The only reason the PPP/C government treats Guyanese the way it does is because it has no regard for them.
Minister of Labour Dr Nandkishore Gopaul was quoted in February by Demerara Waves as saying that “at this stage SCG [Shanghai Construction Group] was using highly technical and advanced construction methods and it will be some time before the Guyanese workers acquire the competencies to use that technology.” The same article reported that Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Hotels, (AHI) Winston Brassington credited the Asian workers with a high level of productivity and seemed to suggest that this was another reason why the government decided to make a deal with Shanghai that shut the door on Guyanese workers. He also repeated the PPP/C’s position that the deal with the Shanghai Group will be cheaper. If these attempts at justifying this biased position are not disrespectful to the people, then tell me what is?
Dr Gopaul’s comments that Guyanese workers will take some time to develop competencies to use the technology employed by the Shanghai Company are an affront to every Guyanese and should be rejected. The message he is sending is that we are a bunch of people who may need remedial training before we can be exposed to certain technology. He must know that any person, be they Chinese, Guyanese, American, Sudanese, Japanese or Indian, must be trained to use a new technology before they can use it effectively. Dr Gopaul should retract his comments and apologize to the people, before stepping down.
Secondly, Mr Brassington’s comment is stereotypical and casts the Guyanese workers in a bad light. Guyanese and those who represent workers should be calling on Mr Brassington to retract his comments and remove himself from managing our money which was arbitrarily placed in NICIL funds. Guyanese have worked all over the world and are known as some of the hardest working and most productive people.
The argument that Shanghai gives the government a cheaper deal is suspicious. Guyanese must be given the details of how this deal will be cheaper, compared to hiring a local contractor. It must also be clearly explained how employing Guyanese labourers will cost the government more money, as compared to Shanghai importing all the labour from China. Something does not add up and the people must demand answers.
The entire Marriott episode became a bigger insult when Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira accused people of being racist because they picketed the construction site and asked that their government guarantee them employment. I have regard for Ms Teixeira, who I believe has made her mark in Guyanese politics, but this kind of gutter-politics and attempt at a psychological ploy will not help her legacy. Her comments should be retracted. The Guyana government speaks as though it is the protector of the Shanghai Group, or the representative of the Chinese government.
At a time when governments across the Caribbean are trying to secure jobs for their citizens the Guyana government is discriminating against its own people, a people who have been largely unemployed and lack basic resources.
At a time when many Guyanese workers are returning home from countries which decide to help their own citizens first, the Guyana government has taken a conscious decision to shut out its citizens from gainful employment. I know many people who have returned from the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Saint Lucia and other countries because the job markets in those countries have been narrowing.
I am not saying that such a practice is good or bad but at least the people have a government which is looking out for them; the question is who is looking out for the Guyanese workers.
The recent elections in the Bahamas were won by a party which pledged jobs to its citizens first; this caused many Guyanese teachers and workers there much uneasiness, as some have no alternative but to return home to a government which could not care less about them. The Ramotar campaign pledged hundreds of jobs to Guyanese, but less than two years into his presidency he is importing labour from China, and excluding the Guyanese worker. Must Guyanese believe the PPP/C government?
We have been long known as a most hospitable people; we welcome all and are kind to everyone, so this is not an issue of Guyanese being against Chinese, as the government wants to sell it, but rather it a simple matter of a government respecting its people and providing opportunities for them.