In the face of threats by the PPP to turn any denial of the government’s $6 billion subsidy for the sugar industry into a racist act against the predominantly East Indian sugar workers, the joint parliamentary opposition voted for the subsidy. Sugar workers turned out to protest in front of the parliament.
At least one opposition member reportedly spoke to them. There were no police arrests. Nobody charged the sugar workers with wanting handouts from the government.
I am not saying the opposition buckled as I am not opposed to the sugar subsidy. Despite the problems with the sugar industry, too many poor people depend on sugar for their livelihood. And I do believe that in ethnically divided societies policy-making must always take cognizance of the ethnic consequences.
But two years ago when the government moved to cut the electricity subsidy to Linden, they were accused of wanting freeness. The government refused to back down. Not a single PPP member went to speak with them. When they protested they were shot at by the police – three dead and several injured. When public servants recently refused the government’s paltry wage increase, the government stood its ground.
If we do not have two Guyanas yet, we are extremely close.