Leaders like Donald Ramotar remind us of the level of disservice being done to this nation


Dear Editor,
LEADERS like Mr. Donald Ramotar, as they seek to recount history, remind us of the level of disservice being done to this nation and its diverse people. They can only see things through partisan political lens; not universally acceptable principles, always seeking to score cheap political points, even when there exists no need for same. They burden society with their double standards (dualism), causing people to become disillusioned with politics, an important element in the right to self-determination, for they represent what is so wrong with our society and badly needs fixing.

Reference is made to his letter, “Belgrave was never selected by GLU to attend TUC Congress, Lewis mistaken” (SN 7th Nov). As Mr. Ramotar seeks to chastise the late President Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte for being “undemocratic”, as President of the Guyana Labour Union (GLU), in allegedly supporting Mr. Fowler as leader of the waterfront workers instead of Mr. Cyril Belgrave, a known PPP supporter, the PPP would not have done differently were the shoe on the other foot. He is reminded by the standard he sets on this issue, that the PPP is equally “undemocratic”.

What is so depressing about our politics is that there is no universal wrong and right, good and bad. Right and wrong, good and bad depend on who is doing or saying what, and to whom. Those who take any universally acceptable position on any issue, once it does not coincide with the particular thinking of a group/individual, that action or the person is bound to catch flak or the incident denied.

The late Belgrave was known in the trade union community as a PPP member. His political persuasion was not my concern, for the right to associate is universally protected and constitutionally guaranteed; a principle I respect, advocate and would not deny Belgrave or anyone. Let me assure Donald, there never existed a need on my part “to turn Belgrave into a PNC”, for that is the work of the party politicians. I am a trade unionist, and my advocacy on politics attends to matters of good governance and holding elected officials accountable for the delivery of same, respecting Rights, and the Rule of Law.

My association with trade unions and their leaders in Georgetown during the late 1970s to early 1980s was confined to engagement at the level of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC). Contrary to what Ramotar is seeking to peddle, there is no mistaking on my part. My recall on Belgrave is as clear as day. I stand by my statement that he was part of the GLU delegation to the GTUC conference, where I first met him in the late 1970s, a time when Forbes Burnham was the Union’s President, a position he held until his demise in 1985.

I stand by my recount of the story between Belgrave and I in the passageway of the Critchlow Labour College (CLC) compound, advocating that I not challenge the then Minister of Labour Kenneth Denny, who was the Organising Secretary for the GTUC and running for re-election (KN, Nov 3, 2019 – “Cyril Belgrave – politics and the trade union”). At that conference, Belgrave was part of the GLU delegation. The GLU was supporting Denny’s re-election to the post. In trade union solidarity, Belgrave supported his union’s position, as evident of his advocacy to me not to challenge Denny. The incident occurred in 1984 as stated in my column; not 1982 as Ramotar claims. Readers are invited to judge whose memory is failing.

In seeking to put a spin on events he was not party to, Ramotar has brought to the fore how politically polarising he is, or can be. Even on matters of trade unionism and solidarity, he seems to have no qualms about distorting factual events of history. It is hoped the revelation of Belgrave and my interaction would not cause his party comrades to think he was a ‘neemakaram’, or selling out to the PNC, because he wore his political allegiance with pride. In attempting to paint another scenario, what Ramotar is, in effect, doing is portraying Belgrave as unprincipled, to the extent where partisan political interest will always guide his views and decisions on matters of trade unionism, which is governed by its own principles. As he so seeks to paint the departed Belgrave, such is not only a sad reflection of his thinking, but suggests this thinking may have guided his decision-making as President.

No wonder this nation is in so much turmoil and its people divided, because when leaders are granted the privilege to serve, all they use the people’s trust to advance partisan interest, settle scores and distort history. One should also wonder whether such partisan thinking informed then President Ramotar’s decision not to return the subventions to the GTUC and its attendant arms, the CLC and Women Advisory Council.

Did President Ramotar look at these organisations and see workers who didn’t publicly declare for the PPP, and therefore not deserving of the reinvestment of their tax dollars for their education and training? Incidents like these make his predecessors, outside of Bharrat Jagdeo who took the subventions away, look taller and more nationalistic. On the matter of the subventions, Forbes Burnham, Desmond Hoyte, Cheddie Jagan and Janet Jagan tower over them. Where, with the David Granger administration, it saw the return of the subvention, albeit smaller, and the issuance of grants to unions within and out of the GTUC fold, it begs the question as to why Ramotar, a former leader in the Trade Union Movement, when given the privilege to lead this nation, could not have done likewise.

Lincoln Lewis