Apr 08, 2021 Letters
Kaieteur News – Let me register disagreement with Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton’s efforts to deflect from the extant industrial grievances, between the workers and RUSAL management of the Bauxite Company Guyana Incorporated (BCGI), during his recent outreach exercise in the Kwakwani region. It is an affront to bauxite workers, their families and the community as they seek justice, from the Government of Guyana for the decade-plus impasse, to be told by the Minister to “pursue opportunities beyond bauxite.” A pursuit of opportunities elsewhere does not negate responsibility to address outstanding grievances, which the aggrieved is entitled to, under the law.
Rather than stand up for the sovereignty of Guyana, the Government of Guyana seems content to roll over, to allow the Constitution and Laws of Guyana to be violated, and the rights of Guyanese to be transgressed. If Guyanese cannot be assured of protection by the government, consistent with our laws, where else could such assurance come from? What manner of government does the citizens have when they are prepared to betray them, to tell them to look elsewhere? A delay in justice is a denial of justice. This has been happening for more than a decade, and counting.
On one hand we fight Venezuela, all the way to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to protect two-thirds of our land. Successive governments, with the support of the people, have been able to mobilise international support to do what is right for Guyana. The situation at BCGI is no different. Whereas Venezuela continues its open aggression to wrongfully claim territory, RUSAL, a company that has the support of the Government of Russia, is carrying out similar aggression in Guyana for part (territory) of Guyana and against Guyanese.
Whereas RUSAL management may not have gun boats or use military operations, make no mistake theirs is a similar strategy of aggression like Venezuela, even though appearing on the surface to be less aggressive. BCGI is challenging the sovereignty of Guyana by staking claim to the Kwakwani and Aroaima bauxite operations, and the surrounding communities and daring the Government to do otherwise, including holding them accountable to paying taxes. And whereas workers have steadfastly stood up against RUSAL aggression, successive governments have capitulated or acted timid. This would not have happened under any government led by Forbes Burnham, Desmond Hoyte, Cheddi Jagan or Janet Jagan.
The Government of Guyana, on behalf of the people of Guyana, is part owner of BCGI. It cannot remain timid in confronting RUSAL management on matters pertaining to our laws and people. Guyana cannot and must not surrender to RUSAL. This nation can recall when a prominent member of this regime once posited that some facilitation could be made to cede part of Guyana’s territory to Venezuela as a truce. Thankfully that did not materialise and would now be made more difficult given that the previous administration (APNU+AFC) had put in place mechanisms, through the ICJ, in the hope of seeking finality to the controversy.
Prior to going into the 2020 Election the BCGI grievances were slated to go to arbitration. Whereas the administration of government changes once the Constitution and Laws remain present the incumbent has a duty to uphold them. The minister is quick to tell a section of this society to move forward even as they seek justice. The regime he is part of is acting disinclined to pursue such justice or feels beholden to the Russians even if it means trampling on the laws, workers and citizens.
Bauxite is a viable product in the international market. There remains demand for Guyana’s bauxite given its special enhancing “sweetener” value. This product must be sustainably exploited by the people for the benefit of the people. Where the people are now asked to look beyond exploiting this resource, which is majority controlled by foreign capital, and their grievances remain unresolved is saying to this nation that Guyanese citizens are second class in their own land and it is acceptable for our resources and people to be held hostage by external force. Government can find an alternative to keep BCGI, which is partially operational, fully operational.
We must be unafraid to call a spade a spade. The PPP/C has picked up from where they left off. They are openly pursuing economic injustice against a group of people that is bound to cause them economic dislocation, with its concomitant social evils such as poverty, poor health and shortened longevity. BCGI workers deserve to have the decade-plus grievances resolved through arbitration. Those workers who have been denied their correct termination benefit deserve redress. You cannot calculate termination benefits on 365 days when these are not working days. The error in calculation has financially deprived workers what’s justly theirs, which their union, the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU), has requested of the Ministry of Labour to facilitate the process to correct.
Minister Hamilton, the subject minister for Labour, is being called on to address the extant grievances consistent with the laws. BCGI remains a legal entity and remains subject to the Laws of Guyana. Good sense must prevail in the treatment of labour (workers) and management of the nation’s resources, regardless of which group stands to benefit. For under the law of this country we are all equal and entitled to equal treatment. No more or less has been asked of Minister Hamilton as had been asked of previous subject ministers.
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