The opposition proposal to pay retrenched sugar workers is pure politics

Dear Editor,

Some thoughtful contributions have been made on the opposition’s call that retrenched (terminated) sugar workers be paid some monetary amount while unemployed.  I think that the comments offered failed to discern what are the real objectives behind this unprecedented interest and generosity on the part of the opposition’s leadership.

For starters, challenging the

government to pay the equivalent of unemployment benefits plays with the minds of the distressed and vulnerable.  Coming from those who neglected to manifest genuine and constant leadership compassion when they were in a position to do so, should now be seen for what such is at the core.  Namely, that it is pure politics, agitating further an uncertain group, and setting oneself up to look good and nothing else in mind.  I see this empty call to pay ex-workers as code for: a) they (a heartless government) took away their job and the dignity of an honest livelihood; and b) they add pressure to the pain by refusing to lend a much needed hand to the down and out, as recommended.  This makes for a comforting soundbite today and good political theatre later during election fever.  It is crafty, and has little to no concern for the well-being of workers and their families.  This much should be obvious.

Moreover, these so-called leaders are the same people who were preoccupied building palaces for themselves and prioritizing and leading the charge for lavish personal pensions.  They did so while sugar workers were left to fend a losing battle by themselves, with the forlorn hope that the uphill fight would continue in perpetuity.  The very moves, so-called visions, and practices back then that were supposed to benefit sugar workers always had some enormous multiplier reward for those piloting unsustainable programmes, and who are now rushing to the rescue with the stirring hypocrisy of clamouring for financial provisions for the stricken.  It sounds good.

While any form of a monetary helping hand might be meaningful and timely for those deprived and without prospects, there is the drawback of unwittingly introducing a dependency syndrome.  It could set a precedent that might be hard to extricate from or break in this poor country.  This has been a by-product of well-meaning parallels elsewhere.  I think it would be better to furnish those ex-workers with jobs in other estates (as was done); to try yet again by a programme that assists with tools and resources to start over; and to give other interested sectors a chance to offer something, anything.  I have a problem with cash; it can be corrupting.  Still, I doubt there would be much political reception of any of this, too.

Now that the seed about pay has been planted; mischief is sure to sprout.  There is cunning behind the pretended madness.  First, the government gets skewered for failing to agree to pay, and workers get to be reminded as to who championed their plight, if some concession is forthcoming in their direction.

Editor, this much ought to be clear: there is little by way of humanity, even constructive intent, in the call for ex-sugar workers to be paid unemployment monies.  It is merely one more example in the now settled routines of cynically using the afflicted for personal and political power purposes.  It speaks volumes in terms of the new lows set daily in the political activities and mindsets in this country; this latest advocacy results in sugar workers being manipulated as so much collateral detritus so as to achieve powerful ends by dispassionate and dirty political users.

To reiterate: I regard this opposition position on pay extension as intended to titillate first and arguably to exacerbate, too.  With political friends like these, sugar workers have no need for enemies.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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