First published March 27, 1987

THE People’s Progres­sive Party and the Working People’s Alli­ance, the two major parties in the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy, have both called on workers to take action from the bottom if their trade union leaders continue to allow themselves to be manipulated by gov­ernment.

The WPA’s Eusi Kwayana accused trade unions of not utilising resources at their disposal (members), while the PPP’s Cheddi Jagan called for a return to the street protest politics of the 40s and 50s. He felt that this was the only way justice could be achieved in Guyana.

Kwayana who made his remarks during the PCD’s after-march rally at Kitty Market Square, said union leaders should not only bargain “on your seats” but should take members out on the streets and proclaim their demands.

At the heart of last week’s after-march rally was the stalled wages and salaries negotia­tions between the gov­ernment and the Trades Union Congress

The Democratic Labour Movement’s (DLM) Paul Tennassee questioned the usefulness and value of government’s $19.40 per day wages offer.

Kwayana said the significance of last week’s march lay in the fact that it is the beginning of a renewed struggle in Guyana. Jagan, the last of several speakers at the rally, reiterated the PCD’s commitment to the day-to day struggle of the Guyanese people, so that they “could live like human beings.”

The TUC leaders are selling out, he said, adding that they have been corrupted by Government over the years. The only way to end this is to take to the streets in protest as was the case 40 years ago.

He denounced the National Assembly as a place of information suppression…a place where a lot of members have never said anything in favour of workers.

Tennassee called on President Hoyte and Prime Minister Hamilton Green to prepare a meal on any given day in Guyana that would cost $19.40.

Claim Jumping At Nine Miles, Potaro

THE Geology and Mines Commission has had to enlist the Tactical Services Unit to maintain law and order at Nine Miles, Potaro, a potentially-rich mining area which has been closed by the Commission owing to alleged mis-management by the claim holders and subcontractors.

It all started, according to Geology and Mines Commissioner Dr. G.W. Walrond, when the original claim-holders decided as is the practice, to sub­let parts of their claim to some other miners. The situation eventually veered out of control with several unauthorised miners joining in the gold rush forcing the Commission to place a cease – work order until the situation returns to normal.

The Nine Miles issue has led to an uncomfortable relationship between the Miners’ Association and the Com­mission. The Association is claiming on the one hand that the authorities are slow in making a decision regarding a lifting of the cease-work order or in awarding the claim to a new set of miners, while the Commission is saying on the other, that it must observe all legal processes and give the holders a hearing before a decision is taken.

A Miners’ Association spokesman said, how­ever, that there is evi­dence that the Commission is mismanaging the situation and allowing it to get out of hand. Raiders are making themselves a pocket-full in the meanwhile, despite the presence of more than a dozen armed policemen. The “free-for-all” which has developed as a result of the closure of the mining area has led to an increase in the number of unauthorised persons in the area, some of them criminals and prostitutes, the association reports.

Mono-Syllables from the Minister

LABOUR Minister Seeram Prashad in Parliament last week Wednesday, on a day when answers from some Government Ministers to Opposition questions were brief, outdid his colleagues in brevity.

Mr. Prashad’s moment of glory in brevity came in his answers to three questions from Mrs. Janet Jagan, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) frontbencher.

Mrs. Jagan’s questions were: (1) Will the Minister say how many inspections have been made by Labour Department officers of registers, which are required to be kept by employers under the Household Service Workers (Hour of Work) Act 1980 (No. 17)?

(2) Will the Minister say how many registers, approximately, are being kept?

(3) Have there been any prosecutions under the law?

Mr. Prashad’s answers to the questions were:

“The answer is 26.”

“Two by each employer.”’

“Yes.”

Trade and Tourism Minister Mr. Winston Murray came close to rivalling Prashad when he dealt with the question from PPP Leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan to wit: “of the current retail price – $7.45 per gallon — of gasolene, will the Minister say what is the landed cost per gallon, the Government tax and the profit margin to the filling stations?” Jagan pointed out that his question was published since May 31, 1986 and asked that since the price had changed Murray take that into consideration in answering.

Murray evaded answering the question and suggested if Jagan laid a new question he would be prepared to answer “given due notice.”

Following Mr. Murray’s reply, Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Parliamentarian Eusi Kwayana asked: “Hasn’t the Minister achieved a new level of cynicism in his answer to that question?”         -(SK)

The Guyana Prize… Without Access To Good Literature?

FOLLOWING the announcement of the proposed Guyana Prize for new publications in lit­erature, we published a letter from “Book Lover” (and Stanley Nathan has also written in our last issue) commenting on the prize.

We believe that any genuine effort to encourage, recognise and reward creative work is, very welcome and will do a great deal for Guyanese literature.

But it is not to be believed that a monetary award will alone bring about a positive turn-around in the current crisis in Guyana’s creative output. In at least two national competitions in 1986, the adjudicators have had to express disappointment in the quality of much of the work entered.

Such developmental stimuli must be accompanied by the creation of a necessary climate including a return to, the habit of reading good literature which has come under serious siege of late “from some harsh bread-and-butter issues and the blunt absence of books and other read­ing material from the country. Local writers are thereby deprived of exposure to styles, techniques, models and criticisms.

Guyanese living in Britain, for whom access to the world’s literature is not such a problem and to whom other facilities are available, will be further rewarded if they win the prize by being paid fifteen times more prize money than those resident at home who might win. American residents stand to earn ten times more and Jamaican residents twice as much.

We also note the absence of any award for dramatic literature.

The Guyana Commemorative Commission had agreed some time ago to offer prizes for unpublished works and we wonder if that has been lost sight of. We hope that the authorities will put their minds to other factors necessary for creative development. (ALC)

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