KNOWN APNU+AFC supporter Mr Abel Seetaram, in a letter appearing in the December 12 edition of the Guyana Chronicle was allowed to use that newspaper’s letter columns to pursue a maligned and falsehood-filled attack on our Union. It appears that the letter signer has friends in high places. But that is entirely another story.
The GAWU, when considering the utterances written under Mr Seetaram’s hand, debated whether it really should take the time to offer a response. The individual, who is known for is escapades, cannot be even deemed a political featherweight. We nevertheless decided to pen this response, though knowing that the individual is really no more than a mere hanger on, but his sentiments will likely be read by the Chronicle’s readership, and his fiction may well be deemed as the truth.
The ‘letter writer’ begins his missive by denouncing the recent protests by sugar workers, which, in his little mind, he contends have been politically influenced. Maybe the individual, who may not have even signed his letter, should have prefaced his letter with “once upon a time”. We hate to burst the bubble he lives in, but the actions by sugar workers were only fuelled by the atrocious treatment they have received at the hands of the Coalition Government. Certainly any rational human being would react in the same manner.
We wonder how Mr. Seetaram would react were he in the shoes of a sugar worker. How would he feel that he could not afford to buy something nice for his house, or to even just add a fresh coat of paint to brighten up the home for the holidays? How would he feel that he could not afford to buy a nice meal for his family, or not even a little gift for his children? This, Mr. Seetaram, or whoever is the real author, are the feelings of the sugar workers at this time. It is now the fifth Christmas they are enduring since their rates of pay have remained unchanged. This is their new reality, and is apparently the ‘Good Life’ they were promised.
It is next said that GAWU lost its voice during the PPP/C Administration. It seems like the RDC Councillor has the tendencies of an ostrich, and he has probably hidden his head in the ground all that time. The GAWU has never ever lost its voice. Our advocacy on behalf of our membership has never ceased. Of course, when it comes to sugar, we did not have to contend with a heartless bunch as we have now. But our voice allowed workers pay and conditions of work to be improved. Our voice saw many workers becoming home owners, and sending their children to high school and beyond, a cherished dream for many. Our voice saw justice and fairness prevailing, and our voice spoke up on behalf of the industry. So, no Mr. Seetaram, we haven’t ever lost our voice, but it is because of our voice that you and your ilk are upset that we continue to speak up and speak out?
We are told that our voice was not heard when two (2) estates were closed, supposedly under the PPP/C Administration. Of course we have addressed this matter on several occasions. And given what we know of Mr. Seetaram, we believe our time can be better spent than re-hashing what we have explained before.
On the NIS, Mr. Seetaram, sugar workers know too of our advocacy. Over the years, we have probably represented thousands of workers with regards to the different problems they encounter with the Scheme. At this very time, we are pursuing many matters with the NIS’ local and central offices. Just recently, the NIS agreed with our request to have central engagements with a view to addressing matters more quickly. Similarly, we have continued to actively represent workers grievances. Our representation has been successful on several occasions. As a responsible Union, we cannot ignore the workers matters which are so germane to our work.
Mr. Seetaram next criticises, without any foundation, our Union’s leadership. We want to say that the election of the GAWU leadership is done by the Union’s membership through delegates present at our Congresses, which are held in keeping with our Constitution. Certainly, we want to believe the Councillor understands this process. Not too long ago, Mr. Seetaram’s own party had elections, where certain persons were elected. Of course, we did see concerns being expressed about whether the process was really democratic. We want to tell the letter writer that our Union upholds genuine democratic practices, unlike what Mr. Seetaram maybe accustomed to.
Mr. Seetaram, in the letter, also referred to promises to Guyanese. But while he talks about commitments, he apparently does not remember what his colleagues told sugar workers. He does not remember that they said sugar is too big to fail. He fails to recollect that workers were told that the Coalition “will not, in any way, close the sugar industry”. We are sure he has forgotten about the twenty (20) per cent pay rise promised. So he should not even be talking about promises.
It is clear as day Mr Seetaram and his political colleagues are upset by our reminder of their commitments and our consistent advocacy on behalf of the nation’s sugar workers. The reality is that the shabby and discriminatory treatment that has been meted out to this group of Guyanese cannot be condoned. Did Mr Seetaram and company really expect us to remain silent by these anti-worker practices? Of course, no doubt, are regularly raised voice is what irks them so much. They want to be seen without damnable records, when really they are wolves in sheep clothing.