The government should have learnt from the mistakes of the PPP/C and bauxite

Dear Editor,

There is nothing wrong in this society that cannot be corrected by us as citizens of this nation.

With regard to the issue of the bonus, Christopher Ram is applauded for bringing this information to public attention. He continues to prove he remains of significance to the process of bringing about good governance and holding the politicians to account. Were it not for him the nation would not have been any the wiser at this time. And where bad experiences with corruption and greed in government are known, the society is being better served by the vigilance of all.

This nation has just emerged from years of seeing its resources raped and plundered, greed and corruption run amok, and citizens mistreated and deprived of what’s justly theirs. Consequently, people have a right to remain vigilant and vocalise their concerns, whether right or wrong. Government has a responsibility to govern in a manner to avoid these ills, including the appearance of them.

The explanations by Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge on the concerns raised by Mr Ram are noted. The problem that currently exists is the unanswered question, why in the first place did the government ministers deny there existed a signing bonus from ExxonMobil? Mr Greenidge in his explanation said there existed no sinister intent and reiterated the money is in an account at the central bank where the signatories are state functionaries.

While both men acknowledged the presence of the money they differed on where it should be placed and accounted for. It is Mr Ram’s view it should be in the Consolidated Fund and the absence of this being so constitutes a violation of the Guyana Constitution. He has said he will move to the court for a determination on the matter. Should he proceed and an interpretation is determined by the court the decision will help in strengthening the governance system and guiding the way we treat with issues of this nature in future. Mr Greenidge’s explanations have come too late. This is a major shortcoming of this administration that it must address. In the absence of knowledge people have a right to speculate about anything.

On the issue of sugar, government is taking a lot for granted in addressing the plight of the industry and the welfare of the workers and communities to be affected. There is no denying that decisions have to be made, but this practice where the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, as in the instance of Minister Joe Harmon saying Cabinet was unaware and neither has it taken any decision to close estates when Minster Noel Holder and GuySuCo have proceeded on such a path, is bad.

While the sustenance of sugar is dependent on the Consolidated Fund, whatever action is being taken by GuySuCo has to take on board the socio-economic impact it will create.  For instance, the closure of factories and the absence of a programme to cushion the effect by redirecting the productive energies of affected workers and those dependent on their income will create negative shocks.

The strong perception that government and GuySuCo find it more expedient to engage in a media public relations war with the sugar unions rather than the sides coming together to work out a programme for the benefit of these workers is counterproductive. This approach won’t put food on the table for those whose lives are to be affected nor ease their anxiety which must be the premier focus. On this matter government must deliver the leadership.

As a trade unionist and having had the experience of the mistreatment of bauxite workers by the Bharrat Jagdeo government when it was dealing with this industry’s future there is empathy for the sugar workers. Bauxite workers and their communities are still reeling from the effects of poor decision-making and the absence of a programme to re-direct their energies and assure their socio-economic well-being.

This administration should have learnt and must learn from the mistakes of the PPP/C and not repeat them. It must matter not that the sugar unions or workers are perceived or known to be PPP/C supporters. Like every Guyanese they have a right to freedom of association (political, union, etc) and are protected from discrimination because of this.

There is also serious objection to the PPP/C, after being in office for 23 years, not coming up with a plan for the industry and laying it on the table for examination. Instead its leadership seems more comfortable playing partisan politics and Russian roulette with these workers’ lives because they think such can improve their chances in the 2020 elections. Workers should not be considered a part of any voting farm, only raised and supported for their ballot, and not necessarily their well-being. The sugar unions must continue standing up and demanding their place at the decision-making table.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

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