When will sugar estates be re-opened?

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Dear Editor

Guysuco (previous incorporations) is the oldest corporation in Guyana. Regrettably, the present and preceding governments have pursued policies that will kill the industry, jeopardizing the economy.

Tens of thousands of jobs have been tied to the sugar industry since slavery. From 2017, when the coalition shut down four estates, to now, 7,500 workers plus thousands of jobs connected to estate life have lost their jobs and have been without an income. They are hurting without much empathy and compassion from succeeding governments, except small handouts from this government.

Incompetent GuySuCo management, the coalition and PPP administration have crippled the industry. When Mr. Vishnu Panday resigned as Skeldon manager a year ago, he unequivocally stated that the industry can’t prosper unless there is competent management. He made it clear that the industry needs people who know about sugar production. So far, government has not listened. Management change has not come to GuySuco.

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Guyana has been peopled with five non-native groups because of sugar. Guyana has become a colony, country, and nation because of sugar. The industry made Jagan and the PPP. The party has been in office because of sugar workers. Sugar workers also removed PPP from office and put APNU (PNC and AFC) in power in 2015. Sugar workers removed them from office in 2020.

It is reasonable to conclude that the way sugar production is being treated and the management of Guysuco that the industry is no longer a priority for the government. This is clear from the leadership assigned to the industry and the failure of the administration to reopen the four estates closed by APNU. The government is more than sixteen months in office and there is no sign of cultivation of cane in any of the four estates. It is reasonable to conclude that the estates will not be reopened. What job opportunities are there for the displaced workers of the four estates?

The Vice President said two months ago that in January 2022, the management of Guysuco will be strengthened. How and when will this happen? It is also recalled that a month earlier at Skeldon, the VP said three estates will get going soon. Wales has been set aside for the Oil and Gas industrial complex. But it appears that plan will be shelved as Exxon engineers have stated from their studies that the location is not practical. What will become of Wales? Vines and bush have taken over the land.

At Skeldon, Mr Panday hired some 250 workers to start the process of re-opening of the estate. After he left in January 2021, the new management reduced the staff. Today, there are less than 100 workers and these are retained on a temporary basis. People in Upper Corentyne are deeply hurting. Most Skeldon staff have already been given letters of transfer. Will Skeldon remain permanently shut? People know the fate of Skeldon. They are peeved. People of Upper Corentyne may be seen as docile. They reject their assigned role in society as only voters to the ruling party. They reject what is handed to them. If government thinks they won’t respond to their neglect, it better think again. Sugar workers want a voice in government. Meanwhile, investors are putting up housing on estate land. It is not clear who gave the preferred investors land for housing development there and elsewhere. Why aren’t sugar workers getting the land to grow food? Why is fertile arable land used for housing when unproductive soil lies nearby?

On the continued closure of the four estates, there is talk by government officials and Guysuco management of using the land for aqua culture. That would exclude the 7,500 workers terminated by the coalition and the thousands more who depend on sugar production for a livelihood. Shouldn’t government establish markets before going into aquatic farming?

It is now public knowledge, in spite of efforts of secrecy, that a Chinese company opened a fishing complex in Land of Canaan. Is this idea of aquatic fishing to fulfill the mandate of the new Chinese plant at Land of Canaan and or the other one opened almost a year ago on the East Bank? Will these aquatic produced fish go to the two plants? And what about helping local shops and Guyanese fish exporters with farm produced fish? Local producers employ thousands of Guyanese workers while the Chinese don’t employ Guyanese. Will local fish businesses be shut out of farmed fish?

URP urge the government to rethink its position on keeping the four estates shuttered. Sixteen months is a long time to make a decision on what to do with the land of hundreds of thousands of acres. Please distribute the land to the terminated sugar workers. Those tied to the sugar industry are the prime supporters of this current government and are being neglected. No one is championing their cause and concerns. They won’t easily forget their ill treatment. A redo of 2011 and 2015 is the way to go but not a return of those who betrayed sugar workers after 2015.

Yours truly,
Dr. Vishnu Bandhu
Political Leader, URP



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