Now is the time to put heads together to salvage lives in the sugar industry

Dear Editor,

Skeldon and Enmore, once productive names and vibrant communities, tumble and fall.  Thousands here, hundreds there, and with more to come at some time or the other in the future.  Cumulatively, and accounting for trickledown effects, this could reasonably and easily mean thousands of citizens financially gutted first, and then socially guillotined.  There is pain and bleeding today; there is great fear, too.

And yet, the hurting and vulnerable are not seen as flesh and blood people, but as pawns towards ends: the human collateral in a dirty game teeming with political cunning.  This is realpolitik; the realpolitik of dogged determination and real casualties.  This is how and what sugar workers amount to, despite the aggressive unbending talks and postures of standing up for those trusting on and depending upon for constructive relief.  It may not be the economic slavery of old, but is certainly the political bondage of right now.  There is only the palpable ugly using.

For decades the downward spiral of the sugar sector was an avalanche gathering momentum; that much should be inarguable and unanswerable.  There was a certain inevitability.  It was not helped by circumstances, be they domestic or global.  It was not helped either by the machinations and treacherous political overseers.  But now is not the time to identify, isolate, and ostracize.  It is pointless; it does not provide any much-needed assistance to those workers in need.  Rather, now is the time (it always has been and there still may be time) to put heads together to position towards visions and emergency plans that could still salvage lives and livelihoods from the ashes of GuySuco’s lingering agonizing demise.  Clearly, and as will be borne out by time, there have been miscalculations, and lack of urgent prioritization of long delayed, even impending, carnage.  Where to go from here?  What to do to staunch the already profuse bleeding?

There is little choice; there has to be vital timely political triage (even now) on how to fix, and what is manageable, not what should have been done.  That is gone.  Putting heads together would signify a change of heart and abandoning the love affair with power.  Meaning, power at all costs and by any means possible, including on the backs of the stark plight and increasing trauma of stricken sugar workers.  For to give some reciprocal ground and to reconcile fluidly could carve a solution (no matter how uneven) and a hard bargain out of the unyielding molasses, the bitter quagmire that faces families and nation.  There has to be the grand bargains of political quid pro quos, or a rickety stage is set.  To do so, in effect, translates to relinquishing a platform, a base, a catapult for potential power.  Is there anyone here who is up to this sacrifice?  I do not think that, public positions and chatter aside, genuine efforts and commitments were ever in the mind, or placed on the table of conversation to resolve in some fashion, any fashion, this spiked, now poisoned yoke around the nation’s neck.  This is what is being lived at the bleak individual level.  The crisis is here; it is theirs.

In all of this, reality must be faced head-on; at the risk of severe understatement, there are some problems.  Once sugar voters are made to appear to be out of the political calculus, then what is left on which to amplify by their leaders?  And if the sugar voter feels abandoned, even betrayed, particularly after the sharp cheerleading and misleading, then how will settled apathy be overcome, to get out when such counts?  There are still other problems: if the leaders of this country cannot be realistic enough, or responsible enough, or concerned enough to put aside personal calculations, and negotiate over the calamity of sugar workers, then I submit, I insist, that they are neither capable nor worthy of convening and coalescing with commensurate cogency in such thorny areas as border controversies, social cohesion, and that burgeoning geyser called oil.

Separately, my position is that the time is long gone to present this national predicament in the bloodless fancy phrases used, such as mixed signals, blame game, and financial haemorrhage; too many hopeless harmed people are out there, and with little prospects at hand.  The language, no matter how nuanced, how careful, is meaningless today and tomorrow, when the family cannot be fed, and the operations of surrounding business has seized up.  In some way, too, I believe that the back and forth about severance should not even be an issue; it is a given.  Any other exchanges vulgarize and trivialize an already disturbed situation.

Finally, I think that it could already be too late, as too many gambles have been initiated and too many die rolled.  Such is the fateful last charge of the Guyana sugar brigade.  There is looming tragedy in the making.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall