The GuySuCo Board of Directors ordered the closure of sugar estates, then leaves the Government of Guyana to explain or spin a tale of hopelessness.
We the owners of the sugar plantations are in doubt as to who is in charge, whether at GuySuCo, or Ministry of the Presidency.
In manner likened to Pontius Pilate, the President washed his hands of the matter of retrenchment of 4000 sugar workers, not to leave out the chaps at Wales, and had his Prime Minister read out the edict in Parliament. Poor Moses, he must have felt like the Biblical Moses when he returned with the tablets containing the Commandments. Now we know why Moses threw down the tablets and they shattered. Can there be a replay?
With the half severance pay, sugar workers will invest the money in internet cafés, wash bays, hire cars, mini buses, trafficking in drugs, and enriching rum shop owners. What else is there in terms of jobs in a country with high unemployment and under employment? The answer is agriculture; to fashion the green economy this Government proclaims, except that the green economy seems to mean painting buildings green and wearing green clothing. The President said they will be trained as carpenters and other skills – to find employment where? Maybe we would witness another wave of illegal migration.
We all know that sugar workers are not employed year round in the industry. With what is saved, their wives carry on the family economy for the remainder of the year. There is a precedent in the job-loss scenario. When the present Government came to office, a bit of rainfall caused the housing area east of the National Cultural Centre to retain water. A resident of the area promptly moved residence to Main Street, and in like fashion, the bearer of bad news to sugar workers followed the Leader.
Now that sugar workers are out of jobs they should find alternatives to housing, as many sugar workers live in rented quarters.
There are openings at West Bank Demerara where the President for life of their Union resides; and what about Pradoville, and by extension all the other persons in the political party that have over the decades extended suzerainty over sugar workers’ lives. These former renters of other people’s bottom houses now own mansions, after only twenty years in power. Here is where the sugar workers’ patrimony lay along with their foreparents’ hard work, not to diminish the creation of lands for agriculture by our African ancestors. As farmers, we of the National Farmers Organization (NFO) wish to express the view that love and compassion have not been extended to the dilemma of the now retrenched sugar workers. All those who busied themselves in the sugar industry, whether as managers, unionists, or others, have now withdrawn. The workers are on their own.
To add fuel to fire, there has not been a national dialogue on sensitive issues. Diversification has now moved to divestment. The machinery of the State is now empowered to advertise the sale of sugar lands, factories, machinery etc.
Speculators with money are sharpening their jaws to gobble up sugar. Just like when rice silos were sold, which caused serious dislocation to the livelihood of another sector of the rural population.
Editor, where has love for people been displayed? Are you aware that there is no representative of rural people in the Cabinet? Do not look at chaps from the countryside, they were never part of that patrimony, they left rural areas to escape poverty, which itself is the problem; not individuals who are poor, who represent immense human capital. The cause of poverty is not lack of money capital but underutilisation of material and especially human resources. The key to development clearly must be in the expansion of participation in productive activity, an objective that depends primarily on the ability of Government to accelerate the commercialisation of agriculture and, to expand employment through small scale industries in rural areas.
A green economy is the ideal solution for Guyana at this stage of historical and social development. Sugar has fallen. The dimensions are sad. Vultures are hovering overhead. The same people who presided over sugar’s demise now, would make violent demonstration of their negligence, which is a mild way to suggest that they corrupted every aspect of sugar’s diversification from the World Bank’s advice in 1992 to shut down the Demerara estates and concentrate on Berbice. Concentrate on Berbice they did with Skeldon, to misuse of European Union billions for sugar diversification and other sins.
Witness who are the individuals leading the sugar workers’ protests in Berbice. Persons who are mercenaries to certain political parties – never cut a stick of cane, even to suck its juice.
Our agricultural communities, who are not operating in ideal farming conditions, have been displaying tremendous acumen in providing food for local consumption and export. We can do better in many areas, especially in post-harvest handling of produce and internal marketing, and other areas of good management in the 21st century.
Sugar workers will be a great boon to our agriculture. This matter of providing the former cane lands to former sugar workers has been elaborated in other NFO publications. We now say this is the time for decisive action.
What we lack is love, compassion, empathy and a feeling of nationhood. Are we wrong to feel let down by persons who came to our communities asking us to give them the chance to make changes? Did they mean change their economic outlook?
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