The sugar workers have suffered under successive regimes

Dear Editor,

I refer to the letter written by former President Donald Ramotar, dated 11 January, 2018, under the caption: ‘Private sector can be mobilised to put together company to buy sugar estates’.

No one in his or her right senses will seriously disagree with the former President of Guyana Donald Ramotar’s views on the future of the sugar industry. They amount to an admission of colossal mistakes, which has caused the industry and the sugar workers and their families immense pain and distress.

Many Guyanese would like to ask him, as I have asked on many occasions why he, sitting on the GuySuCo Board of Directors for more than 20 years, and furthermore, as President of the Republic, he did not implement any of the ideas that he now writes so glowingly about?

Mr Ramotar, lonely in opposition, now questions this government’s failure to implement those ideas that he now espouses.  He’s got to be joking! After 23 years of PPP misrule, nothing changed, fundamentally, for the sugar workers in Guyana. The fact of the matter is that the PPP was never seriously concerned about the long-term future of the sugar workers and the sugar industry, as is clear for all to see, as the crisis unfolds.

This letter column does not allow me to go into great detail, but suffice it to state that there have been many turnarounds and merry go-rounds, during the period that Comrade Ramotar served as a Director of GuySuCo and as President of our great country. Mr Ramotar has now woken up from a long sleep.

The National Farmers Organisation of Guyana (NFO), of which I am founding member, and is not a front organisation for any political party, has been banging those ideas, and even better ones, the Mr Ramotar now promotes since 1980 and before, but Mr Ramotar was never interested or never took us seriously, even when we were leading activists in the PPP.

The biggest question for us was the ownership of the assets of GuySuCo, the state-owned company. We have argued long before this coalition government came into office that we could not, as a nation, pump money into the sugar industry, without a sustainable outcome. No socio- economic-political system manages a failing enterprise, whether under capitalism, which we live under currently, or under a genuine socialist system. Production and productivity is the key for the development of any enterprise, regardless of its ownership.

The National Farmers Organisation submitted a comprehensive report and document to the current President, David Granger, and the relevant authorities, putting forward very sound and practical ideas that could have avoided the current crises that we now face in the sugar industry, but sadly, our contribution did not see the light of day.

Agriculture Minister, Mr Noel Holder, and the AFC leadership are not interested in saving the sugar industry or the welfare of the sugar workers. There has been no national consultation on the sugar industry.

The Alliance for Change Leadership, directly responsible for Agriculture, has not visited the sugar workers in Wales, the first casualty of the sugar fiasco. I went on countless occasions, accompanied by Dr Turhane Doerga, a businessman; television magnate, CN Sharma; and Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma to Wales, before and after it was closed. Unfortunately, the AFC leadership under PM Moses Nagamootoo and National Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan repeated the same politically-driven mistake, which is to pump $32 billion into a black hole, as the PPP did under former presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar. These men, put together, cannot run a cake shop, much more a highly complex industry.

Dr Turhane Doerga and I from the RPA Action Committee, submitted a comprehensive document on the sugar industry to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Agriculture in 2016, but those papers were never recorded in the parliamentary archives and were never discussed at the Select Committee meetings. We were never called to give evidence.

Professor Clive Thomas, the Chairman of GuySuCo, also received our document, without any written acknowledgement from him. Our document was never discussed at the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) so-called Executive Committee, which comprised not more than 7 to 10 members, with no grassroots membership.

I attended many internal meetings of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) group. The WPA has no strategy on the sugar or rice industries. There has never been any comprehensive discussion or active support from the WPA group for those who worked in these areas.

At the end of it all, the sugar workers are the ones who have suffered over the years and continue to suffer under successive regimes. The progressive political elements, who argued endlessly for the welfare of these workers, have failed, miserably, when placed in positions of authority to revolutionise the industry and remove the vestiges of slavery and colonial legacies. The working conditions of sugar workers remain the same. They still carry canes on their heads.

Shockingly, these so-called progressive elements, with all their political and economic knowledge have opted to destroy the industry and consequently, the livelihood of sugar workers. This is nothing more than a total betrayal of the essence of what the WPA stood for.  Walter Rodney would be turning in his grave to see his associates heading this destruction, without any mercy.

This government must take the views of Donald Ramotar and his belated commitment very seriously, with the aim of getting him and others to immediately correct some of the mistakes of the past. He must be actively engaged in a transparent and proactive structure to move the situation forward in the best interest of all sugar workers and the nation as a whole.

Yours faithfully,

M Jinnah Rahman

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