Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir has called on cooperators not to squander the inheritances they have been bequeathed by their fore parents and urged members of cooperatives not to become servants to well off and well intentioned individuals.
Speaking at the weekend to members of Port Mourant United Coop Society Ltd., Region Six, at a special general meeting, Minister Nadir said, “Cooperatives are to help the ordinary person, those persons who individually cannot put enough capital together, but who collectively, with their small contributions, labour, and big commitments can achieve extraordinary feats and ensure a better live for themselves and their families.”
The meeting was held, for the first time, on the 900 acres farm of the Society, which is some 12 miles inward of the Port Mourant Public Road.
“Cooperatives predate our Cooperative Republic by some 22 years. The Cooperative Act was promulgated in 1948 and many of your parents came into these backdams with nothing more that their shovels, cutlasses and the indomitable will to build these estates” Minister observed.
“It is sad to see so many of you, who have inherited these productive farms, farms built by the sweat and blood of your parents and grandparents, that all you wait for at the end of the year is a small check and most of you have not shown any interest in how your cooperative is run, nor even visited this farm”, the Minister said.
Of the fifty plus members who were there, only a couple have ever been on the estate.
Minister said that many cooperators, if they do not become more active in their cooperative, will open the Coop to become dominated by a few persons whose station in life are already well set. These persons are in a process of land grabbing and empire building at the expense of the small cooperators, Minister Nadir warned.
Using an example he showed that in one Corentyne coop
1. There are 122 members showing on a register. Many are there over the last few years, but their membership was not approved according to the rules of the society.
2. There are 244 fields, each field is about 12 acres.
3. 130 of these fields are allocated to 26 members. Most of these members belong to three families. Each one of these family members has five fields. Most of the original members, i.e. the 98 others, have one or two fields each. Today, more than 60% of these lands are in the hands of a few families.
4. The current management has refused to accept the annual payments from ordinary members.
The Chief Cooperative Officer had to fully take over the management of coop just over six months ago, because of the lack of accountability and the many questionable transactions which have been chronic in the organisation. Minister Nadir told the members that their society had revenues of over half a billion dollars in the last five years and members only received under seven million dollars in dividends during this period. He said that over 14 million dollars in fertilizer and drugs are unaccounted for, while some six million dollars of revenue was lost because the canes we not fertilized nor the drugs and weed killers applied.
Minister Nadir told the members that each of them should have received over $300,000 had the Society not suffered these leakages. He added that there is over $60M of work annually that the members can benefit from.
He said that such cooperatives can work to uplift the lives of the members and contribute to national development – a PPP/C 2006 manifesto promise.