THE Alliance For Change (AFC) leader is again in Berbice delivering the Coalition’s old message that ‘sugar is dead’ and monies are once again being thrown down a ‘dark hole.’ Perhaps he failed to come to realisation that it was the Coalition’s closure of the sugar industry which threw them down the ‘dark hole’ and reinforced the ‘dead meat’ status of the AFC.
Ramjattan and his cronies must understand that mechanisation of the industry will make it viable once again and the government is making the necessary investments. He has made a few ridiculous assumptions that the ‘soil and weather patterns’ will not allow for mechanization, but he failed to realise that GuySuCo is already partly mechanised in terms of planting, harvesting and loading of canes.
The labour-shortage gap is already being addressed. This has proven to be cost-effective; hence, the move to full mechanisation which will be done within the next six years. Sugar will once again be the bedrock of the economy and this government will prove Ramjattan and his ilk wrong. Mr Ramjattan must accept the fact that the panoramic destruction unleashed by the Coalition on the closed estate has necessitated this government spending huge sums of monies to correct the disaster which the Coalition created. He should ask what has happened to the $30 billion bond.
I was also shocked that Ramjattan and David Patterson vehemently attacked the reopening of Rose Hall Estate, which has so far provided employment for nearly 700 persons and which has been employing persons, both severed and new employees, on a daily basis. This is done without an iota of racial discrimination or political affiliation.
These persons are incessantly expressing gratitude to the PPP/C Government for giving them an opportunity to live with dignity once again. David Patterson emphasised the conditions of the factory as being ‘derelict and unsafe’ and the ‘boilers and equipment are dangerous.’ I am glad that the Coalition can accept responsibility for the state in which they have rendered a grinding sugar estate, which was the only estate to be awarded a medal of service for its high production and productivity. They had transformed this estate into a literal junk yard. The former Finance Minister had spent over $17 billion to keep the factories in ‘mothball condition’ so that they could be sold. Do you remember this statement, Patterson?
Mr Patterson made a damning allegation on the basis of one person reporting to him that the ‘workers are being forced to work under unsafe conditions.’ He went on to say that the government does not care about the lives of workers and are just pushing ahead with its campaign promises. I could recall that the AFC’s 2015 campaign promise was to give the sugar workers a 20 per cent increase in wages and not to close any of the estates which they reneged on, but are now barefacedly attacking the PPP/C for keeping its promise. Let me assure Mr Patterson that Occupational Health and Safety is a priority not only at Rose Hall, but throughout the industry.
Lastly, the AFC leaders decry the payment of the $250,000 cash grant announced by the Vice-President. At this point I could recall the agony of the sugar workers when they closed the estates and when the workers literally begged for the restates to continue operating. I will ask the AFC and the opposition as a whole to consider the emotional trauma which these workers suffered for more than three years.
Some have died and a few committed suicide. I will quote from a Rose Hall worker, Glen McLeod, in 2017: “For us of Rose Hall, closure can be seen as a death knell for so many hardworking people and their families. For us of Rose Hall, closure means that our plans for life, our dreams for a better tomorrow, and our aspirations for our children and grandchildren have all but been dashed. For us of Rose Hall, closure will bring about uncertain times and many difficult, misery-filled days ahead. For us of Rose Hall, closure brings about real questions like where would our next meal come from, how would our children and grandchildren go to school, and how would we earn and meet our obligations.
For us of Rose Hall, closure means difficult choices have to be made: would we eat or would we pay the electricity bills?; would we send the children to school or would we buy clothes?; would we starve or do we have to do something not necessarily right to put food on the table.” ? Money cannot buy what these people lost and we must show some compassion for these workers. They deserve their fair share.
Let the Coalition know that GuySuCo is not dead and will never be!