– Jagdeo tells Rose Hall Town meeting
By Malisa Playter-Harry
The people of Rose Hall Town turned out in their numbers to attend Sunday evening’s People’s Progressive Party/Civic public meeting at the Rose Hall Town Arch for the upcoming Local Government Elections. It is the third such meeting held in Berbice by the opposition, with one recently being held in Corriverton that attracted a massive crowd and another in New Amsterdam that saw a meagre turnout.
A gathering over 500 persons listened as the General Secretary of the party and former President Bharrat Jagdeo lashed out at the government for the state of the sugar industry. He told the crowd that President Granger should face jail time for holding back on releasing the remaining severance payments owed to the ex-sugar workers.
He asserted that for two years the people of Wales have been fighting for what is owed to them and the people in Berbice have also been fighting, but the government is holding back on releasing payments. Jagdeo however mentioned that President Granger’s announcement at his recent public meeting at the Rose Hall Primary School that the remainder of severance will be paid before year-end is just another of the government’s political ploys.
“Suddenly Granger comes to a rally with 20 people…and he forced the school children to go there… and suddenly he says ‘look how good I am, I will give you your severance now’ and we must all be grateful to him because he is going to pay the severance just before elections,” Jagdeo said.
He charged, “these people should be in jail now for keeping workers’ money for such a long time, this is money due to people by law, and the Minister of Agriculture said they didn’t give you the severance because they are worried that you will spend out the money. Imagine the arrogance”.
Jagdeo mentioned that on many occasions he raised the issue of the payments of the severance money, but it has seemingly slipped through the cracks.
The former president stated that there was never a day he envisaged that, “our people go hungry, that we can’t feed our children; that we have to take them out of school because we cannot afford it, but it is happening right across Guyana. People don’t have money to pay for food, much less anything else. Go to Canje, Crabwood Creek and Corriverton, and you see the depression in people’s faces, it is all over”.
The former president said that many persons in Berbice still live with the perception that “they are safe” because the Albion Sugar Factory is still functioning, but he pointed out that the government had once said that no estate will be closed and that “it is a rumour by the PPP, but months later after Granger put in place a commission of inquiry and spent seventy five million dollars on the COI and his own commissioners said, do not close, Granger said that report is not gospel and proceeded to close Wales before the end of 2016. So, when they say the three other estates are safe do not worry about that. They can never be trusted, and they cannot be trusted”.
He further went on to state that currently GuySuCo is considered a “shell company” since according to him, after the four estates were closed all of the assets were transferred to SPU NICIL and all of the liabilities were left for old GuySuCo.
“They then took 100 percent of the shares of the three remaining estates and transferred it to SPU NICIL, so SPU NICIL now has all the assets. They own the estates and everything and what does old GuySuCo have? It has the pension liabilities, severance liabilities, all the old debts, liabilities to GRA and NIS.
You are working for GuySuCo, but GuySuCo doesn’t own the company anymore. They stripped it and transferred to SPU NICIL and SPU NICIL then took all the assets of GuySuCo and they went and borrowed thirty billion against those assets, so now if they fail to repay bonds, the banks can move in and take over all the assets of GuySuCo”.
Jagdeo argued that the government is not spending the money back on “old GuySuCo”. He questioned the government’s way of spending money and what they spend it on, and opined that the thirty billion bond “will disappear and all the assets of GuySuCo will be pledged”.
According to Jagdeo, “sugar is vital for various reasons” and it is not merely about profitability, since so much depends on the industry. He added that discussions were executed with the government to look at sugar in a multi-functional way.
“We said sugar is not just about how much money you make, but look at the employment it generates and the linkages to other sectors for every sugar worker here that you employ. Their salaries employ another person, whether it’s a vendor or someone else, the linkages are great. Secondly, the sugar workers are contributing to GRA, 7,000 of them now would not be contributing to GRA, the NIS now can collapse, because 3,000 people lost their jobs, not just the 7,000 sugar workers”.
He said when focus is placed on the foreign currency earning of sugar, “it is vital. So, we said look at all these things, you don’t need to close it… they said we don’t have money”. However, the former president said that government has complained about the need for money but spent one trillion dollars “but still every single industry is down. This is because of how they spend money and what they spend it on”.
Meanwhile, Mayor of Rose Hall Town, Vijay Ramoo during brief remarks to his fellow residents of the township chided the government and accused them of “not spending a cent on the development of the town”. He stressed that the town has suffered under the hands of APNU.
“We have run this town with no money from central government; we have repaired the tractors in this town. I have put my stipend in one corner and I told the treasurer that when it reaches a target, we will repair the tractor and every six months we repaired one. We have a lot to do for this town, but we are not getting the support”, Ramoo said.
Huge turnouts were also noticed at APNU Public Meetings at the various schools throughout the region with the AFC following closely behind.
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