Regional Executive Officer of Region Six, Ms Kim Stephens, is reported in the March 19, 2018 Stabroek News, during her remarks at the ceremony to honour the Rose Hall Martyrs on March 13, 2018, “that that severed sugar workers are ‘timid and afraid’ of diversification”. Ms Stephens went on, according to the Stabroek News, to say “We were told of diversification that we can have because of the fertile land, not to mention our human resources that we have, capable skilled human resources.”
The GAWU finds Ms Stephens’ remarks unfortunate. Nevertheless, maybe she could spell out the diversification opportunities she referred to. As recent history has shown that at Wales the planned and heavily-promoted diversification activities, like in the previous attempt by GuySuCo, turned out to be a miserable and utter failure. We recall the Guyana Times recently reporting that the canefields converted for seed paddy cultivation, at high cost, were being slowly overtaken by bushes, seeming to indicate that those plans have been abandoned. In fact as far as we are aware nothing is going on at Wales and we read recently that the houses that were used by the managerial personnel are up for sale. Bearing those factors in mind, one can understand workers’ apprehension. As they say, once bitten, twice shy.
It is always easy to say something, but bringing it to reality is a completely different matter. The Wales experience is an excellent case in point. To move in the direction as being advocated by Ms Stephens is a substantial undertaking which has several and many important factors that must be addressed. Simply to tell workers to take up lands and plant as they see fit cannot be deemed, in any way, as a realistic solution.
The Stabroek News article also refers to remarks made by Minister of Social Cohesion George Norton during the activity. Minister Norton is quoted by the Stabroek News to have said “[a]s Guyanese, we need to stand firmly to guard against injustices…” Indeed they are inspiring words by the Minister but also most ironic at the same time. While the Minister speaks about guarding against injustices he must be reminded the government he is a part of has committed probably the gravest injustice against the people of Canje when they decided to shutdown Rose Hall Estate and affected the well-being of thousands of ordinary Guyanese.
As the sad situation in the communities of Skeldon, Rose Hall, East Demerara and Wales grows direr by the day, the hollow rhetoric brings little relief and reprieve to the suffering that has gripped the people. Today, realistic and workable solutions are needed and moving in the reverse gear is the best remedy.
General Secretary, GAWU