The scene at Angoy’s Avenue, New Amsterdam yesterday midday was one of animosity and high tension as APNU+AFC members protested a PPP/C meeting with former sugar workers and their relatives.
The PPP/C yesterday held several meetings throughout the New Amsterdam/Canje Area in an effort to meet with the former sugar workers and build a database of those who were left unemployed due to the closure of the Rose Hall Estate. However, during the second meeting which was held at Angoy’s Avenue, several members and supporters from the coalition government turned up to hold a peaceful protest.
Kirk Fraser, Chairman of the Region Six APNU+AFC group stated that the protest was being held mainly to let, “the people know the truth that the closure of the sugar estate is not as a result of the APNU+AFC government, but is one which is in keeping with ensuring that the Guyanese people receive value for money”. Fraser highlighted, that the government has been investing in GuySuCo [Guyana Sugar Corporation] but has been receiving “no returns”, and as such, closure of the estates was inevitable. He added, “We cannot allow taxpayers money to go down the drain without receiving any financial returns”.
Fraser noted that GuySuCo is presently “bankrupt and as a result of that, the government chipped in to ensure the workers’ welfare is being recognized by giving severance to the workers”. He said, “If GuySuCo had filed for bankruptcy the workers would have been on the breadline, but it is the government’s wish to not put the workers on the breadline but to ensure that they receive what is due to them”.
According to Fraser, his party plans to protest every meeting organised by the PPP/C in the region so as to “bring clarity on this issue. We recognize it’s not this government’s fault, but it’s under the PPP administration that ran this industry into the ground,” he stressed.
However, a peaceful protest was far from what transpired yesterday as tensions flared and words were exchanged, as both sides engaged in what could be described as a long heated argument.
When Regional Chairman, David Armogan took the microphone to address the former sugar workers and their relatives, one protestor, a known Region Six AFC member began hurling insults. The man shouted to the chairman, “You on taxpayers’ money holding political meetings.”
However, Armogan continued to address the gathering, but after several other insults from the said protestor, persons gathered for the meeting began to respond to the protestors, and it was then that the argument between the two sides got heated. One protestor even threatened to slap a woman who was engaged in an argument with him, while another protestor began pointing in the faces of persons gathered for the meeting.
It should be noted that the presence of the police at the protest was quite light, and after thirty minutes only one neighbourhood police officer had shown up. The female officer began to ask the crowd if they were present to “argue”. She also told the protestors to not engage “them people”. However, this advice fell on deaf ears, as both sides continued to insult each other.
It was minutes after the last speaker, PPP/C Member of Parliament, Adrian Anamayah had finished speaking that one senior inspector and several other ranks arrived at the scene of the protest.
Meanwhile, despite stating that they would have protested at all meetings, Stabroek News observed that the protestors didn’t show up at the other meetings held in Canje yesterday.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who had been expected to attend the meetings, was unable to make the trip, due to illness. However, he did address the former sugar workers via the telephone at the first meeting at Edinburgh Village, East Bank Berbice. Other meetings were held at villages in the Canje area and at Palmyra Village, Corentyne.
PPP/C members and supporters have been protesting the visits of the President and Prime Minister to Region Six, calling on them to review several of the government’s decisions. However, the President and the Prime Minister have always opted not to engage the protestors, except on one occasion when Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo told the protestors to give [Bharrat] Jagdeo, the Opposition Leader his regards.