A group of Guyanese Americans paid glowing tribute to the Enmore Martyrs last Sunday afternoon at the Liberty Palace in Richmond Hill, NYC. The Enmore martyrs incident refers to the cold-blooded murder of several sugar workers at a strike on June 16, 1948. The workers were subjected to inhumane working and living conditions causing them to take industrial action to force management to improve working conditions. And the British government ordered troops to open fire on the protesting workers killing five and injuring scores.
The dead were buried at Le Repentir. A large crowd, led by Cheddi Jagan and leaders of the PAC and GIWU, marched from Enmore to Le Repentir Cemetery where the bodies were interred. “It was not merely a march to mourn the lives of five innocent people, not merely a march to cry for their fallen brothers, it was a March of Defiance, it was a March for Freedom, a march that started the journey to Independence”, said Dr. Leslie Ramsammy the feature speaker at the event.
The Richmond Hill event was organized by the Guyanese Solidarity Movement’s (GSM), 100th Indenture Anniversary Foundation led by Dr. Tara Singh, this writer, and others. I gave opening remarks reminding the audience about the sacrifices made by the Enmore strikers and those who were injured or killed by British troops. I also spoke about the dire situation of workers from my visit to several sugar estates, particularly Wales, two weeks ago.
Among other speakers were Walter Raghu, a former GAWU official and sugar worker, who spoke on the traumatic situation the sugar workers find themselves in; Frank Bassoodeo who spoke about the history of sugar workers and the difficulties rice farmers face as a result of broken promises by the current coalition government. Dr. Leslie Ramsammy gave the feature address on the Martyrs and on the current state of the sugar industry.
Dr. Tara Singh served as moderator for an interactive (question and answer) session, Robert Mahase read a poem on the Martyrs; Rohan, the flautist, performed a musical tune. Mahendra Ramkhellawan, the popular chutney singer, graced the event and sang a new song about sugar and the closing down of sugar estates putting workers on the bread line.
The DJ and sound system was provided free of cost by Deodat Singh.
Dr. Ramsammy claimed that the government betrayed the sugar workers and is determined to end sugar production because they see sugar as an important support base for the PPP. “It is political vendetta, not good economics.
The decision to close sugar is not a policy derived from any good analysis and study, but driven by a wicked political motivation. Sugar and the sugar workers are collateral damage. In the process all of Guyana will pay an economic and social price”.
Dr. Ramsammy said “this is likely to be the last tribute paid to the Martyrs in Enmore with an operating Enmore Sugar Factory, unless we stop the callous plan of the APNU+AFC administration to close the Enmore Estate”.
APNU+AFC has announced plans to close the Enmore Estate at the end of 2017. He called on the audience and the public at large to mount a fight to keep Enmore and other estates alive.
The organizers plan to host other town hall-type events to keep the diaspora abreast of happenings in their former homeland.
This writer urges the government to pursue a policy that provides employment for those out of jobs at Wales and elsewhere.