No lands were taken away from Kuru Kuru Co-op members
Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton
Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton

— Labour Minister addresses ‘falsehoods’ from Norton

THE Ministry of Labour (MoL) through its Co-op Society Department was forced to institute an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to preside over the Kuru Kuru Co-op Society (KKCS) after it was found that the previous management committee lacked accountability and transparency in the handling of the organisation’s lands and money.

Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton, who provided this explanation was addressing remarks made by Leader of the Opposition (LoO), Aubrey Norton, during his weekly press briefing last Tuesday.

The Opposition Leader had claimed that lands were being taken away from Afro-Guyanese members of the KKCS and given to supporters of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPPC) government.

“No lands were taken away from anyone, from any [Afro-Guyanese] people. And I want to make this point so that people understand,” Hamilton noted.

The claim by the LoO formed part of his continued unsubstantiated claims of discrimination against Afro-Guyanese by the government. Minister Hamilton noted that while the Opposition sought to give the impression that the KKCS and other co-op societies across Guyana are Afro-Guyanese institutions, he noted that persons of all races form co-op societies across the country.

Particularly in the case of the KKSC, Guyanese of various ethnicities are part of the society.

“Through the length and breadth of this country you have co-op societies that have all different ethnicities. So to make this ludicrous argument about discrimination and the PPP racism against [Afro-Guyanese] people, these people like Norton attempt to fool people,” Hamilton said.

The minister added: “The Kuru Kuru Coop Society has Indo-Guyanese, Afro Guyanese and persons who are Amerindians. So the first lie is to suggest that we have taken away [Afro-Guyanese] people’s land. The second issue is, there’s no taking away of anything. When I became minister I met this dysfunctional co-op society managed by some people who were close and are close to the APNU+AFC.”

As it pertains to lands owned by the KKCS, Hamilton explained that it was found that under the previous management committee questionable handling of the lands occurred. This is in fact what led members to reach out to the MoL to deal with the issue.

Hamilton explained that it was actually issues surrounding members accessing their lands and outsiders getting access to lands that led members of the co-op to reach out to the MoL to intervene.

“You had the second-generation persons who [were] born and grew up in the place whom the management committee was telling them that they could not get access to them (lands). But at the same time they were allowing people who don’t live there, people who were residents of Georgetown, there were allowing them access to land, and giving them lands there. You had persons who were living overseas for 40 years who were landowners in this co-op society,” Hamilton revealed.

Management of Co-op Societies in Guyana is governed by the Co-op Societies Act Chapter 88:01, which is enforced through the MoL, and managed by the Chief Co-op Development Officer (CCDO). The Act empowers the CCDO to intervene and remove Management Committees of Co-ops in cases of improper management.

A cooperative society is a self-governing institution, formed by a group of people and is owned and controlled by the members. A management committee is elected by the members to oversee the operations of the co-op and report regularly to the members. However, according to Hamilton, this was not what played out at KKCS under the previous management committee.

“The management committee at the time was running the [co-op society] like it belongs to them. They had no relationship with the members, no relationship with giving information to the members and they were engaged in all kinds of land dealings that the people who live in the community did not know about. Importantly, they were denying children of members of the society access to their lands,” the minister explained.

Minister Hamilton noted that since assuming office, repeated requests were made by the ministry for information from the previous management committee (MC) of the co-op but nothing was forthcoming.

According to Hamilton, the members of the co-op society had no information given to them by the previous MC.

“So that is what we set out to straighten out. After they were not willing or enthusiastic to ensure that the co-op society [was] run in a way that it is accountable and transparent, the Chief Co-op Development Officer utilised the authority and power that she has, that at any time she can bring it until management committee and have established an Interim Management Committee for a specific period to deal with matters identified,” Hamilton explained.

He noted that most importantly, the audit of the co-op society had not been done for some time. Co-op society audits are required to be done annually and submitted to the CCDO.

“There had been no audit so the people were unaware of what is the state. The members did not know what account they had, how much money were in these account[s]. All that type of information was being hidden from the membership. The people couldn’t take it anymore so you had members who petitioned the minister to intervene. And they’re allowed to do that,” Hamilton said.

The CCDO subsequently installed an IMC to oversee management of the co-op society until the society’s next election is held and the members select a new management committee.

“The Chief Co-op Development Officer installed the interim management community [sic] to develop the place and to bring the books of the place together and to put in place all the procedures as regards to managing the society in a way that is transparent and accountable,” Hamilton said.

Since being installed, the IMC has gone about doing much work along with the members of the co-op to carry out some of their goals, including carrying out works to see the establishment of a police outpost and a health centre in the Kuru Kuru community.

“These people have moved this co-op society from a co-op society that was limping. The former management committee could not get dues collected from members because they had no confidence in them. From the period when the IMC came into being, they were able to get $9.4 million in dues. The bank balance is $28 million, moving from a position out of the red. What you have here is an IMC that is managing and not mismanaging like the former management committee,” Hamilton explained.


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