The Presidential Candidate of the newly-minted political party, Change Guyana, Mr. Robert Badal in a letter which appeared in the December 05 Kaieteur News said that he “…was deeply disturbed at the level of poverty and unemployment…” in the villages that once depended on the now-closed Wales sugar state.
Mr. Badal urged the Administration to allocate former estate lands to the displaced workers. He went on to say that “…large swathes of land [were] being parceled out at Wales to friends of the APNU administration without any consideration for the displaced sugar workers”, a situation he said was “…most uncaring and unpatriotic act of the Granger administration”.
The Change Guyana presidential hopeful called on President Granger to “…articulate a viable economic relief plan for those workers as a matter of urgency”.
The sentiments expressed by Mr. Badal are indeed reflective of the travesty unfolding at Wales. Similar situations afflict the people and communities of East Demerara, Rose Hall and Skeldon as well. But while the Change Guyana leader was so moved by what he saw that it forced him to share his expressions in the media, it was the same gentleman that just a few days prior said that the re-opening of the closed estates was a foolhardy proposition.
Incidentally, on the day that Mr. Badal’s letter was published, another newspaper also featured his comments regarding the re-opening of the shuttered estates. That media entity reported that Mr. Badal said it will take significant sums to re-open the estates and deemed such commitments as “foolishness” and “lies”. The aspirant for the highest office in the land said it was “impossible” to re-open the closed estates.
While we are not aware of the current state of the shuttered estates, we nevertheless hold the view that the investment required would be most worthwhile. Any investment, which allows our people to work and allows them and their families to live happy lives where they can achieve their aspirations should not be decried and denounced, but supported and embraced.
Undoubtedly, Mr. Badal and his colleagues would now have first-hand knowledge of the vacuum created by the closure of estates and the dire situation that is now affecting thousands of Guyanese and scores of communities.
Change Guyana, we have seen, has proposed that former sugar lands be given to ex-sugar workers for them to be transitioned into entrepreneurs and farmers. At his press conference, Mr. Badal shared that there is much scope. Indeed, there may be opportunities. On the surface, what Mr. Badal is suggesting, sounds to be prudent idea.
Mr. Badal and his colleagues must have thought: – What’s so hard, let’s just give the lands to the workers and they will know what to do. Only if it were so easy.
Our Union has given considerable thought to this matter as well. While we do not consider ourselves an authority on the issue by any means, at the same time, we have come to learn that there are several matters that require considerable thought and profound actions if such ventures are to really succeed.
We hasten to ask whether Change Guyana, for instance, has given thought to available markets, processing facilities, infrastructural development, entrepreneurial and farming know-how and techniques, gestational income, financing for ventures, competiveness considerations, or even the psychological effect. It’s not as easy as it sounds and definitely will not happen at the snap of one’s fingers.
Mr. Badal, who himself was once a sugar worker, would know too, of how proud of a people they are. He would well know of their dedication and their desire to give their best. He should be aware of the pride they take in their jobs and the hard work they do to make a living. He would know too that they are not looking for handouts but they, like all Guyanese, want to make a contribution to developing our country and making Guyana a better place for everyone.
All they seek is an opportunity to a play a role; an opportunity, we remind, that was pulled from under their feet, and an opportunity which saw them turning the wheels of progress and allowing us all to soar higher into the skies and to reach for the stars.
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