I refer to the GAWU General Secretary’s letter to the press in yesterday’s Stabroek News ` Sugar’s future is not bleak as it is being made out to be’, which takes me to task for complimenting the government for its decision to confront the sugar problem. In the process, Mr. Narine reiterated his union’s narrative of the sugar workers plight against the backdrop of the government’s decisions in that regard. As the labour representative of the sugar workers, I expect nothing less from GAWU.
But, after reading Mr. Narine’s letter, I am even more convinced that Guyana has a long way to go as far as political and ethnic reconciliation is concerned. The General Secretary isolates for denunciation the part of my comment that is favourable to the government but completely ignores the other part that is consistent with his union’s perspective. The truth is that I complimented the government for its decision to tackle the problem but criticized its implementation of the plan that GuySuCo put forward.
Why can’t GAWU and the PPP acknowledge that this government took the brave decision to confront the sugar problem that everybody knows could not continue forever—a decision that made economic sense and that if handled properly would in the long run benefit the sugar industry, sugar workers and the rest of Guyana? As soon as the government came into office, it set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the problem. A “rightsizing” plan aimed at making the industry viable ensued. Compensation for affected workers was included. While all of this is going on, the government has pumped billions of dollars’ worth of subsidy in the industry and recently committed another $30 billion towards upgrading the closed estates in preparation for their privatization. In fact, the government’s action on the sugar industry is the closest it has come to a clear policy on anything.
Yet, Mr. Narine, his union and by extension the PPP say the government lacks compassion for sugar workers. Yes, the government has done a terrible job at executing the plan and in the process many workers have been negatively affected. But how does that amount to lack of compassion? Since GAWU is an experienced union, it cannot be accused of ignorance. One is left to conclude that GAWU’s narrative is inspired less by compassion for its members and more by the PPP’s project of demonization of the government.
One of Guyana’s greatest enemies is its zero-sum politics and political culture. It is counterproductive and takes our country further and further to the edge. It is not my way—I try, as I did in the comments referred to by Mr. Narine, to be as evenhanded as I can. Mr. Narine and GAWU should know that the very comments for which they find me guilty of “showering plaudits” on the government have been hammered by government supporters who have called me all the bad names usually set aside for Satan. Zero-sum politics and political conversation in Guyana are out of control.