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Letter: Minister Holder lets the cat out of the bag

Dear Editor,

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) was very disturbed having read an article entitled “Two Government Ministers differ over move to lay off Rose Hall sugar workers before year end” which was published on December 05, 2017, on an online news outlet.

That article reports Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder as saying in reference to the closure and sell-out of estates that “…the move was in the pipeline for some two years”.

From the Minister’s shocking, and maybe inadvertent admission, we have unceremoniously been told that the APNU/AFC Administration seemingly since the latter part of 2015 has had on the cards the cutting down of the sugar industry.

This speaks a mouthful. Clearly, as some have opined and now confirmed by a Senior Administration Official, the Government was not honest when it said it wanted to save the sugar industry. Undoubtedly, it was engaged in mere theatrics when it invited the trade unions in the industry and the Opposition to receive views on protecting and safeguarding sugar.

For the GAWU and more so the thousands of sugar workers who are affected by the cruel sugar plans, the Minister’s admission adds further insult to the injuries received from the Administration. At this time, a strong feeling of being deceived runs though the workers, the overwhelming majority of who have come to the sad realization that the APNU/AFC has never had their interests and concerns at heart.

As the Government writes a painful chapter of our history, this recklessness shown in the sugar industry will also, no doubt, be a telling blow directed at the growth and vibrancy of our economy and our country.

Moreover, GAWU has observed the several news reports regarding the disagreement between Minister of State, Joseph Harmon and Minister Holder regarding the issuance of redundancy notices to workers of Skeldon, Rose Hall, and East Demerara Estates.

While our Union finds the contradiction interesting, it causes us to wonder about the quality of governance we have. It is even more alarming given the realization that the Government is at the centre of decisions condemning in a heartless manner, thousands of Guyanese workers to the breadline with several thousand facing the threat to be similarly affected.

This tug-of-war with the fate of our workers prompts our Union to once again put on record that despite several commitments by spokespersons of the Administration to ensure that alternative arrangements are put in place for the workers nothing has been done. This is distressing situation and workers are justifiably questioning whether there was really any plan to address their plight and difficulties that they and their families face in a jobless existence.

What is disheartening for us too is the Government’s traversing the road whereby it is considering plans to miniaturize sugar and is obviously indifferent to the harmful repercussions which we see playing out before our eyes.

The absence of the highly-paid Government officials discussing with the workers their new-found plight speaks a lot about their concern and respect for the workers and their families.

This is something that is now etched in the minds of the people of the sugar belt as they face up to the challenges brought about from what clearly were ill-considered and poorly thought-out decisions.

Yours sincerely,
GAWU