Saying that Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) is willing to negotiate the purchase of the Enmore Estate, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan yesterday told a meeting at Adelphi Village, East Canje Berbice that government will ensure that each estate that is being divested is sold for the best price.
“Only last night we were successful in getting DDL, a local big investor. They indicate that they are willing to negotiate a purchase for Enmore [Estate],” Ramjattan told the public meeting.
Ramjattan made the announcement a day after DDL Chairman Komal Samaroo announced that DDL and the Special Pur-pose Unit of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) had reached an agreement for 2018 on harvesting cane to ensure the company’s access to molasses for its production. DDL’s access to molasses from GuySuCo had been in question after the sugar corporation announced sweeping plans to close estates.
“…And by the time NICIL would have completed its process of evaluation, we would be in a position to negotiate and have a discussion on a more sustainable solution going forward,” Samaroo also said, during a ceremony to commission a new warehouse on Friday.
Ramjattan further explained to the just about two dozen residents at the Old Market Place in Adelphi yesterday afternoon that the government has retained Pricewater-houseCoopers to do a valuation of the individual estates.
The company has two months more to complete the three-month long valuation process that will ensure that “when somebody come fa buy am, [Bharrat] Jagdeo nah go say look how Ramjattan take bribe and sell am out cheap,” he noted.
Ramjattan stressed that the government wants to know the value of each estate to ensure that it is sold for the best price.
“When they put the valuation, we will know how to bargain with the investors knowing the bottom line,” the minister said, while adding works have started to keep the closed estates in “good condition” until time for sale.
Ramjattan noted that when GuySuCo’s assets are sold, the money will be used to “pay out the banks and whatever is left given back to the new GuySuCo to run the three estates that will be there.” He pointed out that if investors are given a good price, they will then have to employ persons to work, providing employment in various areas.
The minister emphasised that the closure of estates was necessary and that while the AFC had promised to “look after sugar” when they got into government, they did not anticipate at that time the state in which the sugar industry was in. He claimed that the former government did not close the estates despite the state in which GuySuCo is in, because they were afraid to “lose votes.” He said that in closing sugar estates, the government looked at the bigger picture, betterment for all Guyanese and not one specific sector.
During his nearly forty-minute address, Ramjattan also addressed the subjects of a school bus for the Canje area and subsidising the water supply for severed sugar workers.
Ramjattan announced that efforts are being made through three business persons to have a school bus allocated to the Canje area to transport the children of the severed workers to school. He, however, claimed, that the regional administration has “extra monies” to purchase a bus.
“The region has some extra monies for a bus that is Region Number Six, Armogan’s region, and apparently they don’t want to spend it, I don’t know why, but Central Government can come or some businessman can come and put the money just like how we got the buses other places,” said the minister.
Regional Chairman David Armogan, in a subsequent comment, said that he was surprised that a minister of government would come to the region and make such an “untrue statement to the people of the region, that the bus is not being bought for the school children in Canje because the region is holding on to the money.”
According to Armogan, there was no allowance made in the last regional budget for a bus, since no-one ever thought that the estate would have been closed down. While expressing his disappointment in the minister’s statement, he informed of his plans to write President David Granger to assist with the allocation of a bus to the Canje area.
Meanwhile, when asked by a cane harvester, who was transferred to the Albion Estate after the closure of the Rose Hall Estate, if severed workers can receive subsidies on their water bill, the minister said, “I am in no position to answer your question but I’m certainly going to raise it with Richard Van-West Charles [Managing Director of Guyana Water Incorporated] whether there can be something done for those people who were terminated.”
The public meeting also saw a protest from relatives of former sugar workers, as well as PPP/C officials.
As the minister left the venue in his vehicle, the gathered protestors shouted at him. However, he engaged them with a simple wave.