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We are living in dangerous times and must fight back for our collective survival. Guyanese are bearing witness to the most sinister divide and conquer policy not seen since early post-emancipation and indentureship period. It is a policy designed to keep groups despising each other to divert attention from their collective wellbeing, as a few politicians and connected members of the business class plunder the nation’s resources and violate workers/citizens. The policy is being executed by creating smokescreens of divisions, throwing trinkets to some and disproportionately favouring others when all, particularly the vulnerable, are affected by what is taking place in society.
Look at the cash grants distribution. The public servants, who carry the nation’s tax burden, have not only been denied wage and salary increase for 2020 and 2021 but are being excluded from the other cash grant whereas farmers, i.e., which is part of the business community, are benefitting twice. Once, as recipients of the $25,000 COVID grant. Now twice, as businesses that suffered losses from the floods. They are earmarked to receive payment in the tens and hundreds of thousands.
And even with this new grant there is more discrimination. I was advised in Region Five decisions pertaining to who gets the grant, and how much, have been determined at the PPP’s office in Bath Settlement. An African farmer shared with me his personal experience. According to him when he joined the line to make his claim for the grant, he was told he’s not a rice farmer. He was only believed and allowed to submit his claim when an East Indian farmer, planting in the same vicinity, vouched for him.
There is discrimination in the regime’s attention to regions affected by the floods. Regions Two, Five, Six, Seven and Ten were classified at a Level Three Disaster by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Regions One, Three, Four, Eight and Nine were classified at Level Two. We need no bird to whisper in our ear how the affected in Regions Four, Seven and Ten are being denied because they are considered supporters of the main opposition.
Workers are on fixed pay and the spiralling cost of living has outpaced their income. Some have suffered damage to household items, livestock and gardens. The fate of workers in retail is no better. In 2019 the Tripartite Committee agreed to increase their minimum wage to $ 60,000 per month but members of the business sector were able to get the Ali regime to side with them to deny these workers what’s justly theirs. Workers too need another economic relief.
The $25,000 COVID grant was not only discriminatory in distribution, but many are still holding pink slips, and some are yet to get a slip, yours truly included. In African dominated areas the grant has been given to the homeowner, whereas in the East Indian areas it is to every adult who presented an identification card.
Look at the mismanagement of the COVID-19 programme. The regime is stalking and discriminating against workers in African dominated regions and institutions. What they are doing to workers in Georgetown and Linden, they are not doing to workers in Berbice, Essequibo and areas where their supporters are in the majority. Workers are being locked out, handcuffed and escorted from their places of work like criminals for not taking the vaccine or showing a negative COVID test.
I ask today- Are these government workers the only ones in the entire Guyana who have not taken the vaccine or provided a negative test? You know the answer. Yet workers in Georgetown and Linden are being criminalised, hounded, assaulted, and threatened with pay withdrawal. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, Sect 47 (3) expressly states it is the employer’s “duty” to stand the “cost” for testing relating to any national medical surveillance programme if this is so required for workers to be at their job.
The regime is openly executing their economic discriminatory policies (economic genocide). They feel comforted with their misdeeds because the international community is perceived to be on their side, they have stirred up enough hate and division between and amongst groups, and are of the opinion the forces to challenge them are either weak or disunited. A people united can never be defeated.
The power ruthless governments wield against the people is the people’s power. That power has been entrusted to them to act in the people’s best interest not against them. The discriminatory cash grants and COVID-19 policies are escalating tensions and divisions in society and could lead to dire consequences. Those who were vocal against actions they considered wrong during the Granger/Nagamootoo government cannot be silent to the glaring wrongs of the Ali/Jagdeo regime.
And whereas yours truly and others in the trade union leadership are participating in protest activities, the call is being made to others desirous of a fair society, to publicly register their discontent with what is taking place. For what affects one invariably affects all.