Kissoon’s letter on me and TUC riddled with untruths

Dear Editor,

I refer to Freddie Kissoon’s letter `UG unions should remain in TUC and fight for Lewis’ removal’ (SN: 31/05/2019). It is becoming more evident that Kissoon is behind the confusion in the University of Guyana (UG) industrial environment. His agenda is to create turmoil and upheaval in this country. I have addressed the UG unions’ complaints in a previous letter (‘My advice to the UG unions is premised on basic industrial relations practices’- SN: 31/05/2019). The undermentioned therefore addresses the new lies and distortions being peddled by Kissoon.

1.   When I called for solidarity from all – publicly and privately – for bauxite workers, employed at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated, it was not about me. It was a matter of national sovereignty and violation of the rights of Guyanese workers and communities surrounding the bauxite industry. It was a call for patriotism to take precedence over any issue that divides us as a nation. Kissoon’s statements have demonstrated that he could not rise to the occasion and he has now revealed that his silence was about how he feels about me. Is this the attitude of a person who claims he has the interest of Guyanese at heart?

2. The Rules of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) say the President, General Secretary (GS) and Principal Assistant Secretary must not come from the same List of Delegates from the same union. When Leslie Gonsalves was elected President of the GTUC, I was not a delegate to the conference. Kissoon is either ignorant of the facts or deliberately trying to mislead readers in his quest to create chaos and animosity. He and readers are further informed that Joseph Pollydore and Frank Andrews came from the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (AT&GWU) and during Pollydore’s tenure as GS, Andrews was elected President, but at that time, Pollydore was not on any List of Delegates to that Congress.

3. I know of Freddie for over 40 years but he was not my friend for over 40 years and any thoughts on friendship were obviously misplaced. Yours truly was elected GS of the GTUC on the last Sunday in September of 1999. The evidence proves contrary to erroneous statement made by Freddie that I have held the position for more than 25 years. The rules of the GTUC say clearly that the GS is the Head of the Secretariat and carries out the day-to-day activities of the Congress. In fact, the GS is the CEO of the organisation. Because Kissoon is more driven by a destructive agenda, creating chaos and confusion, facts are not important to him, and patience in this regard would not be manifest.

4. The issue of Dr Rupert Roopnaraine’s stewardship at the Critchlow Labour College was ventilated in the media to the extent which the GTUC felt it was necessary. Whenever hard decisions have to be made and actions taken, neither I nor the GTUC will shirk from doing what is necessary to protect the interest of the GTUC and the college.

5.  It was the trade union movement that began the fight for one man, one vote (universal adult suffrage), freedom of association, fundamental rights and freedoms, and internal self-government. As a citizen of this country and member of the trade union community, I will not be moved to advancing the history/legacy and interest of the movement in moving this society forward. It is my civic duty not to stay silent on matters that impact the welfare of workers in the work place and wider society. Equally, it is my responsibility to stay informed, speak out and seek to influence the direction of this country that will work to the welfare of all. The GTUC is a Social Partner in society and will at all times seek to discharge the trade union’s role as enshrined in the Guyana Constitution, viz, Article 149C, 38, 147 etc.

6.  I am not aware of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) having any problem with the GTUC. I am aware that the CCL is going through its own challenges like the GTUC.

7. During the presidency of Gillian Burton at the GTUC, I was GS on leave from the organisation, serving as GS of the CCL, resident and working out of Barbados.

8. There is a process for the electing of the GTUC’s President. For one to become a President, that person has to be a delegate of an affiliated union and nominated by their union to be its representative on the GTUC Executive Council. Accredited delegates at the Congress ballot for the president.

9. For the record and to jolt Freddie’s memory, the Critchlow Labour College’s subvention was restored by the Coalition Government and it is a matter of public record that the GTUC would have preferred more to aid the discharge of its duty in training and educating the workforce and contributing to the development of Guyana.

10. Imagine this academic, former lecturer of the nation’s highest institution of learning, who now seeks to ignore the context and facts surrounding the FITUG breakaway. These were chronicled along with the political machinations which he conveniently ignores. Kissoon ignores the 2019 collaboration and solidarity between the FITUG and GTUC to protect the sovereignty of this nation and the bauxite workers whose rights were being violated whilst he stood silent, sacrificing the nation, the bauxite sector, and the people of this nation because of me.  How more petty can human behaviour be manifested? He also ignores the fact that the GTUC has been side by side with FITUG on matters relating to sugar workers, the industry and their treatment, against all governments, and on other issues of import where interest and principles converged.

11. Freddie is outright lying that on May Day, statements were made by me rejecting the no-confidence vote. That has never been my focus. My focus on the confidence vote has always been that of calling for chartering a way forward, putting Guyana first and allowing due process through the court as is presently obtained. The GTUC and I, individually and collectively, have called for calm, toning down of the rhetoric, eschewing triumphalism through the different stages as in the Parliament and court rulings.

We have called on the Government and Opposition to work together on a way forward, and on the 5th March 2019, presented a menu of measures to the respective leaders and society that would help to take Guyana forward in the best interest of all. The gist of the aforesaid was captured in my May Day Address.

The public should note whereas Kissoon found villains and a hero out of the no-confidence vote, it was my and the GTUC’s conscious effort to promote peaceful resolution of the conflict, recognising that our nation was in uncharted waters and national interest should supersede any partisan interests. That, in essence, represents the fundamental difference between myself and him.

All the points Freddie made against me, not a single one holds true. After being an active observer in our politics over the years, the behaviour of Kissoon though disappointing is not surprising. Whereas he thrives on chaos and confusion, lies and distortion, it has always been my preference to seek negotiation with an aim to resolution. This nation is called on to read Freddie with more scrutiny for his analyses bring to the fore the fundamental problem we face in this society of dishonest leaders from all sectors. None should be excused from scrutiny in their public doings. None.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

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