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Response is being made to reported statements of Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton in the headlined article, “Grave discrepancies found at co-op societies, African Guyanese not being targeted” (GC 3rd March 2021). Said article addressed public statements made by me and the right to respond is herein sought.
None other than the government’s Department of Public Information (DPI) on 20th Feb 2021 in a Neola Damon’s report titled, ‘Co-op societies not serving the people to be struck off,’ stated the following: -“Minister of Labour, Hon. Joseph Hamilton says his Ministry intends to terminate co-operative societies in several communities if the findings of an integrity audit currently being conducted, indicate they are not fulfilling their mandate.”
The minister’s reported statement informed my statement that, “It is fact the Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton (another African) is now threatening to go after defunct co-operative societies to close them rather than help to launch an investigation into the reason(s) for their non-functioning. Any caring government, recognising this sector has been the major pillar of African empowerment, would seek to render assistance to resuscitate not close them” (SN 28th Feb 2021- ‘African Guyanese have been disproportionately targeted…’)
Whereas the minister advised I “do research and get the facts before publishing mischief …,” the fact is the information on which I presented my statement came from the government information source. The finding is presented here for the Minister to use the same advice he gave me to ensure that the government information service and he are on the same track.
I urge the minister to revisit his words. It is a fact the cooperative society “has been the major pillar of African empowerment.” This goes back to immediate post slave society when this (cooperative) economy was established to further the community’s empowerment. Nowhere I have mentioned other ethnic groups are not members of this economic sector, but the fact cannot be ignored which group participates and relies on this sector most- the African community.
Whereas the Minister seeks to advise there are laws guiding the closure of cooperatives, the government must first work with the cooperatives to make them functional consistent with the laws not close them which is a legitimate fear. The conduct of this regime shows a predisposition to attack black capital (jobs, business, including the cooperatives societies) through various means of termination and closure.
I am also equally aware, from experience, where a PPP/C government (Bharrat Jagdeo) dismantled the bauxite workers’ pension plan worth in excess of $2.5 billion even as they simultaneously injected money to save the sugar workers’ pension plan. The cooperative societies have more than three billion dollars in the commercial banks. That money belongs to the societies and their heirs, not the government.
Aside from the henny penny, sheepy leapy and piggly wiggly stories, the Ministry has a responsibility to work with these societies to ensure functionality and accountability not issue threats or find excuses to “terminate” them. No caring government would pursue such an approach.
The above being said, I welcome the minister’s explanation on the proposed plans for the cooperatives and note it is his or the ministry’s responsibility to provide the information. When the public is deprived of information, they have a right to speak out based on the information available to them. I will continue to follow this issue in the hope that the ministry makes all effort to make these societies functional which remain the major pillar of African empowerment.