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In recent correspondence I adverted to an unfolding tragedy in Guyana. It is the fact that many of us in August 2020, felt that notwithstanding the hubris of our political parties that we should give young President Ali an opportunity to overcome the horrors and hurt of the past and give him an opportunity to manifest the aspirations of Guyanese everywhere to heal this nation.
An aspiration that should be easy since the nation-state now has enormous financial resources and some of us at home and abroad were growing tired of the stress of this never ending political tug-o-war. But the recent events too numerous to detail, suggest that the President and his Cabinet have derailed, dismantled and damaged any prospect to put this country on the royal road to glory, goodness and the realisation of being One People, One Nation and One Destiny.
Are Satanic Forces at work? We have the announcement that we are now harvesting 650,000 barrels of oil daily. With gas reserves in magnificent proportions, extraction of gold, manganese, diamonds, bauxite and timber, where the shareholders, Europe, Asia and North America are joyful for their investment in Guyana.
Our leaders justifiably boast we are the fastest growing economy on mother-earth, yet the people responsible for moulding the character and imparting knowledge to this and future generations, our Teachers, have been forced to take strike action to demand a decent living wage to cope with the increasing and out of control cost of living.
But what is bothersome and unbelievable is that the PPP founded for championing the cause of the working class, is now refusing to grant Teachers a reasonable living wage betraying the underlying philosophy of the founding fathers of our working class movement.
Guyana signed on many years ago to the various conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). When I held the portfolio for Labour, at Meetings of the ILO, representatives of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) supported and signed on to the idea that a Government must do nothing to frustrate organised labour and that Unions representing workers must at all times be consulted on matters that affect those members of the respected Trade Unions.
How come against that background can a PPP Government Ministry write the Guyana Teachers Union telling them that they will stop deductions of the membership to the Union. Flagrant breach of our Constitution and a violation of the many ILO Conventions.
The President and his elite group have faltered, failed and fallen flat on their faces and one wonders why they are doing this to the workers and the people of this now rich country.
Wednesday’s State-controlled Chronicle, published a letter asking the GTU to engage in constructive dialogue instead of strike action. The GTU overtime has been rebuffed by the Government who prefer with the President in the lead to ignore the Union but deal with handpicked teachers. Here the President has faltered, failed and fallen on his face.
Let me remind those who may not know or have forgotten, the State-media accuses the Secretary of the GTU, Ms. Coretta Mc Donald of calling the strike for political purposes. The evidence, they say, is because she happens to be a PNC Member of the Parliament, suggesting this as a disqualification for her advocacy to ease the pain and privation that Teachers in the public sector now face.
The PPP has posted placards, naming Dr. Jagan as a Father of the Nation. Dr. Jagan began his stewardship within the Trade Union Movement and gained a seat in the 1947 House of Assembly because he championed the rights of oppressed workers. I remember looking from the window at Queens College in Brickdam in 1948, seeing Dr. Jagan addressing an assembled group of persons, just west and outside of the Durban Park Race Course, where the hearses bearing the bodies of the five Enmore Martyrs had stopped before proceeding south to their final resting place in the Le Repentir Cemetery. I recognised Dr. Jagan and Jane Phillips-Gay, supporters of organised workers.
Our other political leader, Forbes Burnham also entered the political arena through the doors of the Trade Union Movement and was at one time President of the Guyana Labour Union founded by none other than Hubert Nataniel Critchlow, the father of Trade Unionism in the British Commonwealth. Crithchlow himself began his stewardship fighting for the workers on the waterfront and on the sugar estates, but later in 1947 sought political office and contested and won the seat in South Georgetown.
It was Forbes Burnham who initiated and built the Enmore Martyrs Monument. The Monument which stands majestically at Enmore in vindication of the struggles and sacrifices of workers everywhere in Guyana. We must not let them down by this assault on the Guyana Teachers Union. Others will deal with the absurdity of Government deeming that Teachers strike as illegal.
Earlier, i noted that a pattern of behaviour is similar to those of well known dictators such as Caesar and in our own lifetime, Hitler of Germany and Benito Mussolini of Italy is emerging in Guyana. Workers, white collar and blue collar,irrespective of which political party you support, must say as we did. “They shall not pass.”
What is the State media bleating about Ms. Mc Donald ditting in Parliament on the Opposition side? The President of the sugar workers Union, Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) is a member of our present Parliament sitting on the benches of the PPP Government. . Fact not fiction. And the PPP controlled State media must put an end to this faltered, failing and falling on their faces policy of deception and myopia.
But Dear Editor, the faltered, failing and fallen flat on their faces policy continues unabated, so with fanfare the Government announces two MOUs to expand facilities at the Cheddi Jagan-Timehri International Airport in essence with insinuation of a public, private partnership bearing in mind, the lofty words of the President in his address this week, to the Chamber of Commerce. Forgetting the failures among earlier adventures where works commenced pre-2015 without a solid feasibility study, no proper soil tests, etc and we had the embarrassment of what was styled and a never-done airport with billions wasted.
This week, we also with typical fanfare and flourish, were told that there would be a sugar refinery at Enmore. I believe that those with better knowledge and competence will share with the media and the public what appears to be the nonsense about refined sugar and white sugar and the fact that a refinery requires much energy, which will need to be imported, so to speak and as a layman, why not Albion where power is easily available?
Have we forgotten the mishandling and waste of billions with the Skeldon factory fiasco and are we looking at yet another faltered, failed and fallen on their faces by the PPP Government. Even as we proceed, half blind, without a proper study of this gas-to-shore project and the green light and forgive the pun being given, even as the International Lending Agencies have not yet pronounced , we now dip into the people’s money to allow what appears to be our new Masters to proceed apace and the people of this country are being told that the light bills will be cut in half, clearly a figment of someone’s imagination. This means they have faltered, failed and are now fallen flat on their faces.
Let us inform the Government and the Ministry of Education, that it is wrong, and inappropriate that a so-called working class Government should set out to punish a Union representing workers by not deducting Union dues. This practce of deducting union dues for Trade Unions is an old and respected practice and this action by Government is disgraceful. They Have faltered, failed and fallen flat on their faces. The President and his Party must tell us if they are now serving a new Master.
In its struggle for Workers rights, exact;y one hundred years ago, Gandhi was released from prison in Bombay.
To Teachers and the GTU, as one of our international stalwarts once said ‘a luta continua.’ – The struggle continues, so that we confront demonic forces to prevent us all from faltering , failing and falling flat on our faces because at the end of the day this and future generations will bear the burdens of a leader who has faltered, failed and fallen flat on his face. Teachers, your cause is just.