marching shortly after the 2011 election, or the fatal shooting of protestors at Linden in 2012? Some of us were charged and hauled before the courts after the December 2011 shootings. The PPP must be reminded of these incidents every time it turns out to protest.”
Dr. Hinds said that many may not remember that in that same Wales community, a young man was fatally shot by the police in 2010 for allegedly loitering in front of a school. He said that when social activists Mark Benschop, Freddie Kissoon, Lincoln Lewis and himself joined residents to highlight the incident by way of a picket at the Brickdam Police Station, Benschop was arrested, the canter which transported the school children was seized by the police, and the owner was charged.
He noted that all of this happened under the PPP, which was last week championing causes and leading protests.
“Sometimes I wonder if these politicians remember what they did when they held power.”
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