– outreach attracts picketers
Agriculture Minister Noel Holder on Wednesday conducted an outreach to Crabwood Creek, Region Six, to shed some light on government’s plans to revamp the sugar industry.
During a meeting which was held at the Crabwood Creek Primary School, Minister Holder attempted to set the record straight on a number of issues including government’s plans to privatize the Skeldon factory.
“Privatization is going to save the operations at the Skeldon estate. We have big companies that have expressed interest in utilizing the assets established at Skeldon. The government is prepared to facilitate this through lease agreements. These companies will need workers, so we are urging you not to become influenced by political forces. Come on board as everyone stands to benefit from such a move,” the Minister stated.
Holder indicated that the companies that will be carrying out operations at Skeldon as a result of privatization will have to be producing commodities that earn foreign exchange.
“Once privatization takes place, the company will be obligated to provide employment opportunities for persons in the community. In addition to job opportunities, the company will have to be producing commodities that will earn foreign exchange for the country.” Holder added.
During the meeting, it was also revealed that action is being taken to combat flooding in the region, as many areas are flooded due to continuous rainfall.
Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), Fredrick Flatts indicated that the authority is striving to ensure that all of the drainage structures are operable, while noting the constant rainfall over the past few days.
“As a result of heavy rainfall, there has been much flooding in the region. The drainage system currently has the ability to drain 1 ½ inches of water in 24 hours. However, over 8 inches of water has accumulated over the past few days in certain communities due to continuous rainfall. It is not an easy task to move pumps around as there is flooding in many parts of the country. What we are striving to do is to ensure that all our structures are operable but having continuous rainfall is not helping,” Flatts said.
Minister Holder, while expressing that mitigation is needed to relieve flooding, revealed that 14 pumps that will enhance drainage capacities are expected to arrive from India.
Mr. Flatts, while addressing Water Users’ Association issues, disclosed that since the area was established, there have been three sluices constructed to facilitate irrigation in the area. One sluice was closed off due to it not being utilized at the time. With more lands being made available for agricultural practices, the two remaining sluices are no longer sufficient to irrigate the lands.
He further indicated that the anticipated Black Bush Polder Water Users’ Election for that area is going to take place in the near future.
Farmers expressed concerns about the limited work carried out by authorities in farming areas between Crabwood Creek and Moleson Creek as it relates to irrigation matters. Minister Holder committed to taking steps to correct this by having the area officially declared a production area.
“As it is now, this large area has not officially been declared a production area. I am going to look into having this area declared a production area so that the authorities can go in and do all that you need us to do.” Minister Holder said.
But it was not all smooth sailing for the outreach. Members of the opposition together with several farmers and sugar workers picketed the Minister’s arrival.
Zamal Hussain, Region Six PPP/C supervisor, told reporters, that the main reason for their picketing exercise was to highlight “the hardships that the farmers and residents are facing”. He said, “Cash crop is in a serious crisis right now, they (government) killing out the industries, also rice is in serious crisis and the government seems not to do anything”.
Hussein questioned the reason that the minister chose to visit Crabwood Creek, when several other flooded areas in the Region also need attention.
“The situation in the country is getting harder for the people and then now because of this flooding, farmers are being affected, then also we see the sugar workers protesting against the selling out of the Skeldon sugar estate”.
Meanwhile, PPP Member of Parliament, Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo, also part of the picketing exercise stated that they will continue to stand in solidarity with the farmers and sugar workers. “Issues that can be dealt with, such as the flooding… issues with rice and sugar, are not being dealt with.”
Mahadeo mentioned that Minister Holder and the other government officials are yet to come on the ground and consult with the working people, the people whose lives will directly be affected by the decisions the government makes in parliament. Mahadeo stressed once more, that “GAWU has been saying they have alternative solutions”.
“We are here offering our solidarity. I don’t expect anything to come out of the (minister’s) meeting. This is a government of false promises, failed promises, don’t expect anything,” the picketers stated.
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