Jan 04, 2021 Letters
Reference is made to EB John’s letter “Keeping the Sugar Industry Functioning” (Jan 1). I am in agreement but we disagree on presence of corruption and top heavy management. Mr. John has taken my contention of corruption at GuySuCo out of context. By no means do I claim that all managers or workers were corrupt. But there is history of corruption at GuySuCo.
John takes offense of claims of corruption at GuySuCo and the charge of it being heavy “in management”. I can understand how he feels about management being accused of mismanagement and corruption. After all, he served in management for decades at a time when the industry was in a downturn. Who wouldn’t want to defend his management record? Wasn’t Mr. John brought back to GuySuCo from retirement after the coalition came to power? He was in his 80s at the time. And was the salary and perks about a million a month? And wasn’t Clive Thomas also close to his 80s being put high in the management structure of GuySuCo at a salary and perks close to a million a month? And wasn’t a host of directors and advisors (dozens of them) being paid with perks close to a million a month? Some of them lived in Georgia, Florida, Brooklyn and urban areas in Guyana, some retirees of the security forces who never ever set foot on a cane field or know what cane looks like. Were they experts or specialists in cane cultivation and harvesting? So is it unfair to conclude that GuySuCo expenses were heavy towards management? The workers did the back breaking work. Workers made sure the land was cultivated and sugar was produced. The workers’ salary was about $50K monthly on average, five percent of what the big guys were getting. Was that all their labour was worth? Did they get fair compensation compared to the big guys sitting in AC offices?
I salute Mr. John for his position opposing the closure of the four sugar estates. One cannot measure the estates in dollar profits. He outlined the amount of services provided by GuySuCo that increased the cost of production of a pound of sugar. If government were to absorb these costs, then cost of sugar production would drop to less than ten cents. We are both on the same page on saving sugar – the cost is worth it but costs can be trimmed.
We disagree on corruption. He feels there was no corruption. It means John did not have his pulse on the workers in the fields and lower level staff in management. It is either he is naïve or does not want to deal with reality. There are countless cases of corruption, not over the last five months, but after nationalization in 1976. Doesn’t John know that sugar workers were used to build private homes of a few managers on the East Coast? And didn’t the materials for those houses come from GuySuCo? And how about Leonora and Uitvlugt Estates – where managers abused privileges and perks treating guest houses and halls as their personal property to entertain outside girlfriends or host private parties. Several managers ran the sugar estates as their personal fiefdom during Burnhamism. There was one case in a rainy season where the manager hosted a wedding for his daughter at Leonora. The dam was muddy; he ordered workers to spread dozens of bags of manure on the dam to make it passable for guests driving or walking to the reception building. I take it that John didn’t know about that abuse. In another case, one manager billed the estate for digging a trench and when no trench was found after investigation, he billed the estate again for filling up the trench. I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead. Mr. Downes owned a farm in Parika. Drivers told me a lot of fertilizer and equipment was sent from the estates to Parika. Also, the managers treated the workers worse than the white man who they replaced. In fact, workers I interviewed said they preferred the colonial white man as managers. In some cases during Burnham time, the conditions were so bad that workers felt that indentureship and slavery must have been better.
There was a great deal of dishonesty prevailing in the industry, institutionalized from top to bottom. I interview sugar workers and supervisors and board directors. They talk a great deal about the goings on of the industry. Rumours of theft. Workers were put on payroll but they hardly ever went to the field. There were/are cell phone supervisors who would call workers to find out if everything was ok, hardly visiting the field site. Thus, there was hardly an accurate evaluation of cultivation and harvesting. Workers told me they stole fertilizer or threw fertilizer in the canal rather than on the root of cane to expedite task completion. There were cases of workers cutting their foot or hand or feigning job related injury to collect NIS compensation.
But the biggest scams took place during the coalition – $19Billion (?) in loans through NICIL disappeared. It can’t be accounted for. There was hardly any capital expenditure in estates. In addition, billions in dollars of equipment and spare parts, disappeared. Hundreds of tractors, draglines, hymacks, bobcats, etc., went missing. Also, equipment and land was sold or granted at rock bottom prices. Is that not corruption?
There were enormous perks at Guysuco during the coalition. NICIL made a kitchen at LBI that provided four meals daily for management – they ate morning, noon, afternoon, and night. Even when four estates were closed, the kitchen remained active preparing meals for the boys. Has John forgotten about it when he went to meetings. I do not know if CEO Sase Singh closed down the kitchen.
Workers complain that John did not champion the interests of sugar workers when he was in management under Burnham. He did not oppose the tax levy on sugar profits – that was used to fund the national government. Wasn’t Mr. John close to Burnham and Green? Those politicians didn’t care about sugar and didn’t do much to sustain the industry. Wasn’t John in management when the industry began to collapse because of heavy management – payroll being padded with hundreds of unproductive workers in offices?
In spite of our difference on a bloated management and elements of corruption, John gives enough reasons why the sugar industry must continue. I support this laudable position. Sugar can succeed if it has good management in the estates with experience. The estates need managers who care about the lives of sugar workers and the communities that surround those estates. There are only a handful of people with experience in sugar and with the energy and who truly care about sugar workers. Management must tap into their skills and experience and their compassion for workers. Vishnu Panday is one of them. It won’t surprise me if he has more experience in sugar than the entire board combined. Regrettably, he has tendered his resignation. What a loss of a man of integrity? GuySuCo must persuade him to stay.
As I pen repeatedly, workers deserve higher compensation. I am also of the view that sugar workers should be given land (say 15 acres each) to grow cane and the state manages the factories for grinding. Such a policy would motivate workers to be highly productive.
Jan 21, 2021Kaieteur News – On a slow spin-friendly LBI track, left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie befuddled a Leon Johnson’s XI batting line which raised concerns as they head into next month’s Regional...
Jan 21, 2021
Jan 21, 2021
Jan 20, 2021
Jan 20, 2021
Jan 20, 2021
Kaieteur News – I had many friends among the African-Guyanese race when I was a radical activist in the era of the... more
Kaieteur News – Today, I examine the criticisms that the gas-to-shore (GTS) project lacks transparency. The fact that... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]