As a trade unionist I pride myself as an independent thinker and doer, guided by internationally acceptable principles, our Constitution and Laws. Trade unionists are taught to hold strong beliefs in exercising fundamental rights and freedoms, and no man, political party, group, or government should ever be allowed to take those sacred values away from us.
As leaders of workers and for social change, the responsibility to hold ourselves and others accountable to ensure the comity of man must be taken seriously. There should be no support for transgressing workers’ rights, the violating of laws, and acts of lawlessness that affect workers and their families. Trade unionists are taught to hold elected officials accountable, for they were elected by us, are being paid by us to govern in our collective interest, and are not insulated from scrutiny and accountability.
A dangerous phenomenon is occurring within the government supporters/African community where by their very actions/inactions, they risk destroying efforts to build the very things we fought for when we were in the political wilderness. I’m wedded to the belief that the behaviours and violations we condemned cannot be right now when nothing has changed. To dare to express independence or challenge any thinking or action by the APNU+AFC administration comes with the cost of knowing you risk being attacked, marginalised, ostracised and denied by members of the supporters of the coalition, particularly the African community.
There were those who never showed active interest in what was taking place during the PPP/C stewardship; those too afraid to stand up and be counted and those who came to the scene when it was considered safe and beneficial. Today these persons have placed themselves on a self-righteous perch as defenders of democracy and societal values, which from all appearances translate to unquestionable compliance with the coalition government and not universal norms. They attack those who stood up through the years, fighting to shape a progressive shift in societal thinking based on universal principles and the Rule of Law, which have contributed to the removal of the PPP from office because of executive lawlessness.
Some have convenient memories. Some honestly are ignorant and have not taken the time to look for the truth about those who played pivotal roles, made sacrifices and suffered great cost, in an effort to influence the change. These newly vocal persons are falsely accusing those who can be easily proven as publicly at the forefront, challenging the previous government for its indiscretions and breaches, as being absent. This is an attempt at misleading the populace.
The current impasse between the Government and Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) is witnessing a tactic that can be self-imploding if not harnessed. The efforts to label and malign GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald – who is also President of the Guyana Trades Union Congress – as an agent of Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP, is malicious, dishonest and dangerous. Supporters of the coalition and members of the African community who are now accusing her, were in her corner when the GTU took similar industrial actions against the PPP/C. Instructively, this attempt at political maligning also sees propagation by social media groups of APNU+AFC, led by the groups’ administrators, lending one to believe it is politically orchestrated by the higher hierarchy.
The maligning came to a high last Sunday in Kaieteur News’ cartoon and “The Baccoo Speaks” where Ms. McDonald was misrepresented as an agent of the PPP, with Bharrat Jagdeo the whisperer in her ear. Even if satire was intended, there is no excuse for such fact-less and baseless misrepresentation. In a polarised society such as ours, the dangers are well known. These two items were part of an anti-union smear campaign to undermine the GTU’s struggle and moreso McDonald’s strength and support, by projecting her actions as partisan politics, motivated by a leader whose actions during his tenure as President is perceived in a most despicable manner to many Guyanese, particularly supporters of the coalition.
Independent thinkers in Guyana, especially those of the trade union movement, which is guided by principles that remain constant throughout time in protection of workers’ rights and the promotion of a living wage and better standard of living, must recognise that the time has come once again when those who eagerly supported their previous struggles have now turned on them. This in itself should be an eye opener and a moment to galvanise in solidarity for greater independence in thought with a firmer commitment to international conventions, charters, time-honoured principles, and the Rule of Law. The trade union has a history of permanent interests, not permanent friends.
This nation is reminded that when the group that forms the coalition was in Opposition, they lauded Coretta McDonald for her militancy, and rewarded her for it in 2016 with a national award, the Golden Arrow of Achievement. For her continued militancy in support of workers’ ongoing struggle for better wages and working conditions, she has now become a nemesis of the coalition government. Her principles have not changed, the government and opposition have changed.
A true trade unionist does not merely vacillate between governments because of political preference, they remain strong and steadfast on the rules and principles in support of workers’ betterment. That the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining continues to be treated with disregard should be of concern to all and speaks volume to the period we are living in.
Kaieteur News, to its credit, has earned the trust of society and an enviable reputation as fair, holding from the President to the beggar accountable. The newspapers suffered at the hands of the PPP/C government and was branded anti-government by officials and party enthusiasts, but has retained a stellar consistency and balance in its fairness. It stands out as a beacon, but with reference to the two items on McDonald it has stumbled.
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